A pickup truck driver and his passenger went to hospitals with serious injuries after another driver struck their vehicle on the morning of August 11, 2017. The two-vehicle crash happened in the Glade Hill community of Franklin County, Virginia (VA), when the at-fault driver crossed a set of double yellow lines dividing Route 40/Old Franklin Turnpike.
Virginia State Police responded to the wreck about three-quarters of a mile west of the interchange between Route 40 and Colonial Turnpike. They could not immediately determine why the man behind the wheel of the Toyota Tacoma involved in the nearly head-on collision had left his own lane.
The at-fault driver died at the scene. News reports indicate that the passenger in the pickup survived despite not wearing a seat belt, but the nature and possible permanence of her injuries were not publicly disclosed.
The deceased Toyota driver apparently violated section 46.2-804(6) of the Virginia Code, which places a legal duty on drivers to keep to the left of double yellow lines. If investigators find that he did so while acting negligently by, say, becoming distracted or speeding around a curve, the people in the pickup would have strong grounds for filing personal injury claims against his insurance policy. That policy will remain in effect until all legitimate claims are resolved by settlements or court awards.
An insurance company representative would probably try have a claim from the pickup truck passenger dismissed for contributory negligence. Virginia is one the handful of states where a person found to bear any responsibility for her injuries loses her right to seek compensation and damages from the person who did much more to hurt her.
A provision of Virginia’s seat belt law, however, makes it absolutely clear that failing to buckle up does not constitute contributory negligence. Specifically, section 46.2-1094(D) of the Virginia Code states
D. A violation of this section shall not constitute negligence, be considered in mitigation of damages of whatever nature, be admissible in evidence or be the subject of comment by counsel in any action for the recovery of damages arising out of the operation, ownership, or maintenance of a motor vehicle, nor shall anything in this section change any existing law, rule, or procedure pertaining to any such civil action.
Working with a dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyer will protect the injured passenger from tactics that may be employed by an insurance company to make her claim appear illegitimate or unsustainable.