Negligence and Foreseeability in West Virginia Car Accident Cases – Price v. LaMaster

In car accident cases, the person accused of causing the crash is typically held to what’s called the “reasonable person” standard. In other words, a driver is expected to operate his or her vehicle in a reasonably safe manner under the circumstances. The driver is also expected to anticipate others’ behavior on the road and may be liable in the event that his or her actions contribute to a crash caused by another person who acts negligently, if the other driver’s actions were foreseeable. The state Supreme Court recently took a look at this “foreseeability” test.

road-1289757-m.jpgMs. Price was involved in a car accident in September 2009, while driving in Hardy County. She was traveling on Route 55 when she realized that she’d missed her turn. Price then slowed to take the next left turn. Mr. LaMaster, who was driving the car directly behind Price, also slowed. Mr. Moyers, who was following LaMaster, decided that he wouldn’t be able to brake his car in time to avoid hitting LaMaster’s car. Moyers attempted to pass LaMaster on the left side when his car collided with Price’s vehicle as she was turning.

Price and her husband later sued both Moyers and LaMaster for negligence. The Prices claimed that LaMaster was negligent because he had been following too close to Ms. Price’s car, which caused him to stop short and didn’t give Moyers enough time to also stop. They later reached a settlement on the claims against Moyers. A circuit court eventually granted summary judgment to LaMaster on the negligence claim. The court said it was undisputed that LaMaster’s car had come to a full stop before the accident happened. As a result, it held that the accident wasn’t forseeable to LaMaster and LaMaster’s actions were not the proximate cause of the crash.

Affirming the decision on appeal, the Supreme Court agreed that the collision wasn’t forseeable to LaMaster. State law clearly provides that a driver should not follow another car “more closely than is reasonable and prudent,” based on factors like speed, traffic and road conditions. Yet the Court noted that the police officer who arrived on the scene and investigated the crash didn’t cite LaMaster for any wrongdoing. Instead, the officer issued a ticket to Moyers for failing to stay in his lane. “Under the facts of this case, we find that the circuit court did not err in finding that it was not foreseeable that the third car in the chain would swerve to the left and strike the first vehicle when the middle vehicle was able to avoid contact with the first vehicle,” the Court concluded.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, the Wolfe Law Firm can help. Our West Virginia car accident lawyers have been serving clients throughout the state for more than 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm represents clients in a wide range of injury, criminal defense, and bankruptcy matters. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Related blog posts:

The Key to Winning a West Virginia Car Accident Case? Evidence – Ratliff v. State Farm

Comparative Negligence in West Virginia Car Accident Cases – Comer v. Bloch

West Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Jury Verdict of $50,500 in Car Accident Case