Auto racing has long enjoyed a cherished place in American culture. And although events often end positively, there are times when fans have witnessed the makings of wrongful death suits. The tragic demise of Kevin Ward Jr. in the summer of 2014 is just one example of how a pleasurable day at the races may end badly. USA Today covered the progress of the Ward family’s ongoing case in early August 2015.
For those that did not see the case unfold, it traces back to a particular race wherein Mr. Ward met an untimely death. His death was the result of injuries sustained by a collision with another auto racer’s motor vehicle. After his death, surviving family members opted to file a wrongful death suit against the other auto racer. As the wrongful death case is still ongoing, it would be premature to postulate on who the victor may be after the jury trial ends.
The Ward v. Stewart case is not the only type of wrongful death litigation to occur at auto racing events. Keep in mind that many of these events are well-attended and that drivers may lose control of their vehicles at any time. As such, in decades past, there have been a number of wrongful death cases filed by fans against drivers and event promoters. A 2013 ESPN NASCAR post gave a great accounting of these types of accidents, noting some that had taken place as far back as the 1980s.
What the ESPN post didn’t touch upon is who ultimately assumed liability in those high-profile incidents. Wrongful deaths that take place at auto racing events, whether driver or fan based, have a history of going either way. Sometimes juries and judges assign full blame to one party. Other times, they may find no one at fault or share the blame with a great number of people. As such, liability should never be assumed in wrongful deaths that occur at public racing events.
Surviving family members of race fans, drivers and crew should stay quiet after their loved one’s death and obtain legal representation. State statutes vary widely on whom has legal standing after auto racing related deaths. However, most require the people with standing to present undisputable proof that another’s actions led to the victims’ untimely demise. What proof? Again, it fluctuates. For instance, let’s say that one driver hits another and causes fatalities to occur.
In some states, the driver may claim that the act of auto racing is inherently dangerous and therefore, he should not shoulder all of the blame. Other states may not recognize auto racing as inherently dangerous. As such, juries and judges may be willing to take a closer look at the driver’s actions before, during and after the fatal incident. Wrongful death attorneys will naturally be able to glance at the facts of such cases and quickly determine if there is cause to continue with litigation.
To have a wrongful death attorney review an auto racing related death with an eye towards litigation, please contact us today for an appointment.