Deadly Rear-End Crash Raises Liability Questions

Deadly Rear-End Crash Raises Liability Questions

One person is dead after a commercial truck swerved into another lane of traffic and caused a traffic collision.

According to witnesses and authorities, a 2010 International Box Truck was southbound on Interstate 75¬†between Houston and Turfway roads in Boone County when the truck experienced mechanical issues. The driver suddenly swerved over to the right, crossing directly into the path of an oncoming work truck. The driver of the second vehicle — 50-year-old victim from Union¬†— was declared dead at the scene.

Police do not expect to file charges.

First Party Liability in Traffic Collisions

An unsafe lane change is a clear violation of the traffic code, and as such it constitutes negligence per se, or negligence as a matter of law.

The tortfeasor (negligent driver) is automatically liable for damages unless the safety violation was somehow excused, and a mechanical emergency could serve as such an excuse. The jury would likely try to determine if the mechanical flaw was something that the driver should have known about and cured or if it was something entirely unanticipated. Most likely, liability would attach in the former instance but not in the latter one.

Rear-end collisions in general, and this case in particular, also sometimes give rise to the last clear chance defense. Per this doctrine, an otherwise negligent driver is not legally responsible for damages if the victim had the opportunity to safely avoid the traffic collision but failed to do so. “Safely avoid” is the key phrase. On a crowded road, drivers may have little or no room to perform emergency manuvers. Furthermore, given the stopping distance for a work truck, the driver may have had little time to react even if he was following at a reasonable safe distance.

Essentially, if avoiding one traffic collision might have created another one, the defense does not apply.

Vicarious Liability

Even if they are technically independent contractors, truck drivers, Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and other commercial operators are employees for respondeat superior purposes. Additionally, for employers to be liable in traffic collision cases, the tortfeasors must have been acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the crash. This phrase is broadly defined as well, as any effort that conveys any benefit to the employer usually satisfies this prong.

If victims suffer serious injuries, their damages in traffic collision cases include compensation for monetary losses, such as medical bills, and nonmonetary losses, including pain and suffering. Punitive damages are also available, in some cases.

For prompt assistance with a traffic collision case in Franklin, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.