A three-vehicle wreck in Sussex County, Virginia (VA), left three people dead and two other injured. The fatal crash began with a head-on collision on U.S. 460 near Walnut Hill Road outside of Waverly at around 3 am on December 10, 2017.
Virginia State Police investigators determined that the 30-year-old woman behind the wheel of a Kia Soul was driving under the influence of alcohol when she crossed over the center line of the highway. This led to the head-on collision with a Honda sedan, and that impact caused the Honda to rear end a Toyota.
The driver of the Kia and her 28-year-old female passenger died, as did a 25-year-old male passenger in the Honda. The driver of the Honda suffered serious injuries, and the person driving the Toyota also required hospital treatment for injuries.
News reports indicate that neither of the women in the Kia were using their seatbelts at the time of the crash. The Honda passenger who lost his life also failed to buckle up. The injured survivors did have their seatbelts buckled.
Including the details about seatbelt use may be intended to remind all drivers and passengers to comply with section 46.2-1094 of the Virginia Code, which mandates seatbelts for adults and teens, booster seats for younger children and safety seats for infants and toddlers.
My Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorney colleagues encourage all people to buckle up, but we also know that an important provision of the state’s law will come into play when the victims of this deadly crash on U.S. 460 in Sussex County file insurance claims.
Paragraph D of Virginia’s seatbelt law emphasizes that failing to buckle up does not constitute contributory negligence of the kind that makes seeking compensation and damages from a driver who causes deaths and injuries impossible. Specifically, paragraph D states,
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.
It is good that the families of the passengers who died in this wreck will be able to purse wrongful death claims. Driving under the influence is a serious threat to life and health, with 214 people dying in alcohol-related crashes on Virginia roads during 2015. Drunk driving wrecks also injured 4,917 people that year. Drivers who take the wheel while impaired by alcohol must be held accountable even if they themselves perish in the collisions they cause.