Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fender Bender

Say the following happened:

Two cars are involved in a fender bender in which one car was clearly at fault. It was a relatively slow-moving collision in which the cars were hardly damaged and 99% of the time, nobody would be hurt.

However, the passenger in the car that was hit has a bleeding disorder. She gets a mild bump on the head and as a result has significant bleeding in her brain. As a result, she has such severe cognitive deficits that she can never work again.

Should the person who hit her now be sued for financial responsibility for her care for the rest of her life, when it was a minor accident that would have caused no injury in the vast majority of people?

14 comments:

  1. when you get behind the wheel of a vehicle you are taking responsibility for its safe operation. the kinetic energy of a car is about the same as kinetic energy of a bullet fired from a .44 magnum. if someone negligently discharge a gun and injured someone, I am sure you would hold them responsible. Why don't we apply the same standards when its a car?

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    1. Not the case if your name is Zimmerman

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  2. In law school, they call it the "eggshell skull plaintiff." If you are proven negligent in court, you are responsible for the damages the plaintiff suffered, even if their skull is, unfortunately, as fragile as an eggshell.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggshell_skull

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  3. This is one of the benefits to no-fault insurance. It doesn't matter whose "fault" the accident was, each person's individual insurance pays for them and for their car. There's a lot of drawbacks to no-fault, but the system was designed with this is the type of situation in mind.

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  4. Sincerely hope this situation remained hypothetical for you and your family..

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  5. Interesting. I would say no. But the law people know their path.

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  6. "Vast majority of people" here is irrelevant. In this case, actions of person-at-fault directly led to severe damage to person-not-at-fault, end of story. The fact that a person without a bleeding disorder wouldn't have had that degree of damage doesn't come in at all. Terrible luck for person-at-fault (though certainly worse for bleeding-disorder-woman), but there it is.

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  7. I will defer to those with legal training here, but it raises a question in my mind. Does the person with the bleeding disorder have any responsibility for his or her own safety?

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    1. Re: does the person have any responsibility for his or her own safety..... because they are driving around town in a car at normal speeds and obeying all traffic rules/laws? No.

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  8. I believe that's what the car insurance is for. Doesn't matter who's insurance ends up paying: actuarial runs all the numbers and does all the research to account for terrible one-offs like this. We're each paying our part in the premiums for all of the end cases, and that's why we are required to have insurance on vehicles. If they had insurance, the insurance should pay.

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    1. RageDino: If you only have $100K in insurance, and the other party only has $100K in insurance, and your injuries are over $1M, then you still have to right to sue the other driver to try and recover the $800K the insurances didn't cover. You cannot buy insurance policies that don't have a cap on how much they pay out in the event of a claim. They don't exist. And a plaintiff is not barred from suing for more than what the insurances cover, so long as he can prove that his damages exceeded the insurance policy limits and that the other party was at fault.

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  9. Good hypothetical. This is why I have an Umbrella policy!

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  10. Anybody stop and think about the poor woman who probably got up to go to work/have a coffee/buy groceries/whatever and ended up almost a vegetable? Do you think money is going to make up for her life? would you bang your own brain out if someone gave you a wad of cash?

    Sorry to play devil's advocate, and yes, I realize that this was not intentional... but if you were to accidentally make someone trip on the street, they hit their head on the sidewalk and died, you'd still be culpable of involuntary manslaughter. In this case, it didn't lead to death, but the outcome is still a direct result of the accident, however small it was...

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  11. I tried to find a similar situation: I'm a man running to catch my bus. I bump into a young guy he falls, nothing happen. I say sorry of course .now, I bump into an older lady, she falls and breaks something that led to her death a few days/weeks/months. later Where I live, in France, iI would probably be charged with accidental killing (In French homicide accidentel or involontaire) that could get me a fine, and maybe more.

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