After the passenger in the cab of a box truck that rolled over on Route 29 in Amherst County, Virginia (VA), died, the vehicle's driver was charged with driving under the influence. The fatal crash occurred just after midnight on May 3, 2016, near the turn off to Gettes Mountain Road/VA 662 from the rural route known locally as N. Amherst Highway.
News reports do not indicate whether the box truck driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol. Reporters did, however, note that the passenger who incurred deadly injuries did not wear his seat belt. That fact could prompt people learning of the tragedy to buckle up, but it does not matter for the purposes of any insurance claims or wrongful death lawsuits that might arise from the accident.
Virginia laws and a large body of civil court rulings make clear that evidence that an adult failed to use a seat belt cannot be used to show the kind of contributory negligence that invalidates claims for damages and compensation following a car or truck accident. Further, passengers who suffer injuries in single-vehicle wrecks generally cannot be denied compensation simply because they made a choice to get into a vehicle with the driver who later caused them harm.
Despite the clear legal precedents, representative from the insurance company for the at-fault driver may argue that the man killed in this Amherst County crash does not qualify for wrongful death compensation. A skilled and knowledgeable Virginia plaintiff's attorney will be able to help the victim's family members counter those arguments.