A single-vehicle crash on I-81 through Augusta County, Virginia (VA), left three children under the age of 10 severely injured and the driver of the SUV facing reckless driving charges. The wreck occurred on April 12, 2015, near the Weyers Cave exit, about midway between the towns of Harrisonburg and Staunton.
A tire blowout caused the driver to lose control and run off the interstate. The vehicle rolled over after colliding with a guardrail, and two of the children got ejected from the SUV. Police reported that none of the youngsters--identified only by their ages of 4, 5 and 9--had been wearing seatbelts or restrained in child safety seats. The adult driver, who also suffered less-serious injuries, and was also cited for not buckling up the kids and not holding a valid license.
In addition to the news of the driver placing his young passengers at risk unnecessarily, another aspect of this nearly fatal wreck that drew my attention as a Virginia personal injury lawyer is that the man behind the wheel is not a parent of any of the kids. His exact relationship to the youngsters was not specified in news reports. Whether he is an uncle, brother, coach or family friend, the parents of the injured children may find filing insurance claims or, if necessary, personal injury lawsuits against him uncomfortable. Keeping in mind that insurance exists exactly to ensure accident victims have their wreck-related expenses reimbursed--to compensate victims rather than punish at-fault drivers--should help them overcome any such qualms.
Insurance companies are not their policyholders, regardless of what the corporations say in almost constantly running television ads. And even if the driver responsible for causing this central Virginia crash lacks adequate coverage for making compensation to each family, filing claims is essential to allowing the parents recover under any uninsured/underinsured provisions of their own car insurance policies.
Yet one more consideration is that no parent whose child got injured in this accident needs to assume that the lack of seatbelts and safety seats would disqualify claims. Kids under the age of 7 years cannot be presumed to have engaged in contributory negligence. In fact, Virginia courts make reaching findings of any kind of contributory fault against children up to the age of 14 very difficult. Because the children injured when the SUV hit the guardrail and flipped over suffered from an adult's negligence, claims on their behalf will be allowed even though they were not properly belted and restrained
Beyond those legal considerations, the important thing to focus on in the immediate aftermath of the wreck is the health of the children who got hurt. My law firm colleagues wish them rapid returns to health.