Many news reports covering car crashes may end with the line “alcohol and/or drugs do not appear to be a factor in this crash.” Just because a driver was 100 percent sober when they hit you, that doesn’t mean they don’t still owe you substantial compensation. A variety of possible causes—from distracted driving to speeding to drowsy driving to other reasons—may explain the accident and indicate that the driver who hit you is liable for your injuries. When it comes to getting everything to which you’re entitled under the law, retaining a knowledgeable Santa Barbara car accident lawyer can be essential to obtaining an optimal result.
A multi-vehicle crash in Buellton that ended with tragic results was one where drugs and alcohol didn’t factor in.
The driver of a Honda minivan crashed into stopped traffic ahead of him on Highway 101 northbound. The impact with the rear of a Toyota pickup truck propelled the truck “into the center median where it overturned,” according to a report by the California Highway Patrol. The van then hit a Honda sedan in the adjoining lane.
The collision killed the driver of the van. The passenger in the pickup truck, a 67-year-old woman, required a 15-minute extraction to be freed from the wreckage. She was transported to a Santa Barbara hospital with major injuries, according to the Santa Barbara Independent.
While the crash remained under investigation at the time of the Independent’s report, the CHP had already declared that “alcohol and/or drugs do not appear to be a factor in this crash.”
Other Possible Explanations Involving Negligence
The reality is that, even in the absence of drugs or alcohol, there are lots of reasons why a driver might slam full-speed into a stopped vehicle in front of them. Many of these raise issues of negligence.
Certainly, one possibility is distracted driving. The Office of Traffic Safety reported on its website that, in 2021, more than 3,500 people died as a result of distracted driving crashes. That figure represented roughly 1 out of every 12 (8.2 percent) of all traffic fatalities. Another is drowsy driving. According to the National Safety Council, 1,550 people die every year as a result of drowsy/fatigued drivers.
Another possible explanation is a driver’s medical emergency. California law is clear that, if a driver experiences a mental medical emergency, that driver remains civilly liable for the harm they cause. So, if a driver has a psychotic break and crashes into the traffic stopped ahead of them, the drivers and passengers injured in that crash can still pursue compensation from that driver.
If the driver’s sudden medical emergency was physiological, that person may still be liable for the damage they caused. California law recognizes an affirmative defense for a sudden emergency but, to qualify for it and avoid potential liability, the driver cannot have “any reason to expect such peril.” So if a driver who previously had a spotless health record suffers a stroke behind the wheel, that might implicate the defense. However, if the driver was a person with a known condition (such as diabetes or epilepsy) and a history of incapacitating episodes, then they might be liable, especially if the evidence showed that they failed to take proper mitigation steps (like staying current on their medications.)
Many times, there are lots of possible explanations for a major crash. Getting the full recovery you deserve means conveying to the court exactly why the person (or entity) you sued is liable and owes you compensation. That, in turn, requires being able to do the investigation necessary to “get to the bottom” of what happened.
When it comes to diligent investigation and zealous advocacy, count on the knowledgeable Santa Barbara personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP. We’ve amassed an extensive history of fighting for injured people and we’re ready to get to work for you. Contact us at 805-617-1365 or through our website to get a free case consultation today.