A fatal head-on collision on Virginia's Eastern Shore is sure to raise tough questions regarding fault, liability and the obligation to settle insurance claims for injuries and wrong death. The deadly crash between a car and a pickup truck occurred on August 30, 2015, near the intersection of Fleming Road and Sign Post Road in Accomack County, VA.
The woman who lost her life had been riding in the backseat of the car, which slammed into the pickup after first running off the side of the road and then careening back onto the highway. Overcorrecting her steering appears to have led the driver of the car to cross the center line when attempting to reenter her lane.
She and another passenger in her car sustained severe injuries, but the two people in the pickup escaped unharmed. Police informed news reporters that the backseat car passenger who died at the scene of the crash was not wearing a seatbelt.
That last detail creates many of the uncertainties over whether the family members of the deceased accident victim have grounds to file and collect on insurance claims. Virginia recognizes the legal principle of contributory negligence, which means that individuals who can be found partially responsible for causing the harm they suffered can lose their rights to receive compensation. The insurance company for the car's driver could try to reject wrongful death claims because the passenger did not buckle up.
Countering this attempt to avoid liability requires pointing out that Virginia law does not insist that adults riding in rear seats or truck beds use restraints such as seatbelts. In short, the woman probably cannot be found negligent in causing her own death merely because she did not strap herself in.
Sorting through that issue and others may go easier with help from an experienced Virginia wrongful death attorney. When their grief and shock at losing their loved one abates, the family of the woman killed on the Eastern Shore should consider seeking legal counsel.