On July 24th in Lincoln Parish, two trucks collided on I-20 leaving one dead and several injured. While traveling east on I-20, a Chevy Suburban attempted to pass a GMC truck hauling a livestock trailer. The Chevy Suburban swerved right hitting the GMC truck and both vehicles ran off the road. The vehicles struck the tree line, the Chevy Suburban striking several trees before stopping. The front-seat passenger of the Chevy Suburban was pronounced dead at the scene. Two backseat passengers suffered minor injuries, and the 16-year-old driver of the Chevy Suburban was in critical condition. The driver and passenger of the GMC truck sustained moderate injuries. Three cows in the livestock trailer died in the crash.
It is unclear whether the accident was due to a mechanical defect, driver error, or another cause. Louisiana State Police say that impaired driving is not a likely cause of the accident, but they are awaiting routine toxicology tests to make the final determination. All passengers were wearing seatbelts, and so far no citations have been issued.
The determination of whether the accident is due to a mechanical defect or driver error is critical to determine the claims to file and the parties to bring a lawsuit against. An attorney hired by an injured party may investigate whether the owner of the vehicle negligently maintained the vehicle. To establish negligence, the attorney must prove a duty to conform to a standard of conduct, a breach of that duty, that the breach was the actual and proximate cause of the injury, and damages. Investigation of negligently maintaining the vehicle requires that the cars are examined and that the evidence is preserved.
The plaintiff may also have a claim for damages under the theory of products liability. Under a products liability cause of action, the focus is on the supplier’s liability for a product that caused physical harm to a person or to property. For products liability the same injury may be brought on several theories including intentional torts, negligence, strict liability, or liability based on breach of an express or implied warranty.
As the accident report indicated, driver error may have caused the accident. If a claim is brought in negligence, the driver is held to a “reasonable person” standard of care. The question placed before the court in these cases is “Would a reasonable person behave this way under the same or similar circumstances?” In this case, the driver of the vehicle was 16 years old. Minors are held to the reasonable person standard of care of a person of similar age, intelligence, and experience. However, when minors engage in adult activities, such as driving vehicles, the child is held to the same standard as an adult.
It is also possible that a lawsuit may be filed under a wrongful death cause of action for the front seat passenger that was killed in the accident. Wrongful death statutes provide a legal remedy for wrongfully causing the death of another human being. The applicable Louisiana Civil Code wrongful death statute is under Book 3, Title 5, Chapter 3, Article 2315.2 and states, “If a person dies due to the fault of another, suit may be brought […] to recover damages which they sustained as a result of the death.” Negligence claims may also be brought on behalf of the injured passengers.
Claims may also be filed for property damage that was sustained by the vehicles, the damaged treeline, and the cows that were killed. Property damage is recoverable in negligence, with the recoverable damages in negligence cases remaining compensatory rather than punitive.
If you are involved in an accident, remember that you will need an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to represent you in order to navigate the complexity of the claims to file so that you are compensated for your injuries.
Call the Berniard Law Firm toll-free at 1-866-574-8005 to speak with an attorney who can help.