A wrong-way driver faces charges for causing a fatal head-on collision in southwestern Virginia. The deadly two-vehicle crash happened in Botetourt County, near the town of Blue Ridge northeast of Roanoke.

According to Virginia State Police investigators, the driver of a Toyota Scion set the stage for the crash by heading east in the westbound lanes of U.S. 460. The Toyota then ran head-on into a Chevy Malibu close to where the federal highway intersects with Blue Ridge Springs Road.

Emergency responders transported the driver and passenger in the Toyota to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital with injuries. They also declared the person behind the wheel of the Chevy dead at the scene.

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Four days following the head-on collision on the night of June 18, 2022, law enforcement authorities announced their intention to charge the Toyota driver. Officials also publicly identified the deceased victim as 30-year-old Kelley Michael Davis of Blacksburg, VA.

Don’t Blame the Victim

My Virginia wrongful death law firm colleagues and I read and hear about deadly crashes caused by negligent and reckless drivers every day. Each new report saddens us because we know alert, attentive and respectful drivers can prevent nearly every crash.

We cannot speculate on why the driver of the Toyota entered and stayed on the wrong side of U.S. 460 through Botetourt County. But we can determine from police statements and news reports that the person who died in the Chevy did little to cause the head-on collision. Avoiding an onrushing vehicle you do not expect to encounter often proves impossible, especially at night and at highway speeds.

We also suspect the insurance company for the Toyota driver may try to deny or minimize settlements for wrongful claims arising from this crash. One detail insurance claim adjusters might focus on is the deceased victim’s failure to use a seat belt.

Section 46.2-1094 of the Virginia Code requires drivers to keep their seat belts buckled while their vehicles are in motion. A claims adjuster might cite this statute while arguing contributory negligence as a reason to refuse wrongful death compensation.

However, the statute also notes:

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.

Pointing to this provision of state law could prove essential to ensuring wrongful death claims get handled fairly.

EJL