Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

Every day, road users share the road with a multitude of vehicles, pedestrians, and bikers. This includes smaller cars sharing the road with much larger trucks that vary in size and weight. Truck drivers also need a different type of licensing in order to be able to properly share the road with other vehicles. According to the International Used Truck Centers, on average, semi-tractor trailer trucks are around 72 feet long, 8.5 feet wide, and 13.5 feet tall. When a car collides with a semi-truck, it can be devasting and shocking. Dealing with the aftermath of a serious crash can be challenging.

In a recent news report, a 25-year-old man was killed in a car crash in Indiana. According to police reports, the two vehicles crashed when a semi-tractor trailer was crossing the road to make a left turn. While the semi-tractor trailer was attempting to make the left turn, a passenger vehicle struck it, driving under the truck. Investigators determined that the driver of the semi-tractor trailer is at fault because the driver failed to yield to the right of way. The driver of the passenger vehicle was taken to a local hospital but unfortunately succumbed to his injuries.

[sc_fs_faq html=”true” headline=”h3″ img=”” question=”What Should Families Know About Fatal Truck Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

Drivers share the road with all types of vehicles, ranging from smaller sedans to pick-up trucks, motorcycles, buses, and more. Because vehicles range in size, length, the number of passengers that they can safely hold, and safety features, it can be hard to predict exactly how much damage may result from an accident. In addition, the conditions of the road, the negligence or recklessness of drivers, and other factors all contribute to the level of harm that may result from a truck accident. In addition, changes in seasons can alter the type of vehicles we commonly see on the road, including whether there are many school buses on the road. According to National Safety Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school bus-related accidents killed 54 people nationwide in 2020.

In a recent news report from South Carolina, a two-car crash resulted in the death of the driver of a pick-up truck. A school bus was hit by a Chevrolet Silverado that was heading southbound. Seven students were on the bus and no other injuries were reported. Local authorities are investigating the accident further, and fault had not yet been established.

Both trucks and buses can range in size and are often times larger in length and weight. These are often heavier-weight vehicles, requiring that their drivers be equipped with the knowledge and skill needed to safely maneuver the vehicle. These two types of vehicles share a similarity in that it can be difficult in some situations for the drivers of these vehicles to see in their blind spots. Blind spots are essentially the areas that a driver is unable to see when looking in their mirrors or when they turn their head to check their surroundings. In addition, poor weather conditions, obstruction by the sun, passengers or even objects can also add to obstructing a driver’s view.

Most people have signed a liability release waiver at some point. Often, release waivers are included on the back of concert or sporting event tickets. While the language in these agreements may not be clear to the reader, they are generally enforceable and can prevent an accident victim from holding a company liable – even for their own negligent actions.

With that said, there are limits to the enforceability of Maryland liability release waivers. For example, courts will not enforce a waiver that purports to waive the right to pursue compensation based on a party’s willful, wanton, or reckless negligence. A recent state appellate opinion illustrates how this situation may arise.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was killed after she was run over by a tow-truck on the Daytona International Speedway. Apparently, employees of the facility directed the tow-truck driver to back up into a restricted non-spectator area. However, as the driver was backing up, he ran over the plaintiff.

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Different types of personal injury cases have different procedural requirements. For example, medical malpractice cases in most jurisdictions require that the plaintiff provide some affidavit or other expert opinion explaining that the plaintiff’s case has merit in the expert’s opinion. Medical malpractice cases also often have shorter statutes of limitations than other cases brought under a theory of negligence. If a plaintiff fails to comply with these requirements, the case may be thrown out by the court before reaching trial.

A recent case in front of a California appellate court shows, however, that not every negligence case involving a medical professional should be subject to the heightened medical malpractice requirements.

Aldana v. Stillwagon:  The Facts

Aldana was involved in a serious accident when she was struck by Stillwagon, who was an on-duty paramedic on his way to the scene of an accident. Aldana then filed a lawsuit against Stillwagon under a theory of negligence, claiming that Stillwater’s negligence in operating his vehicle resulted in her injuries.

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Earlier this year, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case that excused two semi-truck drivers from liability because the negligence of a third truck driver was deemed to be an intervening cause of the injuries complained of by the plaintiffs. In the case of Baumann v. Zhukov, the plaintiff was a personal representative appointed to represent the interests of an entire family who died as a result of a multi-vehicle accident.

According to the court’s written opinion, the accident took place back in September 2012. The facts of the case are a bit confusing but illustrate the “intervening cause” doctrine nicely.

The Facts of the Case

Zhkov was traveling in his truck on the highway when he experienced an equipment malfunction, and his truck would no longer run. He pulled over to the side of the road and waited for assistance. However, before assistance could arrive, Johnson approached in his semi-truck and slammed into Zhukov’s parked truck. Evidence adduced at trial suggested that the safety cones placed on the road to warn passing motorists of Zhukov’s truck were not properly placed.

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Earlier this month, a woman was reunited with the paramedics who saved her life after she was involved in a serious car accident back when the woman was in high school almost 30 years ago. According to one local news report, the woman, who is now a yoga instructor, was providing a free class to a group of firefighters. As she was arranging the class, she mentioned to the coordinator that she would like the opportunity to thank those who saved her life almost 30 years before.

As it turns out, the coordinator was able to locate the men responsible for saving her life back when she was in high school. In fact, one of the men was still working in his capacity as a paramedic. The paramedics responsible for saving her life told reporters about the terrifying accident. Evidently, when they arrived on the scene, a car with three high-school students inside had been crushed by a dump truck. Two of the girl’s friends were pronounced dead at the scene, and she was trapped inside the car until emergency responders were able to cut her out of the vehicle and take her to the hospital.

The paramedics told reporters that the accident spurred change both in Maryland and across the country in how commercial driver’s licenses are provided to truck drivers.

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An accident on a Nebraska highway took the lives of a Maryland family. The resulting lawsuit, Baumann v. Slezak, et al, is reportedly the first to invoke that state’s law allowing causes of action for the wrongful death of unborn children. Nebraska’s law, enacted in 2003, differs from Maryland’s wrongful death statute, in that it allows causes of action for prenatal deaths “at any stage of gestation.” Maryland only allows causes of action for the death of viable fetuses.

In the early morning of September 9, 2012, the Schmidt family was stuck in a traffic jam on westbound Interstate 80. The family, which consisted of Christopher and Diana Schmidt and their two children, was driving through western Nebraska on their way from Maryland to California. Diana Schmidt was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with a child they had named Ethan. The couple was driving in separate cars: Diana Schmidt and the two children were in a Toyota Corolla, and Christopher Schmidt was directly behind them in a Ford Mustang. The traffic jam was the result of a deadly collision between two semi-trailers about a mile further up the highway. One semi had become disabled, and although the driver pulled the rig to the side of the road, he allegedly left the trailer blocking traffic. Another semi crashed into the trailer at about 4:30 a.m., killing its driver.

While the Schmidts were stopped at the rear of the long line of traffic, a semi trailer driven by Josef Slezak collided with the back of the Mustang. Slezak was allegedly driving seventy-five miles per hour, and did not make an effort to slow or stop his rig. The collision caused the Mustang to collide with the Corolla, pushing the Corolla under another trailer. All four members of the Schmidt family, as well as their unborn child, died in the collision.

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A four-vehicle automobile accident in Benedict, Maryland, around noon on Friday, September 9, 2011 killed two local senior citizens and injured at least three others. Franz and Evelyn Isabelle Sommer, a married couple, were driving east on Route 231 in their Ford Focus near the Patuxent River Bridge when a Penske rental truck rear-ended their vehicle. The collision caused the Sommers’ vehicle to veer into the westbound lane of Route 231, where it collided head-on with a Mitsubishi Galant. The Penske truck went on to strike a Saturn L200 in the westbound lane. The Sommers’ car and the Saturn L200 were wedged under the Penske truck.

Five people were taken to the hospital for injuries: Deborah Ellen Parkinson, the driver of the Galant; Kimberly Leighanne Garcia, the driver of the Saturn and two children who were in her car; and Michael Anthony Duckett, the driver of the Penske truck. Police report that none of the injuries were life-threatening. A passenger in the truck was unharmed, according to police on the scene. According to witnesses, Parkinson’s vehicle flipped over in the accident, and she had to be pulled out by firefighters.

Investigators have concluded that Duckett’s failure to control the speed of the truck caused the accident, and that alcohol was not a factor. Criminal charges have not yet been filed, pending the completion of the investigation. Duckett could potentially face up to ten years in prison if he is charged under Maryland’s “manslaughter by vehicle” statute, which covers deaths resulting from “driving, operating, or controlling a vehicle or vessel in a grossly negligent manner.”

In addition to any potential criminal charges, the driver of the truck could also face civil liability to all of the people injured in the accident, from a wrongful death claim by relatives of the Sommers to injury claims by the other drivers and their passengers. The driver of the truck is responsible not only for the actual rear-end collision of his truck and the Sommers’ vehicle, but for every collision directly caused by that collision. At least three collisions occurred in this case, causing multiple injuries.

A popular notion is that a driver who rear-ends another driver is by definition “at fault.” This is not always the case, but it is a useful principle. If the driver of the rear-ended vehicle behaved negligently, such as braking abruptly without good cause, then both drivers may be at fault. If a driver swerves into a lane of traffic and is rear-ended by a car already in that lane, the swerving driver is probably 100% at fault. A driver who rear ends a vehicle because he was pushed into the car after being rear-ended himself should not be liable, but the driver doing the original rear-ending might be liable for all collisions in that situation. A better general principle to apply to rear-end collisions might be that the driver who creates the conditions leading to the rear-end collision should be primarily liable, and that the driver is liable for injuries caused by those collisions.

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A Montgomery County jury has awarded the family of Xiufeng Wang and Yunshu Li $2.032 million for Wang’s Maryland personal injuries and Li’s wrongful death. The elderly couple were hit by a dump truck in a backover accident On October 9, 2008.

Wang, 78, fractured his back and wrist. His wife Li, 74, was pronounced dead at the Germantown truck accident site. The couple were walking in a crossed traffic lane at a road construction site when the truck struck them.

In their Montgomery County truck accident complaint, their family sought damages from multiple parties involved in the construction project. They contend that Hakes Contracting Incorporated and Milestone Construction Services Inc. did not give pedestrians a safe alternative route in the construction area after taking off a portion of the sidewalk. They also accused the dump truck operator of negligence.

According to Maryland lawmaker James Malone, the state’s law regarding handheld cell phones while driving is not tough enough. Delegate Malone, a Democrat from Baltimore County, is supporting a bill that would make using a handheld cell phone while operating a motor vehicle a primary offense. Hopefully, such a bill will stop more people from distracted driving with their phone or PDA so that they don’t cause a Maryland car crash.

Under the current law, talking on a handheld phone while driving is a secondary offense, which means that the ban can only be enforced if the driver is being cited for another violation. Also, although drivers are banned from sending text messages, they are allowed to retrieve and read them. Malone and others also want to make the text messaging ban tougher. Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Baltimore County is sponsoring a bill in the Senate that would make it illegal to also read texts while driving.

According to the Maryland State Highway Administration, in the past five years, there have been over 380 distracted driving fatalities in the state. Distracted driving, as described by US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, is an epidemic. It was the cause of 5500 fatalities in the US in 2009—yet many people, when they can get away with it, continue to text, talk on the phone, send emails, surf the Internet, or play games on their cell phone while driving. Although talking on a handheld device is not safe either, at least the driver has both hands on the steering wheel.

A distracted driver can be held liable for Baltimore County personal injury or wrongful death if his/her failure to pay attention caused a catastrophic Maryland car accident. There are steps that an experienced Baltimore personal injury law firm can take to prove that a driver was distracted when the Maryland traffic crash happened. For example, there may be phone records that can be obtained to match up when the crash happened and when a call was taking place. A witness may have observed the distracted driver texting.

Md. Bill to Tighten Cell Phone Use While Driving, ABC News/AP, February 16, 2011
Distracted driving epidemic: U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood calls issue a ‘personal crusade’, Sea Coast Online, October 24, 2010
Related Web Resources:
Cellphone Laws, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Related Blog Posts:
US DOT Holds Second Annual Distracted Driving Summit in Washington DC, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 22, 2010
Maryland Injury News: Distracted Driving Blamed for Increasing Number of Fatal Teenage Automobile Accidents, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, July 17, 2010
Maryland Auto Injury News: Distracted Driving Blamed in Baltimore Woman’s Death following Fatal Howard County Crash, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, June 26, 2010

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