Virginia Goodrich, 77 years old of Bear River City, Utah, is dead following a motor vehicle accident with a driver’s ed car, according to the Ogden Standard Examiner. This happened earlier today, May 12, 2010 around 5 p.m. According to the story, a female student from Box Elder School district was driving a 2007 Chevy Impala and made a left-hand turn onto State Road 13 from I-15 at Exit 376. Tragically, the turn was made directly in front of a close-approaching 1994 Buick Century driven by Virginia Goodrich.
Police say Ms. Goodrich was going the speed limit, but was not wearing a seat belt at the time her Buick struck the Chevy on the driver’s door. Emergency responders to the scene found Ms. Goodrich unresponsive and she was declared dead at the Bear River Valley Hospital. The almost-16 year old driver of the Chevy, the driver’s ed instructor, and another student, were also taken to Bear River Hospital for treatment and were treated and released. Once the investigation is complete, the Box Elder County District Attorney’s Office will screen the case for possible charges.
I send my sincere condolences to the family of Virginia Goodrich for what is a completely unnecessary and preventable death. I extend my best wishes to those injured for a speedy recovery.
In situations like this, we often ask what could have been done to prevent this accident from happening, who is to blame, and who should be held accountable for this terrible loss.
First, a basic safety rule that requires left-hand-turning motorists to yield the right-of-way to other motorists, was broken. The day was relatively clear around 5 p.m. Ms. Goodrich was there to be seen and should have been seen by a reasonably attentive and careful driver. This teenage driver, even at 15 years of age, should have seen this approaching car and yielded the right-of-way.
Second, given the student driver’s relative inexperience, the professional driving instructor should have been the second set of eyes surveying the road for approaching hazards. Somehow, what should have been an effective fail safe, failed. I know that driver’s ed cars are equipped with a brake on the passenger side — for situations such as this – where the instructor needs to intervene and stop the car immediately to avoid a collision or danger. It is unknown what the instructor may have seen or done just immediately prior to the crash, but it seems from the story that the instructor was negligent in acting as a prudent and careful instructor should of acted under the circumstances.
If responsibility is to be apportioned, it should be apportioned against both the student driver and the instructor. If the family is considering a claim against the instructor, they should keep in mind that there is a very short statute of limitations of one year to bring a claim against a Utah state entity, such as this school district. Such a claim is brought by filing a Notice of Claim in the manner described under Utah’s governmental immunity statute. The statue of limitations for bringing a claim against the female student if four years.
I would encourage the family to contact an experienced Utah wrongful death attorney to advise of the remedies available to them. Most of these kinds of claims can be resolved with the responsible parties without the need to file anything in court, especially in cases that appear clear like this one.
Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah car accident attorney.