November 2011 Archives

November 28, 2011

Are Kentucky Hit-and-Run Accident Penalties Tough Enough?

Up until 2008, leaving the scene of a car or truck accident was a misdemeanor and could result in a fine between $20.00 and $2000.00 and a jail term not longer than one year. In 2006, a 14-year-old boy was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Owensboro, Kentucky. The driver was found and was sentenced to only seven months in jail.

In response to the boy's death, legislators introduced a new law, called "Eric's Law" in honor of the Owensboro victim, which makes leaving the scene of an accident with injuries or death a class D felony. The penalty for this class of felony is one to five years in jail and a fine up to $10,000, which can be reduced by $10 for every hour of community service performed. The law was enacted in 2008.

Numerous hit-and-run accidents have occurred in Kentucky since the law was put in place, including the 2008 accident that killed two young girls when the driver was trying to elude police during a traffic stop. That driver was caught and was eventually found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. One might wonder if the tougher hit-and-run penalties make a difference in deadly accidents that end in murder charges. But in the case of an involuntary manslaughter charge, or an accident that causes serious injury but not death, it can increase the defendant's jail time and fine significantly, maybe even enough to make the individual think twice about leaving the scene of an accident.

There are several reasons why someone might leave the scene of an accident. In the case of the two young girls that were killed near the University of Louisville, the driver was fleeing from police when the accident occurred. Some drivers may not want to see the damages or injuries they have caused. Others may be afraid of the legal consequences, so they flee in the hopes they do not get caught later. One reason may be how current penalties for leaving the scene of an accident compare to the penalties for drunk driving. Currently the penalty for killing someone while driving intoxicated is five to 10 years in jail. This penalty is much stiffer than the one to five years given for leaving the scene of the accident. This disparity may cause some individuals who have been drinking to flee the scene initially and turn themselves in later when they are sober. Prosecutor Ray Larson thinks the hit-and-run laws need to be even tougher to discourage people from leaving a car accident. A person staying at the scene and getting help versus leaving the scene could mean the difference between life and death for the injured person.

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November 21, 2011

Kentucky Company Found Negligent in Truck Accident

Kentucky trucking company Dunaway Timber Company has been ordered to pay $7 million in damages to the family of a Missouri man who was killed by one of their truck drivers in Yellville Arkansas. On September 3, 2008, Morgan Quisenberry was driving a tractor-trailer when it crossed the center line and hit two passenger vehicles before colliding with the cab of the victim's tractor-trailer. The victim was able to climb out of the cab, but became trapped under the burning vehicle. He died before arriving at the hospital, leaving a wife and two children.

This was not the first truck accident Mr. Quisenberry had caused. Before being hired by Dunaway, he had been in an accident while hauling hazardous materials. He had also lost his license twice for driving under the influence. While Dunaway Timber wasn't aware of these infractions because Mr. Quisenberry lied on his application, the information could have been obtained through a background search that would have taken little time and cost the company about $15.00.

While Mr. Quisenberry was not actually intoxicated at the time of the accident, he was fatigued, which can have the same effect on a person's driving ability as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He had been driving three hours longer than allowed. Laws forbid truck drivers to drive more than 11 out of 14 straight hours before taking a 10-hour break. Mr. Quisenberry knew that he had exceeded the number of hours allowed and falsified the information in his log book.

Taking all of this information into consideration, the jury determined that the driver was 25 percent responsible for the accident and the company was 75 percent responsible. How can the company be more responsible than the person actually operating the vehicle? The company hired Quisenberry without doing a background check on his driving record and sent him out only 19 days after he was hired, allegedly without adequate training. The route the company assigned to him could not be completed in less than 13 hours, well over the 11-hour driving limit, forcing him to drive while fatigued. Supervision and oversight by the company were lacking. All of these factors caused the jury to find Dunaway Timber guilty of negligent hiring and negligent supervision. The driver's smaller percentage of fault was most likely attributed to his allowing the trailer of his truck to cross over the center of the road while he was driving around a curve and falsifying the number of hours he had driven in one shift in his log book.

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November 14, 2011

Drunk Driving in Kentucky and Across the Nation Destroys Lives

The most recent Kentucky car accident involving a drunk driver to receive a lot of press was the November 11th accident that involved two University of Kentucky basketball players. Stacey Poole Jr. and Terrence Jones were riding in an SUV early Friday morning when it was struck by Scott Roseberry, a 22-year-old from Versailles, Kentucky. Mr. Roseberry stated he drank four or five beers before driving and hitting the SUV on East High Street in Lexington. Fortunately no one was seriously injured. Mr. Roseberry has been charged with DUI.

What remains to be seen in this accident is how the DUI will affect Mr. Roseberry's future. First offenders of drunk driving in Kentucky face up to 30 days in jail, fines between $200 and $500, license suspension up to 120 days, and possible mandatory enrollment in an alcohol treatment program or community service. Because Mr. Roseberry swerved into oncoming traffic and caused an accident, he could be charged with aggravated DUI, which carries stiffer penalties. Hopefully this incident will convince this young man to not drink and drive again, so he does not suffer the fate of Ivanna Villanueva, a 19-year-old college student in Miami. Ms. Villanueva was driving her car on October 2, 2001 after a night of partying at three different clubs when she rear-ended another vehicle, killing the 68-year-old driver. Her blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit and she was going 80 mph in a 40 mph zone. The teen has been charged with DUI manslaughter and may spend up to fifteen years in prison. The victim's family has also filed a wrongful death suit seeking damages. While she is currently out of prison and able to attend classes, her life has been forever changed by this tragic accident caused by her bad judgment.

On January 15, 2010, in Louisville, Kentucky, Amy Tomes drove her car the wrong way on I-65, causing a six-vehicle accident. She was driving without a valid license or insurance, and her blood-alcohol level was 0.32, four times the legal limit. One of the people involved in the crash had bruised kidneys and bleeding on the brain and had to be hospitalized. Ms. Tomes suffered numerous injuries as well. She initially pled not guilty to driving under the influence, reckless driving, wanton endangerment and assault, among other charges, but took full responsibility for the accident at the sentencing hearing, stating she couldn't remember the accident, but had seen it on TV. On November 10, 2011, the judge sentenced her to five years in prison, citing the seriousness of the accident and noting how miraculous it was that no one was killed.

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November 10, 2011

Kentucky School Bus Accident Injures Nineteen

911468_school_bus_with_child.jpgOn November 3, 2011, two school buses full of students and adults from Louisville Collegiate School in Kentucky were headed to Mammoth Cave on a field trip when one of the buses left the road and rolled over near Glasgow, Kentucky. Of the passengers aboard, 16 children and 3 adults were admitted to a hospital in Glasgow. Their injuries ranged from broken bones and cuts and bruises to a potential back and head injury. Lawrence Austin, the bus driver, stated that the trailer of a truck hit the side of the bus, causing the bus to leave the roadway and roll down the embankment. The driver of the truck did not stop and investigators initially saw no signs of collision on the bus.

Kentucky State Police completed their investigation of the bus accident and released their findings earlier this week. They did discover some white paint on the on the left side of the front fender of the bus, which confirms the bus driver's account of being hit by a white semi. The damage was so minimal the truck driver may not have even been aware that he struck the bus, so he did not stop. The search for the truck driver was called off just hours after the accident because there was no evidence of a collision found initially and the description of the truck was very limited. Kentucky State Police spokesman Jonathan Biven said searching for the truck would have been like "looking for a needle in a stack of needles."

What caused the truck trailer to veer into the other lane and hit the school bus will probably never be determined. Investigators believe the weather may have been involved because it was raining. Other factors such as the condition of the truck, the weight of the load in the trailer, and the truck driver's driving record and attention to the road will never be known since the driver did not stop and the search for the truck was called off before it was found. Charges are not expected to be brought against Mr. Austin, the driver of the bus. He has no known driving issues and the bus was recently inspected over the summer and had no mechanical issues.

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November 2, 2011

Fatal Kentucky Car Crash Lands Man in Jail for Five Years

On August 23, 2009, Bryan Lee decided to test-drive a new car. He went to Commonwealth Dodge on Preston Highway in Louisville, Kentucky with his brother and asked to test-drive a new Dodge Challenger. The two brothers left the dealership in the car with salesman Sayed Ghafoori. While driving on Fern Valley Road, Mr. Lee dramatically increased the speed of the vehicle and crashed into a Mercury Sable, killing both occupants.

During the trial, Mr. Lee showed little or no remorse until the sentencing, blaming everyone else for what happened, and he stated he was only going 60 mph, which is still above the posted 45 mph limit on Fern Valley Road. According to the vehicle's black box, which records data on the vehicle while it is being driven, the car had been going 102 mph just before the accident.

Almost exactly two years after the crash, a jury found Mr. Lee guilty of second degree manslaughter in the fatal car accident and recommended a five-year sentence for each death to run concurrently, with a possibility of parole in one year, after 20 percent of his sentence is served. On October 21, 2011, Judge Barry Willett confirmed the five-year sentence, denying the defendant's request for probation.

Both sides had differing stories regarding Sayed Ghafoori, the salesman in the car, during the test drive. Mr. Lee testified that Mr. Ghafoori had encouraged him to go faster, telling him to "hit it." In a statement released to the press, Commonwealth Dodge said "Mr. Lee was in no way encouraged to break the law by our salesman, whose life was also in jeopardy during these events, and who incurred injuries in this needless accident." Investigations into Mr. Ghafoori's background have found that he was charged with speeding six times, at one point going 34 mph over the speed limit. These findings do not make Mr. Lee any less guilty since he should have used his own common sense even if he was encouraged to speed by the salesman. However, a case could be made that the salesman is partially responsible for the accident.

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