A recent Marion County car crash has left one Lebanon, Ky. teen dead. According to Kentucky State Police, Joseph L. Osbourn, 18, was operating a vehicle and traveling westbound on US 68 when, for unknown reasons, he crossed over the median and entered oncoming traffic. Roy M. Burchett was traveling in the eastbound lane of US 68 when Osbourn’s vehicle entered his lane of traffic. Burchett veered into oncoming traffic in the westbound lane of US 68 in order to avoid a collision with Osbourn’s vehicle and was able to maintain control of his vehicle. Osbourn swerved off of the road next to the eastbound lane, causing his vehicle to overturn multiple times.
A passenger in Osbourn’s vehicle, Colin D. Whitfill, 19, was ejected from the vehicle. Whitfill was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision. He was transported to Springview Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Both Osbourn and a second passenger, Justin Wheatley, 18, were wearing seatbelts and refused treatment at the scene of the accident.
Both Burchett and his passenger, Elizabeth Burchett, 34, were not injured. His vehicle suffered minor property damage when the two vehicle’s passenger-side mirrors struck each other as they narrowly missed a head-on collision.
Although Kentucky State Police continue to investigate the accident, based on the initial facts, it appears that Osbourn may be at fault in this situation. If this is in fact the case, Osbourn could face several legal claims from both the estate of Whitfill and Burchett.
The estate of Whitfill could potentially file a wrongful death claim against Osbourn for the death of Whitfill. A wrongful death claim is a statutorily imposed cause of action which enables a personal representative of Whitfill to file a lawsuit against the party that either negligently or intentionally caused his death. In order to prevail on such a claim, Whitfill’s estate needs to prove that Osbourn breached his duty to operate the vehicle in a safe and reasonable manner. They must further prove that this breach proximately and actually caused the death of Whitfill. Potentially recoverable damages can include funeral and administrative expenses, loss of services, loss of consortium and loss of power to earn.
The surviving family of Whitfill may also have grounds to bring a survival action against Osbourn. A survival action differs from a wrongful death claim in that unlike a wrongful death claim, which is a new claim that arises solely as a result of a death, survival is a cause of action which belonged to the Whitfill and is able to live on and be filed by his estate. In other words, had Whitfill survived the accident, he may have had grounds to file a civil claim for negligence against Osbourn. However, despite his death, this civil claim is able to live on and be filed by his surviving family. The recoverable damages in a survival action are the same as any other claim where death does not occur including but not limited to medical bills, conscious pain and suffering and property damage.
Burchett may also have grounds to file a civil claim against Osbourn in which he could potentially recover for the property damage to his vehicle.
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