According to reports from the Associated Press and Louisiana’s WWLTV, at least four people were killed in a tragic accident near Grosse Tete last Friday (April 9, 2010). The accident was so bad that a portion of 1-10 westbound was closed and traffic was diverted at the La. Highway 415 to U.S. Highway 190.
As reported by state troopers, an eastbound 18-wheeler sideswiped another 18-wheeler stopped on the shoulder. The first truck lost control, crossed the median, and collided head on with yet a third 18-wheeler. The second collision caused a fire. After the fire was put out, a car was found in the wreckage. The crash is still under investigation and no names of those involved have been released. However, a 15 year old girl reportedly survived without serious injuries.
After a tragedy like this one, family members of those killed will surely be asking themselves who was to blame for the accident and who will be responsible for damages. Survivors can sue whomever is at fault in a wrongful death lawsuit and may be able to collect a variety of damages, including medical and funeral expenses or compensation for pain and suffering. However, with an accident involving an 18-wheeler or other large commercial truck (or many, as in this case), the legal issues are a bit unique. The differences mainly stem from the fact that in a traditional vehicle accident where another driver was at fault, he and his insurance company will typically be held fully responsible for damages if the driver is proven to have acted negligently.
When an accident is caused by a truck driver, the driver and his employer or supervisor/s may be held responsible for negligence in driving or in the hiring and training of drivers. Each entity may have separate insurance that can also be held responsible. In addition, there is an increased chance that faulty parts may be to blame with such a large dangerous vehicle, and thus the manufacturer may be responsible as well. Even if faulty parts aren’t to blame, insufficient maintenance of the vehicle may be. To say the least, this makes claims involving 18-wheelers much more complex because the sheer number of factors that may be taken into account in litigation.
Additionally, because of all the risks involved with 18-wheelers, state and federal laws regulate their operation. In fact, an entire federal agency, the Federal Highway Administration, was formed in the early 1980’s in an effort to decrease the number of fatal truck accidents on American highways. There are specific laws that regulate the licensing of truck drivers, including the fact they must be able to meet minimum standards to be issued a Commercial Driver’s License. For particular vehicles, special endorsements are even required.
The myriad of laws governing large commercial vehicles like 18-wheelers can be relevant in an injury or wrongful death lawsuit because under a negligence per se theory if a driver has violated the law, a claimant may be able to bypass the duty and breach elements of proving a negligence claim. This means that rather than having to prove they were owed a duty by a driver, and the duty was breached, they would only need to prove that the driver caused injury and the injury resulted in damages in order to recover.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a tragic 18-wheeler accident it is absolutely vital that you have an attorney who fully understands the layers of potential issues and claims that could pertain to your case.
The attorneys at the Berniard Law Firm have tried many of these types of cases and would be happy to discuss possible claims with you. Please contact us Toll-Free at 1-866-574-8005.