Personal Injury Case Law from Ohio's Fifth Appellate District
The law firm of Harris & Engler helps personal injury victims across Central Ohio, including in the Tenth and Fifth Appellate Districts. Ohio's Fifth Appellate District includes the following counties: Ashland, Coshocton, Delaware, Fairfield, Guernsey, Holmes, Knox, Licking, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Perry, Richland, Stark, and Tuscarawas.
Every Appellate District in Ohio has its' own body of case law that governs how the law is interpreted in that particular district. Decisions by the Supreme Court of Ohio govern statewide case law, and otherwise the highest legal authority is from your local appellate district case law. The 5th District covers a wide geographic area throughout Ohio and there has been a unique development of case law throughout the Fifth District of Ohio as it relates to personal injury cases. One of these cases found as follows:
Willful and Wanton Misconduct Trumps Contributory Negligence Defense
In most car accident and personal injury cases, the plaintiff brings a "negligence" cause of action against the defendant. By bringing a negligence cause of action, you are basically saying that the defendant did not do what they were supposed to do and as a direct result you were injured. It is fairly common for the defendant to claim that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent, or that their actions contributed to the accident.
In Stark County, one summer in 1940, a group of high school musicians piled into a couple cars to drive around the town square to advertise a band concert. On one of the cars there were a couple girls sitting on the front fender of one of the automobiles as it drove through town. Miesmer v. Dillin, 69 Ohio App. 197, 43 N.E.2d 305 (5th Dist., 1941). The boy driving the car was going faster than the speed limit through town and it started raining and the girls started banging on the car hood for thee boy to stop and let them get off the fender and out of the rain. Instead of stop, the boy lit a cigarette and kept going. Then the girls saw a stopped car in front of their vehicle and they started shouting at the boy to stop. He didn't stop and they had to jump from the moving vehicle injuring themselves. One of the girls sued the boy to recover for her injuries.
In the lawsuit, the boy driving the car claimed that the girls were contributorily negligent in that they should not have been riding on the vehilce fender, which is naturally dangerous and likely to result in injury. The plaintiff girl who got hurt countered the contributory negligence claim with a claim that the boy acted out of wilfull and wanton misconduct. The court defined wanton misconduct as follows: "when the concomitant facts show an unusally dangerous situation and a consiousness on the part of the driver that his conduct will in common probability result in injury to another of whose dangerous position he is aware, and he drives on without any care whatever, and without slackening his speed, in utter heedlessness of the other person's jeopardy, speed plus such unusually dangerous surroundings and knowing disregard of another's safety may amount to wantonness."
The appellate court ultimately found that the lower court did not properly consider whether the boy's conduct was wanton or not, but his conduct sure looks like it was wanton. If that is the case then the girl would be able to win the lawsuit even though under different circumstances she might be considered contributorily negligent by the very virtue of sitting on the fender of a moving vehicle.
Fifth District Personal Injury Attorneys
If you've been injured in a car accident in any of the counties comprising of Ohio's Fifth Appellate District, then contact an attorney at Harris & Engler to discuss the legal process for collecting damages for your injuries. You can call a personal injury attorney at Harris & Engler by calling (614) 610-9988.
The Importance of a Traffic Crash Report and Traffic Conviction in a Personal Injury Car Accident Case
In order to get the best payout for your car accident injury claims, one of the first things your personal injury attorney is going to look for is the traffic crash report. If you've been hurt in a car accident, then it is important to call the police to the scene of the accident and also an ambulance, if necessary. The police will interview all persons involved in the accident and any witnesses and they will attempt to reconstruct the accident and document their findings in what is called a "Traffic Crash Report." The Traffic Crash Report is important to your personal injury case for a number of reasons.
The two main issues in any personal injury case are (1) liability, and (2) damages. Most car accident lawsuits in Ohio are brought under the law of negligence. In order to prove negligence in Ohio you must prove that the other driver breached their duty of care owed to you and that as a direct and proximate result of the other driver's breach, you suffered injury. See Menifee v. Ohio Welding Products, Inc., 15 Ohio St.3d 75, 77 (1984). One easy way to prove negligence is if the at-fault driver was cited for a traffic violation by the police in causing the accident. Then if that person pleads guilty to the traffic violation and is convicted in Court, then you have essentially already proven that they were negligent in causing the car accident in your later civil case against them. At that point all you have to do is prove the level and extent of your monetary daamges.
An At-Fault Citation At the Scene Of The Accident Helps Your Personal Injury Case
If you're involved in a car accident that causes you injury, then it should be your goal to get the police to document the other driver as being at fault for the accident in their Traffic Crash Report (if in fact it was the other driver that caused the accident). This documentation will help you streamline and speed up your personal injury case later down the line. The biggest mistake you can make when you are at the scene of a car accident where you are injured is to try to be nice and not call the police. In many cases if you have medical payment coverage on your own insurance policy you will need to get a Traffic Crash Report in order to enhance your ability to get your medical bills paid for by insurance. Otherwise, if you did not think that the accident was serious enough to call the police to then it is unlikely that a year or two down the line a jury will think it was serious enough to grant you a large damages award for your personal injuries.
If you've been hurt in a car accident in the Central Ohio area, then call an attorney at Harris & Engler to talk about your case.
Uninsured Car Accident Issues in Ohio
Many of the lawsuits arising from car accidents in Ohio, and especially in Columbus and Central Ohio happen as a result of disputes over uninsured motorist coverage. What usually happens in these situations is that a motorist will get involved in a car accident with a driver without insurance and the only way to possibly pay for damages to the automobile and personal injuries resulting from the accident are to try to collect from the driver's own insurance company through uninsured coverage.
A fairly common insurance policy provision providing for uninsured motorist coverage will be similar to the following:
"We will pay [referring to the insurance company] all sums which an injured person is legally entitled to recover as damages from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because of bodily injury sustained by the insured person. The bodily injury must be caused by accident and arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the uninsured motor vehicle."
A lot of the insurance claim denials for uninsured motorist coverage come about from the policy language "the bodily injury must be caused by and arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the uninsured motor vehicle." Ohio has a statute, Ohio Revised Code section 3937.18 that places certain requirements on uninsured insurance provisions. One requirement imposed by O.R.C. section 3927.18(B) is that:
(B) For purposes of any uninsured motorist coverage included in a policy of insurance, an "uninsured motorsist" is the owner or operator of a motor vehicle if any of the following conditions applies:
(1) There exists no bodily injury liability bond or insurance policy covering the owner's or operator's liability to the insured;
(2) The liability insurer denies coverage to the owner or operator, or is or becomes the subject of insolvency proceedings in any state.
(3) The identity of the owner or operator cannot be determined, but independent corroborative evidence exists to prove that the bodily injury, sickness, disease, or death of the insured was proximately caused by the negligence or intentional actions of the unidentified operator of the motor vehicle. For purposes of division (B)(3) of this section , the testimony of any insured seeking recovery from the insurer shall not constitute independent corroborative evidence, unless the testimony is supported by additional evidence.
Much of the litigation in Ohio arises out of the language in O.R.C. 3937.18(B)(3). Specifically, the requirement of independent corroborative evidence to prove the injury was caused by an uninsured driver. On one hand, this provision of the statute was put there to protect against insurance fraud. This way, someone who gets injured in some unrelated way cannot later claim that the injuries were caused in a car crash with a hit-and-run driver. On the other hand this provision works against people who actually were in a car accident with hit-and-run drivers who do not have independent corroborating evidence. The statute basically says that your word alone is not enough, you need some other form of evidence to verify the accident. Generally, this is why it is always a good idea to call a police officer to the scene of the accident with a hit-and-run or uninsured driver to get the additional evidence of a traffic crash report.
For accidents in Franklin County where the driver tries to get compensation for their injuries from their own uninsured motorist coverage, provided below is a brief overview of how the Tenth Appellate District (Franklin County) has decided on some of these fact scenarios.
Franklin County Tenth Appellate District Cases Deciding the Issue of Uninsured Motorist Coverage
In the case of Neal v. Farmers Ins. of Columbus, Inc., the insured's claim for insurance coverage was denied by the insurance company for the reason that the insured could not produce independent corroborating evidence that a hit-and-run driver hit them and caused their injuries. Neal v. Farmers Ins. of Columbus, Inc., 2004 Ohio 2574 (10th Dist. 2004). The Ohio Supreme Court has found that "corroborating evidence is evidence which supplements that which has already been given and which tends to strengthen or confirm it. It is additional evidence, of a different character, to the same point." See State v. Economo, 76 Ohio St.3d 56 (1996). In Neil, the injured driver introduced the deposition of an accident reconstruction expert that supported the injured insured's side of the story. The 10th Appellate District (Franklin County) Court found that that was enough corroborating evidence and sided with the injured party seeking insurance coverage.
In another auto accident case in Franklin County where the driver was seeking uninsured motorist coverage for injuries received from hitting a pedestrian walkin on I-270, the court ruled in favor of the insurance company for different reasons. Curry v. Estate of Akers, 47 N.E.3d 214 (10th Dist. 2016). In Curry, a dad was returning home from the mall with his two daughters and the dad got in an argument with one of his daughters and he pulled over the the side of the highway on I-270. Then the dad proceeded to walk across 4 lanes of highway traffic, cross over the median barrier, and walk across 4 more lanes of oncoming traffic while making a phone call before turning back and crossing across all 8 lanes of highway traffic again. By the time the dad had nearly gotten back to his car on the berm side lane near his car, he was hit by a car in that lane and killed. The driver of the car was also injured and the driver tried to collect for his injuries from his own insurance company because the dad was uninsured. The insurance company denied uninsured motorist coverage because they claimed that the accident was not "caused by an accident arising out of the operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle by an uninsured motorist." Curry v. Estate of Akers, 47 N.E.3d 214 (10th Dist. 2016). The insurance company claimed that since the dad was a pedestrian at the time of the accident, he was not considered an uninsured "motorist" and the driver was accordingly not covered under the insurance policy. The Tenth Appellate District court sided with the insurance company in finding that the dad's behavior walking through highway traffic was not considered to be the conduct of a motorist arising from the use of an uninsured vehicle.
Central Ohio Personal Injury Attorneys
The law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio, and its attorneys help clients with negligence and car accident personal injury cases all across Central Ohio. If you would like to speak with a personal injury attorney about your case then you can talk to one today by calling (614) 610-9988.
Harris & Engler's Evan T. Engler sits down with WSYX Fox 8 News Good Day Marketplace to Discuss Car Accidents in Ohio
On January 19, 2018, Evan T. Engler sat down with WSYX Fox 8 New's Shawn Ireland to discuss what to do if you are in a minor fender bender in Ohio's wintery weather and what to do if you get into a car accident with an uninsured driver.
Columbus Car Accident Injury Attorneys
The car accident injury attorneys at Harris & Engler are here to assist and serve you in making sure that you get compensated for your injuries resulting from a car accident. If you were in a car accident with another driver who caused the accident, then you could pursue a negligence claim against that other driver.
The injury attorneys at Harris & Engler are experienced with dealing with at-fault drivers and their insurance companies to make sure that you are not only compensated for your injuries, but that you're compensated for all of your other damages caused by the car accident, such as, pain and suffering, property damage, lost wages, and medical bills.
First and foremost, the personal injury attorneys at Harris and Engler want to make sure that you take proper and due care of your injuries so that you can get back to your normal routine as soon as possible after the car accident. If you were injured in a car accident in Columbus, Delaware, or greater Central Ohio, then you may want to speak with an attorney in order to make sure that you are covering all of your bases in dealing with the insurance company. You can talk to an attorney about your car accident injury case by calling (614) 610-9988.