Godwin, Morris, Laurenzi & Bloomfield, P.C.

Impaired driver not necessarily liable for injuries in car crash

If a driver fleeing from police gets into an accident, it's a good bet that he or she was driving negligently or recklessly. However, the cause of a car crash in Tennessee must be investigated strictly on the facts of what happened and not solely on the condition or prior carelessness of either driver. The fact that the first driver was fleeing or impaired does not in itself allow for a conclusion that the driver is legally liable for injuries that may have occurred.

Causation is always an inquiry that is separate from negligence. Even where a driver in an accident is negligent or driving while impaired, that doesn't mean that that driver caused the accident. That precise question exists regarding an accident that occurred in Bristol, involving the driver of a pickup truck who was fleeing from police after failing to pull over for a traffic stop.

The officer had tried to pull the pickup driver over for not wearing a seat belt, but the driver fled. The officer did not initiate a chase. However, within a short time, the police received a call of a two-vehicle accident at a local intersection.

The pickup driver then fled on foot but was apprehended quickly by police. He and the other driver were both taken to a hospital with undisclosed injuries. The Bristol Police have preliminarily indicated that alcohol was a likely factor.

Notwithstanding that fact, the police must determine the precise cause of the accident. For example, even though the pickup was in flight, it may have been hit in an intersection by a vehicle that ran a red light. In that event, the red light violator may be liable to the pickup driver for his injuries from the car crash. Under these facts, it is more likely that the opposite is true and that the pickup driver will be found liable and responsible for the other's injuries. Nonetheless, a conclusion cannot be based on mere speculation, and an objective investigation must be done to prove or disprove that conclusion pursuant to Tennessee law and procedure.

Source: wcyb.com, "Driver facing charges after Bristol collision", May 2, 2015

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