Traffic accidents can often seem abstract and removed from reality – that is, until an accident kills a person who is widely liked and admired. Those words apply to a collision in Winston-Salem that killed the vice-principal at Lexington Senior High School. The circumstances of the accident may not seem notable, but the outpouring of grief and support from people who knew the victim – including former students – created a virtual tsunami of emotion.

The victim was riding as a passenger in a Honda Pilot that appears to have been struck head-on by a Jeep Laredo that was traveling in the opposite direction on the same street. The victim died at the scene. The two drivers, neither of whom has been identified, were taken to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police have not expressed any opinions on why the Jeep crossed into the wrong lane.

The victim had worked at Lexington Senior High School as assistant principal for the past five years. She graduated from the school in 2002 and then earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. She also earned a master’s degree in school administration from Western Carolina University. The principal at the high school said that the victim had given “everything she had to the students.” One colleague said that she was shocked to the point of sickness when she heard the news of the accident.

Ordinarily, the heirs of a person killed by the negligent conduct of another will have a cause of action for wrongful death against the person who was negligent. The newspaper report did not contain any information about the woman’s personal life. No mention was made of a husband or life partner or any children. It is therefore difficult to evaluate the legal consequences of this accident. At least one of the victim’s parents is alive, and that parent has a claim for wrongful death. If the victim in fact had minor children, they may have a claim for wrongful death damages, as well. Anyone who has lost a loved one under similar circumstances may wish to consult an experienced personal injury attorney for an evaluation of the evidence and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for wrongful death.