An employee of the West Virginia Department of Transportation could face charges of driving a state snowplow while intoxicated.
Thomas Keith Henderson of Elkhorn was arrested in McDowell County during a traffic stop on Burke Mountain near Keystone. According to the criminal complaint, a law enforcement official stopped the snowplow due to the fact that the driver’s side headlight was not working. The deputy then allegedly smelled alcohol and noted that Henderson’s eyes were bloodshot and glassy. Henderson was arrested and transported to the McDowell County Holding Unit to await arraignment.
Later, the sheriff’s department stated that Henderson’s blood alcohol level was 0.9, or more than twice the 0.4 legal limit for holders of a commercial driver’s license. Henderson was arraigned before McDowell County Magistrate Steve Cox and later paid a bond of $500 for release. So far the Department of Transportation has not commented due to it being an ongoing legal matter.
Snowplows are extremely important in helping to keep roads clear, especially at times like these when much of the country is blanketed in snow. Because of their size and power, and the conditions in which they operate, they also need to be driven with great care. One of the biggest reasons for snowplow accidents is driver fatigue, since so many snowplow drivers drive for long hours with as little as four hours of rest per day.
Statistics on snowplow drivers with DUIs are not readily available, but it is not completely uncommon, as a city-employed snowplow driver in Indiana was arrested with a blood alcohol level of .08. Fortunately there appear to have been no injuries in either situation.
That said, whether the vehicle is a snowplow or a regular passenger car, all vehicles must be driven with reasonable care. Those who are injured by a government employee in a vehicle accident have the option to file a lawsuit against the individual and/or the entity that employs him. The main wrinkle is that the government typically has immunity against private lawsuits and can only “grant permission” to be sued. However, an exception is made when a government employee injures another person through his or her conduct. If you are injured in a vehicle accident that was not your fault, you could argue that the other driver had a duty of reasonable care to all foreseeable drivers and passengers on the road. The other driver breached that duty by driving while intoxicated, in violation of the law. The breach was the direct or indirect cause of your injury, and as a result of the injury, you suffered from physical and/or property damage. Contact a West Virginia personal injury attorney to find out more about your options if you were injured in a car accident, including one with a government employee.
The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia attorney, contact us today.