A victim was seriously hurt in a car accident involving an SUV and an equipment buggy, also known as a side-by-side all-terrain vehicle. The incident raises two important issues in personal injury law and car crashes:
- The eggshell skull rule, and
- Liability for crashes caused while passing other vehicles.
Car Hits Buggy While Trying to Pass
The incident happened on the evening of July 11, 2022. According to the news reports and the police report, a driver and a passenger were in a 2020 Honda Pioneer equipment buggy – a cross between a sand buggy and an all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) – that was going westbound on Route 6 near Trenton, Missouri. A Buick SUV was also going westbound and moved to pass the buggy. In doing so, though, the driver clipped the back left corner of the buggy.
In the ensuing crash, both occupants in the buggy were ejected. The passenger suffered serious injuries and was life-flighted to the hospital.
At-Fault Drivers Take Their Victims as They Are
Let’s assume that the SUV driver was at-fault for the crash and that the buggy was street legal. The SUV driver did, after all, nick the buggy while trying to pass – something that a reasonably safe driver would not have done.
If that were the case, could he argue that the severity of the victims’ injuries was caused by the fact that they were in a buggy and not a regular car?
Not under Missouri’s eggshell skull rule. Under this rule, personal injury defendants, like negligent drivers, take their victims as they find them. While this can mean that negligent drivers can get “unlucky” if they hit someone whose eccentricities exacerbates their injuries, it ensures that the victim gets fully compensated, which is the point of personal injury law.
Liability for Crashing While Passing
All states have traffic laws that cover when, where, and how drivers can overtake other vehicles on roads that have only a single lane in each direction. Missouri’s is Missouri Statute 304.016. Subsection (1) of this statute begins with, “[t]he driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance…”
Given that the driver of the SUV clipped the back of the buggy, it is pretty clear that the SUV was in violation of this law by not being a “safe distance” away.
Usually, in a personal injury case, victims have to show that the other driver was behaving negligently. This often requires proving that their conduct was not what a reasonably prudent person would have done. It can be quite fact-intensive. However, when the other driver caused a crash while violating a traffic law, it is negligent per se because all reasonable people obey the rules of the road.
Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office Serve Victims in St. Joseph
In our next blog post about personal injury law, we will look at a third important issue with this incident: Liability for accidents involving a vehicle that is not street legal.