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Car accidents with serious injuries may turn into death cases

West Virginia has a high incidence of vehicular accidents. That may be partly due to things like poor highway maintenance, impaired driving and the biggest factor in car accidents these days, that of driver distraction. Even when a precise cause cannot be found, the widespread occurrence of a vehicle crossing the median and going into oncoming or stationary traffic is a clear case of negligence that will in most instances qualify injured victims to collect damages from the at-fault operator.

Lack of a reason does not seem to be a problem for the Cabell County authorities who have filed charges against a 43-year-old man from Huntington who was involved in a serious accident in June that has now turned fatal. The defendant is accused of driving his truck over the grass median near the entrance road to Huntington High School and striking the victim's truck. The collision caused the victim's truck to flip and to trap him inside until he was extracted.

The victim, a 55-year-old retired Boyd County Sheriff's Department sergeant, died just recently while hospitalized. The defendant, who had been out on bail on a charge of DUI causing serious bodily injury, may now face enhanced homicide charges. Since the death has occurred within one year of the accident, West Virginia law allows the filing of DUI causing death charges.

Victims of car accidents with these facts are not at fault in contributing to their injuries or death, based on the reported facts. It is also clear that, regardless of the outcome of criminal charges, the estate of the decedent, which represents his immediate family, has a right to make a wrongful death claim against the driver. Because the victim was retired, the recovery for future earnings, if any, will be limited under West Virginia law. However, there may be a high recovery for pain and suffering, based on the ordeal of being trapped in the vehicle and the ensuing long period of treatment and hospitalization. The DUI also makes it possible that the estate could obtain a judgment for punitive damages.

Source: herald-dispatch.com, "Retired Boyd sergeant injured in crash dies", Nov. 29, 2016

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