Although many people drive cars daily as they commute to work and school, visit friends, and run errands, certain behaviors can make driving dangerous and cause fatalities. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 38,824 people perished in car accidents in the United States in 2020, a seven percent increase from 2019. Of those who died, passengers in motor vehicles constituted the majority of deaths, with 24,019 fatalities. Six thousand five hundred sixteen pedestrians, 5,579 motorcyclists, 932 bicyclists, and 608 large truck occupants died in vehicle accidents. Speeding, alcohol, and lack of seatbelt use contributed to the casualties.
Driving carries inherent risk. Yet people who choose to get behind the wheel owe a duty of care to other drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians. They must exercise reasonable care, obey traffic rules, and attend to the road. Carelessly operating a vehicle increases the driver’s and others’ risk of death.
Irresponsible driving also opens a person up to civil liability when a fatality occurs. West Virginia law allows the deceased person’s estate representative to bring a wrongful death claim against the thoughtless driver. When a court finds the driver’s negligence contributed to the accident, the driver has to compensate the deceased person’s estate and their family.
How A Charleston Car Accident Death Law Firm Can Help
If negligent driving caused the death of your loved one, Salango Law, PLLC could help your family pursue compensation. Our Charleston injury legal team can gather evidence and build a case against the reckless driver.
For instance, if a nearby security camera recorded the accident, we could use the footage to show the driver’s negligence. If the driver was texting or on the phone at the time of the accident, we could use phone records to establish fault. We can also review eyewitness testimony and assemble witnesses to support your case. Our lawyers have a wealth of experience with personal injury and wrongful death cases arising from car accidents.
Call Salango Law, PLLC, at 304-342-0512 for a free consultation to learn more about securing compensation from those responsible for car accident fatalities.
What Causes Car Accident Deaths?
A careless driver that causes the death of another incurs liability through negligence. To be negligent, a driver must breach their duty of care to others, causing harm. For example, a driver could be negligent when they drive irresponsibly, which breaches their duty of care to others, and their careless driving ends the life of another person sharing the road.
Many actions that constitute a breach of the duty of care are also known causes of car accident fatalities. For instance, speeding, alcohol consumption, and distracted driving are all known forms of irresponsible driving that risk others’ lives.
Not only do these dangerous behaviors threaten the lives of others, but they pose a risk to the person committing them as well. For example, choosing not to wear a seatbelt makes a person more susceptible to injury and death in the event of a crash.
How Does Speeding Cause Fatalities?
The National Safety Council reports that speeding significantly contributes to car accident fatalities. In 2020, speeding led to 29% of all traffic deaths. Speeding included:
- Driving too fast for the conditions, such as ice, snow, and rain
- Exceeding the posted speed limit
- Receiving a speed-related citation
- Drag racing
- Exceeding a reasonable speed makes fatalities more likely for the driver and others involved in an accident
Speeding restricts the driver’s reaction time. If a dangerous situation appears ahead, the quickly moving driver has less time to avoid it than a driver operating at a reasonable speed.
Fast driving also increases vehicle stopping distance, the necessary space to bring a vehicle to a complete stop. The faster a car moves, the more area it needs to stop. Thus, racing drivers run the risk of rear-ending vehicles in front of them and causing accidents.
Rapid movement reduces the effectiveness of road safety structures, including guardrails, concrete barriers, impact attenuators, crash cushions, and median dividers. Vehicle occupants are more likely to suffer severe injuries and deaths.
Why Does Alcohol Cause Car Accident Deaths?
When people drive while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, they can cause car crash fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2020, alcohol-impaired driving led to 11,654 deaths in the United States. At 14% higher than in 2019, it increased markedly.
Alcohol causes car accident fatalities because of its adverse effect on the body and brain. Intoxication degrades thinking and reasoning. Liquor reduces muscle coordination and slows reaction times. To drive safely, people need to think clearly and react quickly.
While the legislature sets a legal limit for alcohol, civil liability can arise even if the driver’s blood alcohol content falls below the legal limit. Suppose a reasonable person would not have been drinking and driving, and the driver breached their duty of care by having alcohol in their system and operating a vehicle. In that case, they could be liable if the victim’s representative proves that their behavior caused the fatality.
In addition to alcohol, other substances can impair driving and cause accidents.
- The National Institute on Drug Abusenotes that cocaine and methamphetamine cause reckless and aggressive driving.
- Benzodiazepines and opioids can induce drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired mental functioning, making driving unsafe.
Does Lack Of Seatbelt Use Cause Deaths?
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also identified a lack of seatbelt use as a cause of fatalities in car accidents. West Virginia law requires minors to wear seatbelts. Parents or other adults who operate vehicles with unbelted children can face civil liability in the event of a fatal accident.
Failing to wear a seatbelt, like other reckless behavior, can also make a person partially at fault for injuries sustained in an accident, even if another driver primarily caused it. For instance, suppose someone failed to wear a seatbelt and was the victim of a crash that another driver caused. Since West Virginia follows a modified comparative fault rule, the victim who chose not to wear a seatbelt may have a decreased ability to recover compensation from the driver primarily at fault because of the victim’s contribution to their injuries.
Charleston Car Accident Death Lawyers
When people drive dangerously, they can cause fatal accidents. If you represent a loved one who perished in a car accident because another driver acted irresponsibly, contact Salango Law, PLLC. Our Charleston car accident lawyers understands the complexities of West Virginia’s wrongful death law and can help and advocate for you as you explore compensation options.
Salango Law, PLLC has substantial experience with car accident fatality cases. We understand how to compile evidence and build strong cases for our clients. Please call us at 304-342-0512 for a free consultation.