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Scott McDonald and Associates PLLC

The legal issues of a sleeping driver crash

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One woman was killed and four others injured near Toutle, WA on the afternoon of June 8th because the driver of their vehicle fell asleep at the wheel. The driver, Srinivisan Subraminam, was driving west on SR-504 at about 4:30 p.m. when he fell asleep causing his car to veer across the roadway and strike a rock embankment.

The dead passenger, Mythili Gopalan, was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. As we’ve mentioned in a past news post, seat belts are perhaps one of the most important safety devices an individual can wear to prevent injury while traveling in a car.

It is clear in this accident that Mr. Subraminam was at fault for the accident. This means that in order to win damages for their injuries, the passengers of the vehicle would sue Mr. Subraminam for a payout from his insurance. In fact, we have worked on cases before where a wife sued her husband for damages in order to maximize the recovery for that case. The spouse would have to be sued in their own name but their insurance company is responsible for paying the compensation. There is an advantage to this because the at-fault spouse will presumably support the injured spouse’s claim and the jury will likely conclude that any verdict would be paid by insurance.

The fact that Ms. Gopalan was not wearing her seat belt, under Washington state case law is not relevant for determining whether she has comparative fault (see Amend vs. Bell). However, if the cause of death makes it apparent that Ms. Gopalan was not wearing her seat belt, the jury may determine this fact. While legally this revelation should not affect damages awarded, this information could reduce a jury’s goodwill towards the injured party, thus lowering damages in a kind of jury nullification.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash like this we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case. A helping hand is just a phone call away. 

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