A head-on collision between a car and an SUV on I-85 outside of Durham, North Carolina (NC), left both drivers dead and eight passengers in the larger vehicle hospitalized with injuries. The deadly wreck happened near the exit to East Club Boulevard at 12:15 am on March 20, 2017.
Highway Patrol investigators say the woman in the car was driving the wrong way on the interstate. She and the man behind the wheel of the SUV died at the scene. The front-seat passenger in the SUV suffered critical injuries, and three children between the ages of 4 and 16 were among the injured survivors.
Theories on why the wrong-way crash happened were not publicly released. When the National Transportation Safety Board conducted a special investigation into the causes of wrong-way collisions and how to prevent them in 2001, researchers concluded that as many as 70 percent of the crashes involved an at-fault driver who was impaired by drugs or alcohol. The second-leading cause of wrong-way highway wreck was a driver making a U-turn through the median after missing an exit.
Analyses of wrong-way crash reports also revealed that the overwhelming majority of such collision occurred between 6 pm and 6 am, when darkness and inadequate street lighting were most likely to lead drivers to confuse exit ramps for on ramps and to miss signs warning that lanes were only open to one-way traffic.
The victims of the fatal head-on collision near Durham will need to wait for the official police report to learn why the car's driver was heading south in the northbound lanes of I-85. Whatever they learn from the accident reconstruction, they are also likely to hear from the at-fault driver's insurance company that she lacked sufficient coverage to pay adequate wrongful death and personal injury settlements.
In such circumstances, crash victims may have access to coverage through uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) provisions of their own auto insurance policies. Minor children would be covered by their parents' policies. The victims of this crash in North Carolina reside in Rhode Island. That state's Insurance Division explains how UM/UIM coverage works in these words:
Uninsured Motorists coverage protects you. It pays if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver or a driver who does not have auto insurance. This coverage, in effect, takes the place of what the other driver should have purchased but did not. Coverage is also provided for under-insured drivers–those who have insurance, but not enough to cover your claim. This coverage, too, has policy limits. It covers bodily injury and property damage.
Filing and collecting on UM/UIM claims can be as complicated as proceeding with claims against another driver's insurance, especially when a victim lives in a state different from the one where the crash happened. Consulting with an experienced and caring Carolina personal injury and wrongful death attorney will help the families involved in the Durham-area wreck understand and act on their legal options for seeking compensation and damages.