In a recent decision, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia provides a good reminder about the importance of providing clear and compelling evidence about how an accident happened when suing for injuries sustained in a car crash.
Mr. Ratliff was killed in September 2010 in a tragic accident near Petersburg that occurred when the motorcycle he was driving collided with a car driven by Mr. Knight. Ratliff’s estate later filed a claim with State Farm, asserting that the accident was covered under the uninsured motorists’ provision of Ratliff’s auto insurance policy. That provision, according to the Court, provided for benefits of up to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident in the event that Ratliff was involved in a crash with an uninsured driver. State Farm denied the claim, however, stating that Ratliff wasn’t covered because he was primarily responsible for the accident.
The estate later sued the company for breach of contract and violation of West Virginia’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. Prior to trial, the District Court granted State Farm’s request to strike from the record expert testimony offered by the estate. Kevin Theriault, an accident reconstruction expert, had completed a report on the crash in which he determined that Knight’s car drifted partially into oncoming traffic shortly before the accident occurred. The District Court agreed with State Farm that Theriault’s proposed testimony didn’t meet the requirements for admission as expert evidence.