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Woman becomes 12th fatality from weekend car accidents

A recent weekend in western Montana proved to be a hazardous one for automobile drivers and passengers. A woman from Whitefish was the 12th person to die in a weekend that saw five separate fatal car accidents.

The collision occurred as the 58-year-old woman was attempting to make a left-hand turn in Kalispell and was hit on the passenger side by a 17-year-old driving an SUV, who was also injured. Accident investigations take place whenever a car or motorcycle crash occurs -- particularly ones that result in injury or death.

Investigators attempt to determine if any criminal action played a part in the cause of the accident, such as drinking and driving, texting or other driver distractions, or negligence. Sometimes, insurance companies or attorneys representing individuals involved hire independent investigators. Unlike the police, whose primary job is to determine whether criminal behavior caused the accident, an independent investigator is looking to determine who is financially liable for the damages caused.

In an accident investigation, things that are looked for include the point of impact, skid marks, and scrub or gouge marks. Inspections of the vehicles may be performed, including the brakes, tires and steering.

People who are injured in an accident -- or the family of those who die in an accident -- that was determined through the accident investigation to have been caused by another driver may be able to collect damages from the negligent party. They may be awarded compensation to cover vehicle damage, medical expenses, the cost of therapy or rehabilitation, as well as pain and suffering.

Source: The Billings Gazette, "Whitefish woman dies of injuries in weekend crash," Associated Press, June 18, 2013

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