Legally Speaking

If you did not attend the Greenbrier Concours d’ Elegance this past weekend, you really missed out. This was the fourth year for this event that brings in some of finest automobiles in the world to White Sulphur Springs. It is free to the public thanks to Hagerty Classic Car Insurance. I attended Saturday and Sunday and I was genuinely impressed by the organization and layout of the whole affair. Traffic was so heavy in White Sulphur, I told Mayor Bruce Bowling we might need to get more stoplights!

Amongst all of these beautiful vehicles were cars from every era of automobile history, with American and European brands well represented. The weather could not have been more perfect as well. I have noticed over the last several years of attending this event, that car enthusiast owners, do not put on “airs” and are very friendly, even the millionaires who fly in by helicopter. There was even a Volkswagen Thing present, owned by a Lewisburg resident. The Volkswagen Thing was previously owned by a now deceased Lewisburg attorney, Bob Jacobson. I remember seeing Bob drive this car around town 10-20 years ago, with the doors off looking like he was having a blast. According to the present owner, at one time three Lewisburg attorneys got together and each bought a Thing to drive around. The Thing has special meaning in my heart because that was the first car I purchased at age 16. I washed dishes for several months at Western Sizzlin’ in order to earn the $600 to buy my VW Thing. The owner of the Thing at the Greenbrier allowed me to sit in it and start it up, which brought tears to my eyes recalling how much I loved my little orange German jeep. Probably the second best time I had at the show was sitting in the original Batmobile and remembering watching the show after school on T.V.

After the car show, I drove toward Anthony to check on the river property. Lo and behold, there was a beautiful blue, 1960s Ford Bronco, in mint condition, broken down alongside Route 219 with two wheels still on the hardtop. An older couple from Renick were inside and the gentleman explained to me that they had run out of gas. I recognized the Bronco from being at the car show. The couple proudly showed me their award from the show. I jokingly told them to “not go anywhere” and I’d be right back with some gas. After two gallons of gas and some starting fluid, we got that classic on the road again. When the owner lifted the hood, the engine looked like it has just rolled off the assembly line, perfection. While going back and forth for the gas, and working on the Bronco, I noticed a few things. The majority of people driving on Route 219 did not slow down for this disabled vehicle, in fact some seemed to speed up. Many people get injured or killed in this situation, including law enforcement officers stopping to help stranded drivers or issuing citations.

In law school, we were taught that “all liability is based upon fault.” The question in personal injury cases is always “who was at fault, or what percentages are each party at fault.” In order to recover in a civil matter, the plaintiff must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, which is “more likely than not” or just a hair over fifty percent. If you were to consider the scales of justice and tip one side ever so slightly, theoretically that is what it takes to win a civil matter. In the criminal world, think of one of the scales almost touching the table to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I bring this up because the drivers that did not slow down for our precarious situation with the Bronco, were being negligent. Under the law, in order to not be negligent, one must act as a reasonably prudent person. What is a “reasonably prudent person?” A reasonably prudent person is basically a person who operates within acceptable societal norms and one who acts with common sense. Had one of the speeding drivers struck us (which nearly happened several times), who would liable and who would be at fault? The Bronco owner had one turn signal on and it was clear there was an operational issue occurring. My guess is that a jury would very likely find the speeding driver to be negligent and at fault. Inasmuch, they would be subject to paying damages (monetary compensation) if their negligence caused personal injuries or death. Therefore, if you see someone broken down alongside of the road, slow down and remember that could be you next time.

Next year bring your kids or grandkids to the car show, you definitely will not regret it.

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