Morgantown Firefighter Injured by Drunk Driver

Two Morgantown firefighters, heroes to their families and the Morgantown community, were taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital after a drunken driver slammed into them as they were responding to a fire on Richwood Avenue. The injuries are non-life threatening, but serious none the less.

One fireman was treated and released, and the more seriously injured firefighter was kept overnight for additional treatment as a direct result of being run over in the accident caused by the drunk driver. The incident occurred at around 11:15 p.m., Wednesday, November 18, 2015.

Fire Truck
Morgantown Firefighters Injured by Drunk Driver

One of the firemen got out of the truck at the scene and that’s when the drunk driver drove left of center trying to pass the fire trucks and hit the fireman and one of the trucks. The woman driving apparently drug the victim 20-25 feet and ran over his leg before coming to a stop.

Fortunately for these firefighters, their medical bills should be covered by workers compensation coverage.   However, since the State Workers Compensation Fund was abandoned several years ago, these type of claims are being handled by private insurance companies such as Brickstreet Insurance.

The private insurance companies use adjusters to handle these claims and most injured workers have a hard time getting their treatments and bills paid.     Since these insurance companies cannot be sued for bad faith (thanks to laws that protect them), they typically handle these claims the way they want to, without any interference from the judicial system.

Another problem these firefighters face is getting full compensation for their injuries.    Even if the workers compensation insurance companies treat them fairly, they are only compensated for a fraction of their compensable injuries.    The party that caused their injuries often don’t have any or enough insurance coverage to compensate them, and complex insurance coverage issues often accompany these types of claims.

A Morgantown woman is facing charges of DUI causing injury after hitting the Morgantown fireman with her vehicle while driving under the influence Wednesday night.

Help for Morgantown Injury Claims

At Robinette Legal Group, we handle claims like these every day and have the experience to help injured workers navigate through the complex web of insurance coverage issues and laws.   We would be pleased to help you and the initial consultation is absolutely free:  304-594-1800 or after hours  304-216-6695.

Source:

WDTV News: Driver Charged with DUI After Hitting Morgantown Fireman, Shannon Chavez, November 19, 2015.

Read more about a person’s rights after being hit by a drunk driver:  Morgantown Drunk Driver Accidents and Injuries

Hit and Run Drivers Face Civil as well as Criminal Charges

Car accidents are sometimes understandable mistakes or are simply unavoidable.  Sometimes they are caused by negligence like substance abuse or driving which has been distracted by electronics.  But as soon as drivers flee the scene in order to avoid responsibility, no matter the cause of the accident, it becomes a crime.  In these cases, families often file personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits against hit-and-run drivers in addition to criminal charges they are facing which may be up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Drivers often flee the scene of a pedestrian collision due to fear of prosecution, fear of being found to have been driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances, or fear of having been found to have been driving without liability insurance, as are one in every seven drivers on the road today.

We need to send a message to hit-and-run drivers in West Virginia which is:  You will be caught, and you will be prosecuted, so don’t make matters worse for yourself or anyone else involved.

Beverly, WV:  Hit and Run on Highway Route 219

A good example of this involves the West Virginia State Police in Elkins who are investigating a hit and run that happened on Rt. 219 outside of Beverly around 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 29th, 2013.  State Police have located and arrested the driver and charged him with DUI causing personal injury, leaving the scene of an accident, possession of a controlled substance, and possessing marijuana.

State Police said the perpetrator of this hit and run was driving north on Rt. 219 outside of Beverly and struck a young man who was walking on the shoulder with another person. Troopers said the driver  was answering his cell phone while driving around a turn when he traveled off of the roadway and struck the pedestrian who is now in critical condition. The second pedestrian was not injured.  At the time of this post, the pedestrian remains in critical condition at Ruby Hospital, and the hit and run driver is being held in Tygart Valley Regional Jail.

What Can A Victim Do In Such Cases?

This collision exemplifies all that can go wrong when irresponsible persons are behind the wheel of a vehicle —  driving under the influence, losing control of the vehicle and leaving the victim on the side of the road.   Thankfully, there was a witness who was able to communicate the identity of the perpetrator to the police.    But what about the victim’s rights of recovery against the perpetrator?   What can be done to make him responsible for the damages he has caused?   Unfortunately, in many cases, there is little that can be done.   If the perpetrator has insurance, it is often in the minimum limits required by law: $20,000.   One day in the hospital would absorb that amount.   More often, though, the perpetrator doesn’t have automobile insurance and has no assets.   A judgment against such an individual would likely be difficult if not impossible to collect.  Besides, he is likely to be spending some time behind bars for his illegal behavior.   These types of situations illustrate the need for responsible drivers to have sufficient underinsured motorist vehicle coverage and medical payments coverage on their own policies.

Elkins WV Pedestrian Accident Lawyers

Every year in communities throughout West Virginia, hundreds of innocent adults and children are injured or killed while walking on a sidewalk or pedestrian crossing, or riding their bikes legally on our streets. When a car or truck hits a pedestrian, there is usually no question about who is going to suffer.

Going up against an insurance company to fight for full and fair money damages for your injuries or financial losses is no easy task. Insurance companies often devote substantial financial resources trying to beat you down and frustrate you until you accept their low settlement offer.

The  Robinette Legal Group puts you on an even playing field.  Jeff Robinette is a former insurance defense lawyer who understands the strategies and tactics insurance companies use to limit their liability and avoid paying you what your claim is worth.

Our firm has experience representing clients in all types of pedestrian accident injury and wrongful death claims, including:

  • Intersection and crosswalk injuries
  • Parking lot injuries
  • Hit and run and uninsured motorist accidents

Contact our offices in Morgantown to schedule a free consultation about your pedestrian accident injury claim. We represent clients injured in communities throughout West Virginia.

Related article on Erin’s Law in WV stiffening penalties for hit and run drivers.

If you have questions, call 304-594-1800 or 304-216-6695 today.

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Source:  WBOY: “1 Arrested, 1 Hospitalized at Ruby Memorial Hospital Following Rt. 219 Hit and Run.”  December 3, 2013.

Does it Matter if I Wait to Contact a Lawyer?

gavel and clockDoes it really matter if I wait to contact a lawyer about my wrongful death claim?

If you think that waiting a few months to speak with a lawyer won’t impact your wrongful death claim, think again.  Every day that you wait to seek legal counsel equates to a loss of opportunity to obtain full compensation for your injuries. In reality, it is the first 30 days following the fatal injuries to your deceased family member that are most critical to your case.

It is within this relatively short time period that initial inspections should be completed and necessary evidence and testimony secured. It is always best if a lawyer is consulted within the first few days following the tragic event, because certain evidence won’t last even 30 days. If you wait too long to develop your wrongful death claim, it will make the job of even a good lawyer more difficult to obtain a full recovery for the estate.

Waiting even a few weeks to get legal advice about your case may be just enough time for evidence to be lost or destroyed or an important witness to disappear.  Loss of vital evidence and witness testimony will cause permanent shortcomings in your wrongful death case.    Without evidence you have no way of proving liability against the responsible parties who caused the death of your family member.

You don’t know if or when your evidence will disappear or be destroyed. An important witness to your case will not likely call you up and give you their testimony and forwarding address before they skip town. When they skip town, there goes your evidence, too. And that documentary evidence — the tangible information like records and parts — you need to prove your case can disappear. Nobody is going to alert you to that either.

Also, please keep in mind that West Virginia allows only two years to file suit after the occurrence.  After this time, your claim will be forever barred.

It doesn’t matter if your evidence is accidently lost or intentionally destroyed; both have the same adverse impact on your fatal injury claim.  All these things happen without you knowing it — these are some of the legal ramifications of waiting too long to get legal counsel.  You don’t have to end up being further harmed — you can exercise your right to consult with your own lawyer about your injury claim today.

For further information about moving forward after a tragic, unexpected death, we offer a free resource for you to help guide you through the process of moving forward with your lives.  Click this link to gain the insight you need today:  Beside Still Waters:  West Virginia Fatal Injury Guide.Beside_Still_Waters_-_Covers_3D

No words or amount of remuneration could ever compensate all that you have lost when your loved one is taken from you.  As you move forward with your life, those who are responsible must be held accountable to give you a sense of justice and closure.  Jeff Robinette and his staff are available to answer your questions.  Every call is handled with compassion, and every case is handled with dignity and professionalism.

Call The Robinette Legal Group, PLLC today:  304-216-6695. You can also find Jeffery Robinette on Google+

Injured in WV? Get the Facts.

Free Books for WV Accident Victims:

Beside Still WatersRighting the WrongsCollision Care

Click on book image for immediate download, or if you are a WV injury victim, call 1-304-594-1800 or email our office today to have a soft cover book sent to your home at no cost or obligation to you.

Collision Care: A Guide for West Virginia Accident Victims will give you the basic facts that you must know in order to make the best decisions for your present and future circumstances and to help you achieve the best result possible regarding your injury claim. (87 pages)

Righting the Wrong: West Virginia Serious Injury Guide provides serious injury victims and their families essential information about the insurance claims process to enable them to maximize their efforts to rebuild their lives. (161 pages)

Beside Still Waters: West Virginia Fatal Injury Guide provides surviving family members the information they need in order to pick up the pieces of their lives to enable them to rebuild a financial future for themselves and their children. (123 pages)

Click on a book cover image for a free immediate download, or if you are an injury victim or family member, call our office today to have a soft cover copy sent to your home. Due to limited availability, there is a limit of one book per family.

All of these books can also be purchased on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble for $16.95 each, plus shipping, but if you act now, Jeff will send it to you at No Cost or obligation.

Some of the useful information you will find in these books:

  • What Are My Legal Rights?
  • What Is Legal Liability?
  • What Is Comparative Fault? What happens if we were both at fault?
  • How Do I Prove My Claim? What documentation must I provide?
  • For What Damages May I Receive Compensation?
  • Do I Really Need A Lawyer? How to choose the right lawyer for your case.
  • Can I Afford A Lawyer?
  • Financial Motivation Of The Insurance Company – to minimize their pay-outs and maximize their own profit.
  • What is a wrongful death?
  • Statements and Authorizations – Think twice and get advice before you sign that release!
  • Social Media Traps and insurance company surveillance of your activities.
  • Spoliation of Evidence , vehicle salvage issues.
  • And much, much more!

Bonus Information: The Anatomy of a Real-life Injury Case and 10 Ways to Ruin Your Case

Our Mission
Morgantown lawyer and principal attorney, Jeff Robinette, shares what he believes is the mission of the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC. The primary objective of a personal injury law firm is to help the average person who has been the victim of negligence against the powerful resources of the insurance industry.

About the Author:

Jeffery L RobinetteJeffery Robinette is a personal injury lawyer with decades of insurance litigation and trial experience in personal injury and wrongful death claims. Prior to representing injured individuals exclusively, Mr. Robinette was a partner in a major West Virginia law firm where he focused his legal practice on defending serious personal injury and wrongful death claims and lawsuits stemming from auto and truck collisions. He has also represented the nation’s largest and most powerful insurance companies at all levels of litigation including jury trials and appeals in state and federal courts in West Virginia.

Mr. Robinette taught insurance companies and their adjusters how to follow insurance laws and regulations, including how to adjust insurance claims in good faith. He was a frequent speaker at insurance conferences on West Virginia insurance law.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Injury Lawyers.  Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800.  We are glad to answer your questions.

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Sgt. Todd May Killed in DUI Car Accident/Jerod Green Trial

Jerod Green Sentenced to 25-50 Years in Prison

02/19/2013:  Jerod Green, 36, was sentenced in Green County, Pa. court Tuesday morning. A jury convicted Green last year on third-degree murder charges in the May’s death during a police pursuit.  Green has been sentenced to 25-50 years in prison.   Green, 36, will not be eligible for parole until he serves 25 years, Pennsylvania corrections and parole officials said. That will be in 2037, when Green is 60 years old.
If parole is never granted, he will complete his sentence in 50 years. There is no good time — time off for good behavior — for violent offenders in Pennsylvania, officials said.

According to Brandy Brubaker of the Dominion Post, Morgantown:  Greene County, Pa., Judge William Nalitz said the only thing he could do to keep Jerod Green from driving drunk and killing again was to put him behind bars for a long time.  “I am struck by the inevitableness of this,” Nalitz said Tuesday. “You were going to continue on this path until you killed someone or yourself.”   Green, a repeat DUI offender, was driving drunk and fleeing police from Monongalia County early Feb. 18, 2012, when he crashed into May’s patrol vehicle, which was sitting on the side of Interstate 79 just over the Pennsylvania border.  “You have devastated one family and you wounded Deputy May’s department and his community grievously,” Nalitz said.

Jerod Green Found Guilty of Third Degree Murder — What is the difference between First and Third Degree Murder?

12/13/2012:  The jury has rendered its verdict in the trial of Jerod Green.  Green was found guilty of 3rd degree murder (instead of the 1st degree murder charges he was facing) for killing Sgt. Todd May on February 18, 2012.  Green will be sentenced later this year.  He is facing up to forty years in prison for the third degree murder charge.  The jury also returned guilty verdicts to charges of homicide while DUI, homicide while violating the vehicle code, fleeing while DUI, DUI above .16, speeding, and duty in an emergency response area.
Those charges could add a maximum of about 29 years in addition to the 20 to 40 years for murder if all of the sentences were run consecutively, according to Pennsylvania code.

What is the difference between first and third degree murder?

In most states, first-degree murder is defined as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or “lying in wait” for the victim.

A general definition of third degree murder:  Killing that resulted from indifference or negligence.  Usually there must be a legal duty (parent – child), but can also include crimes like driving drunk and causing a fatal accident.

Third day of trial:  Jerod Green’s defense attorney only presented one witness on Green’s behalf.  Green himself declined to testify on his own behalf.  Jerod Green’s crash reconstruction expert said he believes Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Department Sgt. Todd May pulled into Green’s path as Green fled police Feb. 18 on Interstate 79, and, therefore, caused the crash that took his life.

Engineer and professional crash reconstructionist Richard Bragg said the assessment of the crash scene by the prosecution’s expert was flawed and said he doesn’t believe Green intentionally hit May, as the prosecution has alleged.Bragg testified Wednesday in the third day of Green’s murder trial in Greene County, Pa. He was the sole defense witness, as Green opted not to testify on his own behalf. Both sides rested their cases and closing arguments will begin this morning. Bragg said that, as May pulled into the interstate, Green could not possibly have had enough time to react and get out of the way quickly enough to avoid a collision.

Source:  The Dominion Post, “Closing Arguments Today,” by Brandy Brubaker, 12/13/2012.

12/12/2012 update: Cpl. John Weaver testified Tuesday in the second day of Jerod Green’s murder trial about his investigation of the fatal crash scene and explained why Green’s defense is improbable.

The trooper said he believes May tried to turn his SUV away to get out of Green’s path, but Green turned his vehicle toward him again and hit him. He said Jerod Green floored his pickup truck and drove directly toward Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Department Sgt. Todd May’s SUV just before the crash that killed the deputy.

Weaver said Green entered I-79 south at Mount Morris, Pa. Previous testimony indicated that he was followed closely behind by several law enforcement officers, two of whom said they witnessed the crash. Weaver said Green should’ve kept heading straight in one of two open lanes of travel if he wanted to continue fleeing.

“He sees a police car and, instead of taking the open path, he moves toward that police car,” Weaver said. Weaver said Green left the on-ramp early. If Green had followed the on-ramp to the end, he said, there wouldn’t have been a crash.

Weaver said Green was traveling about 98 mph and his truck wouldn’t let him go any faster. At about 2.5 seconds before the crash, modules in his truck indicated that Green had his gas pedal pushed 40 percent of the way down. At about 2 seconds before the crash, Green had it pushed 100 percent down, Weaver said. He certainly would’ve saw May’s patrol car — a Jeep Grand Cherokee — with its lights flashing, Weaver said. Green never hit his brakes, Weaver said.

May, he said, had slowly driven through the grassy median between directions of travel and, would’ve most likely seen Green coming right toward him. Weaver believes, in a last-ditch effort to get out of the way, May cut hard to the left and accelerated to 31 mph.

Green then turned his truck to the right, toward where May was turning, and the left front of the truck violently impacted the right front of May’s Jeep, Weaver said.  Weaver said there are two possible reasons that Green would’ve turned his truck to the right: Because he was trying to turn away from May’s Jeep, but inadvertently turned the same way May did or because he was intentionally trying to hit him.

Weaver said it only makes sense that Green intentionally tried to hit May because Green should’ve hit his brakes and traveled straight if he was trying to avoid a collision.  The trooper also noted that May didn’t position his vehicle in a way that would’ve made sense if he was intending to block or ram Green’s truck as Green’s defense has claimed. He said May was most likely intending to join in on the pursuit.

Weaver said he conducted his investigation by gathering data recorded in modules inside both vehicles, diagramming marks and debris at the crash scene, studying the wreckage, reviewing witness statements, and entering data into a specialized computer program.

Other testimony concerning text messages back and forth between Green and two women the night of the accident indicated that he was distraught and possibly suicidal.  For details, see the Dominion Post.

Source:  The Dominion Post, Morgantown, WV:  Brandy Brubaker, reporter.

12/10/2012 update:  Jerod Green’s trial began today with opening arguments from both sides.  In the opening statement in the trial of Jerod Green, Greene County PA District Attorney Marjorie Fox told a mostly male jury that Green committed the “deliberate act of murder” the morning Todd May died. She said Green intentionally drove his pickup truck into May’s parked patrol vehicle as Green fled police trying to pull him over for driving drunk and fleeing a crash on Easton Hill. May’s vehicle, she said, was parked in the median of I-79 south, with its lights activated.

“He didn’t aim a gun at Sgt. May. He didn’t put on a dynamite vest and jump on Sgt. May, but, in the early morning hours of Feb. 18, his Silverado was a deadly weapon,” Fox said.

Green’s attorney, John Bongivengo, said Green had no intent or desire to kill May. Instead, Bongivengo said May’s vehicle pulled out into the path of Green’s. He said a crash reconstruction will support his claim.Jerod Green image

The commonwealth called about 17 witnesses Monday, some whom testified briefly about items in evidence and other procedural matters. Their case will resume this morning.

Sheriff’s Department Sgt. J.E. Burks told jurors Green smelled strongly of alcohol and slurred his speech when he was pulled over on the Easton Hill in Morgantown. He first lied about being at the scene of the hit-and-run, but then said the other driver caused it and he fled because of four previous DUI convictions, Burks said. Another deputy testified that Green told him he had taken some prescription medications that morning — one of which was to treat his bipolar disorder — and said he hadn’t been drinking.

All of a sudden, Burks said he heard that deputy, Dave Wilfong, yelling for Green to stop and then saw Green driving off. A pursuit began, which eventually led to I-79.
Burks said he was directly behind Green as he entered the interstate. Burks said he saw Green speed up, heard his engine roar, and watched as he drove across both lanes of traffic and directly into May’s patrol vehicle, which he said was parked in the median.

May’s vehicle spun violently, he said. There were debris and smoke. Star City Police Department Lt. Varndell said he also saw the impact as he followed behind in the chase. He called for EMS and ran to the deputy’s vehicle, not knowing who was inside. Varndell said May was lying across the back seat. He couldn’t reach a pulse point. A fire erupted in the hood and a passing tractor trailer driver rushed over with an extinguisher.

Varndell returned to May and noticed he was breathing. A nurse, traveling on I-79, stopped to help. They moved May onto the ground and EMS arrived, he said.

In other testimony:
Green’s ex-girlfriend, Holly Brotherton, said she and Green texted back and forth and spoke briefly while he was at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant the night May was killed. She said Green told her via text that she was right to leave him because he was “the devil” and a bad person who would’ve ruined her life.

She said she urged him to stop talking like that and told him to call her if he needed her. The next morning, she found a text that she hadn’t received earlier because her cellphone had no service.  The text was from Green and said he lost the best thing that had ever happened to him and said he didn’t deserve to “live this life with everyone else,” Brotherton said.

Rachel Hutchinson testified that she saw Green at Bugsy’s, a bar on Point Marion Road, later in the night. He was slurring his speech, laying against the table and not making much sense, she said.

Skylar Johnson testified that a large pickup truck struck her car as she traveled down Easton Hill in the early morning hours of Feb. 18. She said the truck drove off. Police later charged Green with the crash. Johnson said her car was destroyed, but she declined treatment from paramedics.

A forensic scientist with the Pennsylvania State Police said Green’s blood alcohol content was .189. The legal limit for driving in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia is .08.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Joseph Popielarcheck said he arrested Green at the crash scene and said he smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and swayed as he stood up.

Source:  The Dominion Post, Morgantown, WV, 12/11/2012 by Brandy Brubaker

11/15/2012:  Nine men and three women have been selected to serve on the jury for Jerod Green’s trial set to begin on December 10, 2012 at 9:00 a.m in Greene County, PA.  The jurors and alternates chosen have been instructed to discuss the case with no one, to attempt no investigation of the case, and to contact the court if anyone tries to contact them about the case.

10/12/12 Update:  According to Brandy Brubaker of the Dominion Post in Morgantown, Jerod Green is set to go to trial in December for the death of Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Department Sgt. Todd May.  Greene County (Pa.) Judge William Nalitz scheduled Green’s trial for Dec. 10. A jury will be selected Nov. 14.  Green’s attorney, John Bongivengo, said all pre-trial issues have been resolved and they will be ready to go to trial in December.  Bongivengo previously asked the court to move the trial to another county because of pre-trial publicity, but Nalitz said he would decide if it is necessary after first trying to pick a jury. 

9/7/12 Update:  A Pennsylvania judge denied almost all of Jerod Green’s attorney’s requests for evidence suppression, but did agree to throw out Green’s alleged admission that he had been drinking the night of the crash that killed Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Sgt. Todd May.  According to WAJR radio news, that testimony will not be allowed because it was allegedly stated by Green before he was read his rights.

Green, 35, of Morgantown, is awaiting trial on charges of murder of a law enforcement officer, homicide by vehicle while DUI, and criminal homicide, among others, for the Feb. 18 crash that killed May. 

Police in Pennsylvania and West Virginia accused Green of driving drunk, fleeing a crash on Easton Hill, driving away from officers who pulled him over on W.Va. 100, and leading police on a chase across the state line thatended when he hit May’s patrol vehicle, which was parked in the median of Interstate 79, just over the Pennsylvania line. Green, however, alleges that May’s vehicle struck his. 

Jury selection in the case is slated to begin Nov. 14, although court officials said a trial date has not yet been set. In Greene County, a jury is selected sometimes weeks or months before the actual trial begins. 

Greene County Judge William Nalitz ruled this week that the commonwealth may introduce at trial the results of Green’s blood alcohol content (BAC) testing and all evidence obtained from searches of Green’s truck, unless the court later determines that specific evidence seized in the searches is inflammatory. Police previously alleged that Green was driving with a BAC of .189 — more than twice the legal driving limit of .08 — the night of the crash. They have not made public any potential evidence seized with the search warrants. 

Nalitz also ruled that the commonwealth may not introduce Green’s alleged admission to Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Joseph Popielarcheck that he had been drinking the night of the crash. 

Popielarcheck briefly spoke with Green while hewas handcuffed in the back of a sheriff ’s deputy’s vehicle just after the crash and asked him if he had been drinking. Shortly thereafter, the trooper placed him under arrest and read him his Miranda rights, the trooper previously testified. 

Green’s attorney, John Bongivengo, argued that Green was already in custody when he was in the back of the cruiser, and as such, his alleged statement should be suppressed because he hadn’t yet been read his Miranda rights. 

Nalitz agreed with that argument, although he didn’t accept Bongivengo’s insistence that all of the evidence obtained after the cruiser questioning should also be stricken. Nalitz said in his order that Popielarcheck still had reason to believe Green was intoxicated without Green’s own alleged admission because he said Green smelled of alcohol and was unsteady in his gait. 

Bongivengo also argued that the evidence obtained from search warrants should be barred from trial because the search warrants were “overly broad.” They included the seizure of items such as Green’s cell phones and his GPS and his truck’s event data recorder. 

Nalitz, however, said the warrants asked for the appropriate things an officer would need in a fatal crash investigation. 

“An inspection of the vehicle might even prove exculpatory if it is determined that there was some mechanical failure which caused a loss of control,” Nalitz wrote. “Furthermore, we believe the commonwealth is justified in learning whether [the] defendant was distracted during the alleged pursuit by examining his cell phones for messages sent from or to him at relevant times.” 

Nalitz said, at this point, it is impossible to tell if the evidence will be fruitful to either side. 

He said he’ll make additional rulings if the commonwealth tries to introduce any evidence he deems irrelevant or inflammatory.

The Dominion Post, “Judge:  Most Evidence Stays”, by Brandy Brubaker, 9/7/2012

Original story:  Early Saturday, February 18, 2012, a tragic car accident caused the untimely death of Monongalia County Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Michael Todd May.

According to WV Metro News and The Dominion Post of Morgantown, WV, Sgt. May was assisting in the pursuit of a hit and run suspect fleeing police when his police cruiser was struck on I-79 just north of the Pennsylvania border.  Jerod Alan Green of Morgantown, formerly from Oklahoma, has been charged with homicide by vehicle while DUI, first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, second degree manslaughter of a law enforcement officer, DUI of a combination of alcohol and drugs, and several other charges. On line records from the Oklahoma State Courts Network indicate a man with the same name and birth date as Green pleaded guilty to third-offense DUI and subsequent offense DUI almost five years ago.

Sgt. May was a ten-year veteran of the force. Monongalia County Sheriff Al Kisner said, “He was one of the good guys. People just genuinely liked him. He had a great sense of humor. The guys that worked for him really liked him, they respected him a lot. He was an excellent deputy. He knew his job and was an intelligent person.  Everybody’s upset, everybody’s hurt. Some people are angry about the way things transpired. This is something that didn’t have to happen.”

Update February 20, 2012:  The Dominion Post of Morgantown documents that Green had previously been charged with at least five DUI charges, as well as assault and battery and methamphetamine charges which were later dropped.

National Commission Against Drunk Driving Statistics

  • 41 percent of all traffic crashes are alcohol-related.
  • Nearly 600,000 Americans are injured in alcohol-related traffic crashes each year.
  • Someone dies in an alcohol-related traffic crash every 30 minutes. Every two minutes someone is hurt (non-fatally injured) in an alcohol-related accident.
  • Three out of every 10 Americans face the possibility of being directly involved in an alcohol-related traffic crash during their lifetime. 

Education promotes prevention.

According to USA Today, more than 1.5 million people were arrested in the United States last year for driving drunk and at least that many are estimated to have driven under the influence of drugs.

Drunk and drugged drivers continue to drive our roads and highways, causing more than 17,000 Americans to die each year.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, impaired driving will affect one in three Americans during their lifetimes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2002 and 2005, West Virginia used a high-visibility enforcement program and cut alcohol related deaths by 18% and the numbers of drivers who tested over the .08 BAC dropped 30%.  This program included increased monitoring and enforcement in conjunction with paid advertisements on radio, TV, and billboards to increase public awareness of the dangers of DUI.  Many states have dropped high-visibility enforcement programs because of a lack of funding, but NHTSA continues to encourage states to maintain high-visibility programs to decrease the number of DUI related crashes, injuries, and deaths.

West Virginia University presently uses an on-line alcohol awareness program for all in-coming freshmen and transfer students.  The students must complete the program by certain dates or must pay a fifty-dollar penalty for missed deadlines.  Morgantown public high schools also have DUI awareness programs before prom activities in the spring to increase student awareness of the hazards and legal ramifications of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. 

The National Health Information Center has designated April 1 – 30, 2012 as  Alcohol Awareness Month  (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.) 

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Free books — Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families.

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Lawsuits Filed Against Bars Become More Common In West Virginia

West Virginia is one of the majority of states that have enacted dram shop liability laws. “Dram shop” is a reference to colonial times when alcohol-serving establishments (shops) used units of liquid measurement called drams to serve alcohol.

Dram shop laws make it possible for bar owners and alcohol servers to be held financially liable if a customer becomes obviously intoxicated on their premises and subsequently injures someone or causes property damage, typically by driving drunk.

So, if a person has several alcoholic drinks at a restaurant or bar and is visibly intoxicated, and then gets in a car and kills someone on the way home, the owner of the serving establishment can be sued for damages.

  • Many states hold commercial vendors of alcohol, such as bars, taverns and package stores responsible for injury caused by drunk patrons
  • Laws in most states require the injured person suing a commercial alcohol vendor to prove that the serving of alcohol was a “proximate cause” of the injury
  • Commercial vendors are liable for injuries caused by an intoxicated customer if they serve liquor to him after he was visibly intoxicated
  • An employer throwing an office party is liable for any bad misconduct or harassment on the part of an employee if the employee was acting within the scope of his employment and the employer failed to take reasonable preventative steps

Are you or a family member the victim of a drunk driver who went bar-hopping before driving intoxicated? Were you assaulted as a bystander by a drunk patron in a bar fight or a brawl outside a tavern? You may have a right to sue the bar under what are called “dram shop” laws.

Many states hold commercial vendors of alcohol (bars, taverns and package stores) responsible for injuries caused by drunk patrons. Different laws apply to social hosts and employers throwing office parties.

A drunk person can’t collect for injury to himself, but a third party injured by the actions of a drunk person can collect from a bar or tavern under certain circumstances. This is especially important when the drunk person has little or no insurance to cover a serious or fatal injury.

Laws in most states require the injured person suing a commercial alcohol vendor to prove that the serving of alcohol was a “proximate cause” of the injury. In other words, you must show a provable connection between your injury and the drunk person’s act of drinking at that particular bar or tavern.

Laws vary widely by state. In Nevada, commercial vendors won’t be held responsible for injuries caused by drunk patrons, probably because of the devastating impact it would have on the tourist industry. In some states, commercial vendors will only be held responsible for serving alcohol to minors.

In other states, the amount of damages that can be collected from a commercial vendor is capped at a specific amount, under the theory that the major share of blame for the injury should be placed on the drunk person.

Most states hold a commercial vendor liable where:

  • Alcohol was served to a minor
  • The vendor was reckless in serving or should have realized the extent of the patron’s intoxication
  • The vendor sold liquor without a liquor license
  • The vendor sold liquor after hours

The burden of proof is lower when a bar or tavern has served a minor, as it’s illegal.

The test for deciding whether a bar employee should have realized the extent of a patron’s intoxication is fuzzy. Courts look at the condition of the drunk person, and whether it should have been “foreseeable” to a bar employee serving him or her that the person was already “visibly intoxicated” and shouldn’t be served any more alcohol. It’s not a matter of how many drinks the person has had, but how the alcohol has affected them.

Proving Excess Intoxication

So how do you prove the person who injured you or your family member was “visibly intoxicated?” Some states have tried to clarify this vague test by requiring proof that the drunk person demonstrated “significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction.” In other states, you must prove that the bar patron was so obviously intoxicated that he presented a “clear danger to himself and others.”

If you or someone you love has been injured by a drunk person whom you suspect may have been served alcohol by a commercial vendor before the injured occurred, it’s important to see a lawyer right away. Proving the obvious intoxication of a bar patron often requires eyewitness testimony of other bar patrons and employees. A lawyer can locate and interview these witnesses quickly, and get witness statements right away while they still remember accurately what happened and before they clam up.

The time limit for filing a legal action against a commercial vendor- called a “statute of limitations” – is often very short. So it’s very important to develop and file your legal action quickly in order to collect.

Employer Events

Sometimes employers will have events, such as holiday parties, after working hours for their employees. These parties will many times take place at bars or restaurants that serve alcohol. If an intoxicated employee causes property damage or commits harassment, the vendor and the employer may be found liable. The employer is liable if a court determines that the employee was acting within the scope of employment.

Employers need to take reasonable steps to prevent misconduct on the part of their employees at parties that serve alcohol. Some examples include:

  • Discourage excessive drinking by having a cash bar
  • Have strict alcohol and behavior discipline policies in place
  • Provide transportation after the party to prevent driving under the influence

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Who’s liable if an intoxicated person involved in a car accident visited multiple bars before the accident?
  • How do I track down witnesses from a bar to prove excess intoxication? Can I use waitresses that worked in the bar as witnesses to prove my case?
  • Who’s liable if an employee gives alcohol to his son at an employer event for employees and their families that’s held at a restaurant?
 If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, please contact our office by visiting www.robinettelaw.com or calling 304-594-1800.  We would be glad to answer your questions.

Attorney Accuses Todd May of Causing the Accident that Ended His Life

For all updates on the Jerod Green trial, click this link.

Jerod Green image12/10/2012 update:  Jerod Green’s trial began today.  Opening arguments for both sides were heard.

A Pennsylvania judge refused Jerod Green’s request to suppress evidence in Green’s murder trial. The request was based on Green’s allegations that Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Department Sgt. Todd May caused the crash that took May’s life.  Green’s attorney, John Bongivengo, alleged that May intentionally rammed Green’s truck, which he said constituted unjustified deadly force. As such, Bongivengo said that all evidence obtained after the crash should be thrown out.

The allegation, however, contradicts a Monongalia County sheriff deputy’s testimony that he saw Green drive directly into May’s patrol vehicle, which was parked in the median of Interstate 79, just inside the Pennsylvania border according to the Dominion Post.  Greene County Judge William Nalitz dismissed Bongivengo’s argument in an order this week. He also made several other rulings in the case — denying a defense-made motion to dismiss homicide-related charges because of a lack of evidence, and agreeing to allow the commonwealth to present evidence regarding Green’s five DUI convictions from Oklahoma.

Green, 35, of Morgantown, is awaiting trial on charges of murder of a law enforcement officer, homicide by vehicle while DUI, and criminal homicide, among others, for the Feb. 18 crash that killed May, a 10-year veteran of the sheriff ’s department.  Police in Pennsylvania and West Virginia accused Green of driving drunk, fleeing a crash on Easton Hill, driving away from officers who pulled him over on W.Va. 100, and leading police on a chase across the state line that ended when he hit May’s patrol vehicle.

In the order, Nalitz refused Bongivengo’s motion for dismissal based on his claims that the commonwealth failed to present enough evidence to show that Green intentionally and recklessly caused the crash that killed May.  The judge also refused Bongivengo’s request to throw out a charge of murder of a law enforcement officer based on Bongivengo’s claim that, since May was in Pennsylvania when the crash occurred, he was not acting as an officer.  In other issues, Nalitz said he wants more information from Bongivengo on his motion to suppress evidence because of alleged defects in search warrants obtained by Pennsylvania State Police. He said he won’t address the part of the motion pertaining to warrants obtained in West Virginia, because that is out of his jurisdiction.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Free books — Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families.

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Family of Sgt. Todd May Files Suit Against Local Bars

For updates on the Jerod Green trial, click this link.

The parents of the Monongalia County sheriff ’s deputy killed in a crash on Interstate 79 in February are suing the man accused of driving drunk and causing the crash, as well as two businesses that they say served the man alcohol.

Franklin and Catherine May, administrators of the estate of their son, Sgt. Todd May, filed the wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday against Jerod Green; Bugsy’s, on Point Marion Road; and Ruby Tuesday, on Venture Drive according to the Dominion Post.

West Virginia is one of the majority of states that have enacted dram shop liability laws. “Dram shop” is a reference to colonial times when alcohol-serving establishments (shops) used units of liquid measurement called drams to serve alcohol.

Dram shop laws make it possible for bar owners and alcohol servers to be held financially liableif a customer becomes obviously intoxicated on their premises and subsequently injures someone or causes property damage, typically by driving drunk.

Green, 35, of Morgantown, is awaiting trial in Greene County, Pa., on charges of murder of a law enforcement officer, homicide by vehicle while DUI, and criminal homicide, among others, for the Feb. 18 crash on I-79 — just over the Pennsylvania border — that killed Sgt. May, a 10-year veteran of the sheriff ’s department.
Police in Pennsylvania and West Virginia have accused Green, a repeat DUI offender, of driving drunk, fleeing a crash on Easton Hill, driving away from officers who pulled him over on W.Va. 100, and leading police on a chase across the state line that ended when he hit May’s parked patrol vehicle in the median of I-79.

According to the lawsuit, filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court by attorneys Matthew Thorn and James Varner, Green acted recklessly and negligently by driving under the influence of alcohol and controlled substances, by fleeing police, by disregarding traffic signals, and by speeding. Green’s recklessness and unlawful conduct resulted in the crash that killed May.

Police accused Green of driving with a blood alcohol content of .189 — more than twice the legal driving limit of .08 — the night of the crash. Green also had an anti-depressant and a drug most commonly used to treat seizures in his system to a degree that impaired his ability to drive safely.  The lawsuit alleges that Bugsy’s and Ruby Tuesday acted negligently by serving Green alcohol when he was visibly intoxicated and letting him leave the establishments without arranging for safe transportation.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Free books — Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families.

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Injured In A Car Accident In West Virginia? Know Your Legal Rights!

Kingwood Car Accident
Morgantown WV car accident

Take a moment to reflect back on what happened at the instant of the collision, while your mind and body were still in the process of reacting to the traumatic event. Your initial thoughts most likely turned to immediate needs like assessing your own physical condition and, if possible, deciding whether to stay in the vehicle or get out of it. You may have called 911 to report the collision and requested emergency medical support. You may have even been able to check on the physical condition of the other persons involved in the collision. If you were coherent and realized some unsafe condition still existed, like your vehicle being in a dangerous position on the road, or you smelled gasoline, you may have felt that you needed to take additional steps to protect yourself and others from further injury.

Little consideration, if any, was probably given to how you thought others would view your immediate reactions to the collision and the actions you took immediately following the collision. All your actions or omissions (your failure to act) will have an effect on your ability to pursue your legal rights for full and fair compensation for your injuries.

West Virginia law provides that you have two years from the date of the auto collision to take legal action (i.e., file a lawsuit) against responsible individuals and companies, including insurance companies, to seek compensation for the damages (i.e., your injuries and losses) you sustained in the auto collision. If your child is injured in a collision, your child will have two years from the date of adulthood to file such claim. Waiting until your child is an adult, however, creates a significant loss of evidence you will need to prove your child’s claim. For adults, if you do not file a lawsuit within the two-year statute of limitations period, your claim will be forever time barred.

Two years may sound like a long time from now, but believe me, it is not when considering all the things that must be done to secure your legal rights against the responsible parties. Every day that you wait to seek legal counsel equates to a loss of opportunity to obtain full compensation for your injuries. In reality, it is the first 60 to 90 days following your auto collision that will make or break your case. It is within this shorter time period that necessary evidence and testimony must be secured, treatment rendered and medical opinions obtained.

If you wait until after this time period has passed, and you have not developed your claim properly, it will make the job of even a good lawyer very hard to obtain a full recovery for you. Worse yet, if you wait until close to the two-year statute of limitations period to consult with a lawyer, it is almost guaranteed that your claim will be compromised. It is somewhat like getting cancer diagnosed early — your chances of improvement are greater the earlier the diagnosis is made. So, don’t wait to get your legal claim diagnosed by a qualified lawyer.

In a typical auto injury case, the injured person is entitled to pursue compensation for their past and future pain and suffering, past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, and their loss of enjoyment of life. If the injuries are very serious and diminish the relationship with a married spouse, loss of consortium (physical and emotional intimacy and services) damages may be awarded to the spouse for those losses they have sustained stemming from your injuries.

Finally, if the at-fault driver was intoxicated or was guilty of grossly negligent behavior, punitive damages may also be awarded in a court of law. With each category of damages, however, there are complex laws and trial court procedures that must be strictly followed in order to prove your injuries in a court of law.

If you are unrepresented, there will be no one to advise you on the law and to ensure that you have met all your legal obligations — any failure on your part to follow these strict rules will have an adverse impact on your auto injury claim. Remember, only those damages that can be proven in a court of law will be considered for compensation.

West Virginia Accident Lawyers:  We would be glad to personally answer your questions.

This information has been provided by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC as a public service and does not in any way establish a lawyer/client relationship, but if we can be of any further assistance to you, it would be our pleasure to speak with you personally about your injury claim.  Visit us at the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Injury Lawyers.

We provide free books to WV accident victims — Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families. We are glad to answer your questions.  Call 304-594-1800 today.

 

Teen Banned From Driving For Life

A Rhode Island judge wanted to send a clear message to young people that he will not tolerate drunk and reckless driving in his home state.  Chief Magistrate William Guglietta of the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal has handed out the harshest possible sentence to a 17-year-old after he crashed into a tree while DUI last October.  The driver and three teenage passengers were fortunate to escape with their lives, but a 16-year-old male passenger was in a coma for weeks following the accident.  All four teens had been drinking alcohol at a party just before the wreck.

The judge poured over photos of the wreckage before handing out the sentence that the driver of the car is banned from driving in the State of Rhode Island for the rest of his life.  Judge Gugietta told news station KABC, “If you are going to drive dangerously in Rhode Island and you’re a young person, this court is going to respond accordingly.  The law in this case allows this court to impose that penalty.  If they think more stringent penalties are important for drunk driving, then I’m assuming at some point in time, those issues will be raised with the legislature.”

In addition to the DUI charge, the 17-year-old driver pled no contest to speeding, violating seat belt laws, and illegal passing.  Charges concerning violation of a graduated driver’s license, of having more passengers than allowed, being out past curfew, leaving the lane of travel, and failure to maintain control of the vehicle were dropped.

For information about obtaining legal help after having been a victim of someone else’s recklessness or inattention while driving, visit us at http://www.robinettelaw.com or call our car accident lawyers at 304-594-1800 for help today.

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