Articles Posted in Fatal Trucking Accidents

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a truck accident case that was brought by the family of a woman who was killed when her vehicle was rear-ended by the defendant truck driver. The case required the court to determine whether the owner of the truck, who was not driving at the time but was present in the vehicle, should qualify for a limitation of liability under a state statute. Since the court found that the owner of the truck “loaned” the truck to the passenger, the owner was entitled to a limitation of his liability.

Yellow Semi-TruckThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ daughter was driving on a divided highway behind the defendant truck driver. At some point, she attempted to pass the defendant. As she pulled back into her lane, she realized another vehicle in front of her was making a left turn. The plaintiffs’ daughter was able to stop in time, but the defendant truck driver was not able to stop his rig in time, and he collided with the back of the daughter’s vehicle, pushing it into oncoming traffic, where it collided head-on with another truck. The plaintiffs’ daughter was killed as a result of the collision, and her family filed this wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and the owner of the truck that rear-ended her.

The owner of the truck asked the court to limit his liability under a state statute that provides a maximum of $100,000 in liability in situations in which a vehicle owner loans out his vehicle to another person who negligently causes an accident. The truck’s owner explained that, while he was present in the truck, he had temporarily loaned the truck to the operator when he asked the operator to drive the truck while he took a nap in the back. The trial court found that the truck owner was in a joint venture with the truck’s driver and denied the owner’s request to limit his liability.

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Truck drivers, as well as the companies that employ them, have a duty to ensure that the vehicles they use to transport goods across the country are well-maintained and in good working order in order to prevent hazards to other motorists. Part of this duty requires truckers to double-check that their rig is safe to drive after each stop.

Dirty TireWhile it may seem that equipment failures on large trucks are rare, the opposite is true. Many of the parts on a semi-truck are rated at certain speeds, and when a driver exceeds that speed, there is an increased risk of equipment failure. Of course, any part of a semi-truck can fail, but tires are the main culprit and present the most serious risk of causing a serious or fatal accident.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that of the roughly 14,000 truck and bus accidents occurring between the years of 2009 and 2013, approximately 200 were caused by tire blow-outs. In some cases, tire blow-outs are due to manufacturer errors, but blow-outs can also be caused by user errors. For example, if a truck driver fails to ensure that a tire is properly inflated or drives on a tire that is too worn, blow-outs are more likely to occur.

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Large trucks always present a danger on the highway, due to their large and cumbersome nature. Moreover, construction zones are an area of increased risk, especially when they are not adequately marked or require drivers to stay in extremely narrow lanes.

Road ConstructionIn most cases, it is the truck driver’s responsibility to ensure that the truck safely navigates the construction zone. However, there can be times when the government entity or contractor responsible for marking and maintaining the construction area is liable. For example, if drivers are not given sufficient notice of a construction zone that requires they come to a complete stop, a contractor may be liable for this failure. Similarly, if the construction zone itself is unsafe due to excessively narrow lanes, debris left on the roadway, or other hazards, the party responsible for the construction may be liable.

In most other cases, the truck driver is responsible for making sure that he is able to safely travel through the construction zone. This may require the truck driver to slow down or even stop to double-check clearances. One of the most common accidents involving large trucks and construction zones is a truck driver’s failure to take notice of the construction zone. In such situations, trucks have been known to plow through construction cones, stopped cars, and even cement barriers, putting everyone from the construction workers to fellow motorists at great risk.

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The research is clear; left turns are generally dangerous for all motorists — and pedestrians. According to a study by New York City’s transportation planners, left-hand turns were three times as likely to cause a deadly crash involving a pedestrian as right-hand turns. Drivers turning left accounted for 19 percent of serious pedestrian and bicyclist injuries in New York City.

No Left TurnAccording to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), turning left is one of the most common pre-crash events, occurring in 22 percent of crashes, as opposed to 1.2 percent for right turns. About 61 percent of crashes that occur while crossing an intersection or turning involve left turns, as opposed to 3.1 percent involving right turns. The NHTSA also found that 36 percent of fatal accidents involving a motorcycle involved a left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle. Traffic engineers also claim that left-hand turns can cause congestion, further increasing the risk of accidents.

Vehicles turning left have to turn against the flow of oncoming cars, which some say is dangerous and builds up traffic. In fact, the parcel delivery company UPS instructs its drivers to almost never take left-hand turns, which the company claims saves millions of gallons on gas each year due to decreased time waiting in traffic. The company’s software determines the most efficient route for each truck, and generally that route avoids left turns. One UPS employee explained that when a motorist makes left turns, their car has to idle longer, which burns fuel.

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Late last month, an accident between a pick-up truck and a bus resulted in 13 fatalities. According to a news report covering the tragic accident, the driver of the pick-up truck may have been texting in the moments leading up to the fatal accident.

Truck WindowEvidently, about 15 minutes prior to the accident, another motorist who was driving behind the pick-up truck noticed that the truck was swerving, crossing in and out of the oncoming lane of traffic. The motorist called the sheriff’s department in two neighboring counties, telling authorities that the driver should be stopped due to his dangerous driving. However, authorities did not respond in time.

The pick-up truck eventually veered into oncoming traffic, directly into the path of a church bus with 14 occupants inside. The driver of the bus was unable to avoid the truck, and the two vehicles collided head-on. Twelve of the passengers aboard the bus were pronounced dead at the scene, and another was pronounced dead a short time later at the hospital.

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Whenever anyone is injured in a serious or fatal truck accident, the injured party or their family may be eligible for monetary compensation upon a showing that the semi-truck driver’s negligence was the cause of the accident and of their injuries. In some cases, the trucking company can also be named as a party to the lawsuit.

OverpassThese truck accident lawsuits require an injured party prove four main elements:

  1. That the truck driver owed the accident victim a duty of care;
  2. That the truck driver violated that duty of care by some action or failure to take a required action;
  3. That the truck driver’s violation of the duty he owed to the plaintiff caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and
  4. That the plaintiff suffered some identifiable injury.

The first and last element are generally easily met. However, the second and third elements may involve significant litigation in some cases, especially where the semi-truck driver claims that he was not at fault for the accident and that it was some other event that caused the accident victim’s injuries.

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Earlier this month in Honduras, a bus accident claimed the lives of at least 23 people and injured several more. According to a national news source, the accident involved a passenger bus and a large semi-truck. Evidently, the collision occurred a few miles from the nation’s capital, when the semi-truck inexplicably drifted out of its lane and into the path of the passenger bus. Witnesses to the accident told police that the truck had been speeding and was zig-zagging in the moments before the fatal truck accident. In all, 23 people were killed and 39 more injured. Of the injured, two were in serious condition.

Big TruckAuthorities are currently investigating the accident and whether the driver of the semi-truck was speeding or otherwise in violation of any traffic law. A preliminary investigation determined that the driver was not under the influence of alcohol at the time, although the driver was arrested while the investigation was conducted. The results of the investigation have not yet been released.

Maryland Truck Accidents

With its central location and hundreds of miles of highways, Maryland sees thousands of trucks cross through the state each week. While most of these truck drivers are responsible professionals who take their job seriously, occasionally a truck driver bends a traffic rule, drives in an aggressive manner, or stays out on the road while too tired to safely operate their vehicle.

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Earlier this month in California, a man was killed when he was run over by a semi-truck driver. According to one local news source covering the tragic accident, the victim, who is believed to have been homeless, took shelter under the truck to escape the rain. At the time the man crawled under the truck, no one was in the cab, so he left his wheelchair next to the truck and took shelter. However, the driver of the truck returned after a short time.

18-WheelerWhen the driver returned from running errands, he got into the cab of the truck and pulled off. He immediately realized what had happened and turned the truck around. He later explained to police that he didn’t see the man under the truck. While the article does not discuss whether the truck driver conducted a pre-trip vehicle check before pulling away, it is likely he did not because had he performed a check, it is likely he would have seen the man under the truck.

At the time of the article’s publication, the accident was still under investigation, and no citations had been issued.

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Semi-truck accidents are known to be some of the most dangerous accidents, and also some of the most difficult to avoid. Unlike many other accidents, there is often little to nothing other motorists can do to avoid a semi-truck accident. This is especially the case when semi-trucks are being driven at high speeds.

Highway TrafficTo help manage the risk that semi-trucks pose on our nation’s highways, state and federal lawmakers have enacted rules and regulations for the trucking industry. For example, truck drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license, can only drive a certain number of hours per day and per week, and depending on what they are transporting, may be required to pre-register their cargo as well as their chosen route. All these regulations are enacted to keep the general public safe, and when a semi-truck driver or trucking company fails to follow these rules, they may be held liable for any injuries caused as a result.

Chain-Reaction Accident on Expressway Claims Three Lives, Injures Several Others

Earlier this week in New York City, a semi-truck accident on the Cross Bronx Expressway killed three motorists and injured several others. According to one local news source covering the tragic accident, a semi-truck was stopped in traffic in the middle of the Expressway when another truck came from behind. The second truck failed to stop in time to avoid a collision, and it slammed into the rear of a pick-up truck that had come to a stop behind the first truck. Another passenger vehicle was also struck by the second truck.

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Earlier this month in North Carolina, a five-year-old boy was killed when he was struck by an unattended dump truck. According to one local news report covering the tragedy, police investigating the accident believe that the truck was not properly secured when it was left unattended by the construction crew.

Construction EquipmentEvidently, the truck was parked on the side of a road in a residential neighborhood, near the top of a hill. A witness to the accident told reporters that a construction worker exited the truck, and then shortly afterward, the truck started rolling down the hill. The truck rolled for approximately 100 yards, taking down overhead power lines along the way, until it entered a resident’s driveway. The resident’s five-year-old boy was playing in the driveway and was struck by the unmanned dump truck. The young boy was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police arrested one man, whom they claim was responsible for the dump truck before it began to roll away. While the police have not disclosed the evidence they are using to make their assessment, they believe that the dump truck was not properly restrained when the construction worker exited the truck. Police are also looking into the safety record of the construction company to determine if similar violations have occurred in the past.

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