Runaway Box Truck in Barren County Kills One

| Jul 27, 2020 | Car Accidents, Truck Accidents

A refrigerated box truck driver failed to adjust to conditions or react to stopped traffic and plowed into several vehicles.

As heavy rain fell, 51-year-old Hiu Lin of Mason, OH was eastbound on the Cumberland Parkway around mile marker eight. For unknown reasons, he did not slow down or otherwise react to the stopped traffic in front of him. Lin’s box truck smashed into a 2012 Chevrolet pickup and continued going forward, striking a 2010 Kia SUV.

The Kia driver, 74-year-old Ruth Crowe of Tompkinsville, was declared dead at the scene. Two other people, including Lin, were injured.

Commercial Operator Duty

Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must ensure that their vehicles are safe. Usually, a quick pre-departure visual inspection and immediate attention to warning lights satisfies this responsibility. While they are behind the wheel, they must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road. Commercial operator duties are significantly higher in both these areas.

A fully-loaded 26’ box truck weighs over 25,000 pounds. That weight places a significant strain on brakes, wheels, and other necessary parts. As a result, box truck operators have a responsibility to perform regular safety checks. That usually means a visit to a qualified mechanic who gives the truck the once-over.

Additionally, commercial operators are common carriers in Kentucky. Since they are professional drivers, these individuals have a higher duty of care. This label applies to truck drivers, Uber drivers, bus drivers, and any other operator who hauls passengers and/or goods for a fee.

This higher operational duty often comes into play during adverse weather events. Heavy rain is a good example. Most noncommercial operators have a duty to slow down in these conditions. Arguably, commercial operators have a duty to delay departure until the rain stops, or at least slacks off.

On a related note, box truck drivers are often underqualified. Box truck operation does not require a commercial drivers’ license. Yet as mentioned, these vehicles often weigh more than three tons. There’s a big difference between a truck that size and a Toyoya. Regardless of driver qualification, the same duty of care applies.

First Party Liability

The higher duty of care makes it easier for a Kentucky personal injury attorney to establish negligence, or a lack of care, in commercial operator crashes. This negligence could involve vehicle maintenance or vehicle operation. Based on the available facts, the wreck in the above story could have been caused by either one, or a combination of both.

Braking and steering place significant wear and tear on any vehicle. That’s especially true if the vehicle in question is a three-ton box truck. If basic functions like these are not up to snuff, that’s clear evidence of negligence. Rain, which means a wet road and limited visibility, accentuates mechanical problems.

In terms of operation, the mere fact that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) caused a crash is evidence of negligence. The duty of reasonable care and a common carrier’s duty of highest care both require drivers to avoid accidents when possible.

If a victim/plaintiff establishes a lack of care by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), the tortfeasor could be liable for damages.

The negligence per se rule sometimes affects car crashes as well. Certain safety laws, such as vehicle mechanical requirements and speed limits, establish the standard of care. If a tortfeasor violates one of these laws and that violation substantially causes a crash, the tortfeasor could be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Mechanical requirements for box trucks include not only safety equipment, but also weight limits. Overweight trucks are almost impossible for under qualified drivers to control, even under normal environmental conditions. As for vehicle speed, the posted speed limit is a presumptively reasonable speed under ideal conditions. In certain situations, such as a wet road and a large truck, a reasonable speed limit could be much lower.

Third Party Liability

Wrongful death and other catastrophic injuries could merit significant financial compensation. Generally, individual motorists do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in these cases. Fortunately, victims have a number of options in these situations. Respondeat superior employer liability is one of them.

Transportation companies, shipping companies, and other truck owners are legally responsible for truck crash damages if the driver was:

  • An Employee: For tax purposes, many truck drivers are independent contractors or owner-operators. But these individuals are employees for negligence purposes, since the employer controls the driver to some extent.
  • Acting Within the Scope of Employment: If an employee is behind the wheel of a box truck, that employee is probably acting within the scope of employment. Any act which benefits the employer in any way falls into this category.

The foreseeability rule also comes into play in respondeat superior matters. A crash must have been a foreseeable result of the employer/employee relationship. If an employee stole the truck from the parking lot, the wreck is probably not foreseeable. Anything less extreme than that usually satisfies the foreseeability rule.

Damages in a truck accident claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Box truck accident victims might be entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Home and hospital visits are available.