Speeding appears to have set the stage for a fatal chain-reaction crash on I-264 in Virginia Beach, VA, that also sent several people to hospitals with injuries. The wreck on the evening of May 2, 2018, is also sure to raise serious questions over contributory negligence and whether innocent victims can file insurance claims against a person who did not survive a collision.
Virginia State Police responded to reports of a three-vehicle crash just east of Laskin Road at around 7:15 pm. The preliminary investigation revealed that the two motorcycles involved had been traveling at high speed when one of the riders rear-ended a minivan. The force of the impact caused that motorcyclist to lose control, run off the highway and crash into a Jersey wall.
The minivan driver also lost control and struck the second motorcyclist, throwing the rider from the motorcycle. Both riders and all the people in the minivan were taken to hospitals. One of the motorcyclists died, the other remained in critical condition the following morning, and the injured minivan driver and passengers are expected to recover.
News reports do not contain details on how fast the motorcycle riders were traveling along the interstate between First Colonial Road and Laskin Road. Still, it is well-known that exceeding a posted speed limit by even 5 miles per hour greatly increases the risk for crashing. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, across the United States, “more than 9,000 deaths -- 27 percent of all crash fatalities -- occurred in speed-related crashes in 2015. High speeds make a crash more likely because it takes longer to stop or slow down. They also make collisions more deadly because crash energy increases exponentially as speeds go up.”
Looking only at Virginia, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles recorded 23,948 speed-related crashes during 2017. Out of those wrecks, 12,937 people suffered injuries and 299 left a total of 318 people dead.
If it turns out that the motorcycle rider who died on I-264 is also the person who set off the chain-reaction crash by rear-ending the minivan, the surviving victims would still be able to file insurance claims. Insurance policies remain in effect after policyholders die until all legitimate claims get settled.
It is unclear, however, whether the other motorcyclist would be able to succeed with an insurance claim. Virginia follows the rule of contributory negligence, which means that individuals who play any role in causing their own injuries are blocked from receiving compensation and damages from the people who are most responsible. My Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I have fought to get this archaic and unjust rule repealed, but its continued existence would allow the deceased motorcycle rider’s insurance company to argue that the other motorcyclist contributed to the wreck by also speeding. A dedicated personal injury attorney could argue against that conclusion.