Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fatal Good Samaritans Accident Raises Questions

A teen driver recently hit two Good Samaritans who were assisting injured motorists. The crash raises questions about whether alcohol or distracted driving was involved, and who is to blame for the damages.

Sunday morning, April 2, 2017, took a tragic turn when a series ofaccidents shut down I-96. At about 7:30 a.m., a Jeep with six teenagers rolled over near Fullerton in Detroit. A 17-year-old junior at University of Detroit Jesuit High School and a doctor from Henry Ford Hospital stopped to help. But then, those Good Samaritans were critically injured when a third teen driver lost control, spun out, and hit the two as they offered aid.

The six teens whose Jeep started the series of events, ages 14 to 19 years old, did not suffer any life-threateninginjuries. But the rest of the people involved were not so lucky. The U of D Jesuit student had to have his foot amputated. Medics on the scene credited a Michigan State Trooper’s use of a tourniquet with saving his life. Unfortunately, Dr. Cynthia Ray died of her injuries. The teen driver who hit her was unresponsive and taken to the hospital in critical condition. 

Police Ask About Drunk Driving

The Michigan State Police, who responded to the accident initially questioned whether this was a drunk driving accident. Others have asked, given his age, whether distracted driving was to blame. But the family says he wasn’t drinking or using his phone. They said “everybody should be praying for every victim” including him.

Good Samaritans in Auto Accidents

There is no law that requires a person to stop to help after an auto accident. Those who do are volunteers, often called Good Samaritans. Instead, the state’s Good Samaritan Law is designed to protect those who choose to help. But those protections are legal, not physical.

When they are injured by a vehicle, as happened here, Good Samaritans are treated the same as pedestrians. They can file a claim for their injuries with their own auto insurance, that of a “resident relative” in their home, or with the insurance company covering the driver or car that hit them. Those no-fault insurance benefits will cover unlimited medical expenses and three years of lost wages, attendant care, and replacement services. But when an accident turns fatal, or causes permanent disability, as happened here, the damages may go beyond what is covered under Michigan no-fault insurance.

Fatal Accidents When Fault Comes Into Question

Whether the teen was drunk, distracted, or just lost control, the families of the injured Good Samaritans may need to file a third party personal injury lawsuit to recover those additional damages. In that case, the driver’s relative fault will determine whether and how much he has to pay for the injuries he caused.

Dani K. Liblang is a personal injury attorney at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C. If you have been seriously injured in an auto accident, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., for a consultation.

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