Gruesome Highway Crash Kills One

A pickup truck ran over a woman in the road after she was ejected from her car in a vehicle crash.

The wreck occurred on southbound U.S. Highway 61 between Kenner and Laplace. Per Louisiana State Police, 20-year-old Angelica Matamoros drifted across the center line and collided with 23-year-old Norman Porter, who driving an SUV. Ms. Matamoros was not restrained and was ejected from her vehicle. As she lay on the ground, 28-year-old Justin Hunter ran over the woman. Ms. Matamoros was pronounced dead at the scene.

State police opine that if she had been wearing her seat belt, the woman may have survived. “Motorists are encouraged to make the smart choice and to always wear their seat belt,” police said in a news release.

The Seat Belt Defense

Common sense would seem to dictate that insurance companies could use seat belt non-use as a way to decrease the plaintiff’s damages in vehicle crash cases, because the Bayou State has a mandatory seat belt law. But as almost any lawyer or litigant will attest, the law sometimes has little to do with common sense. In this situation, the discrepancy favors victims.

Louisiana law specifically states that “failure to wear a safety belt in violation of this Section shall not be considered evidence of comparative negligence [and] shall not be admitted to mitigate damages.” Seat belts have nothing to do with cause in vehicle crashes, so non-use has no bearing on comparative negligence. Moreover, victims only have a duty to mitigate damages after the injury.

The Lone Star State had a similar rule until 2015, when the Texas Supreme Court rejected the seat belt defense as “an anachronism” that is “a vestige of a bygone legal system and an oddity in light of modern societal norms.” However, Louisiana courts have made no similar findings and they do not seem to be inclined to do so.

Vehicle Crashes and Foreseeability

Two-vehicle injuries and fatalities are not unusual; for example, a tortfeasor (negligent driver) may rear-end a car that’s waiting to make a left turn and push it into oncoming traffic. In these situations, most Louisiana courts use the rule from Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad (1928).

As Ms. Palsgraf and her children waited for a train on one platform, on the other side of the station, railroad workers jostled a man trying to board a train as it pulled away. In the process, the man dropped a package of fireworks; the fireworks exploded, and the shock wave knocked over a large scale, injuring Ms. Palsgraf. The court later ruled that the railroad was not liable for Ms. Palsgraf’s injuries, because they were not a foreseeble consequence of the dropped fireworks.

In vehicle crash cases, two-vehicle injuries are clearly foreseeable, and therefore victims are entitled to both economic damages, such as lost wages, and noneconomic damages, such as emotional distress. Punitive damages are also available, in some cases.

For prompt assistance with a vehicle crash claim, contact Lee Hoffoss or another experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorney at Hoffoss Devall. Call today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.