A double-loaded Peterbilt tractor-trailer slammed into a disabled vehicle on Interstate 65, killing its driver almost instantly.
This wreck happened near mile marker 32 in Warren County. According to the Kentucky State Police, a 30-year-old woman was driving a Ford which broke down in the right lane. An approaching Peterbilt tractor-trailer failed to stop or change lanes safely and smashed into the passenger vehicle, killing the woman almost instantly.
No other injuries were reported.
Large Truck Crashes
At the minimum, a fully-loaded large truck weighs about 80,000 pounds. Regulators often grant waivers which allow double trailers, like the one in the above story, and other oversize loads to prowl Kentucky highways and byways. Even an experienced driver has a hard time controlling such a large vehicle. And, because of the ongoing truck driver shortage, many truckers have little experience behind the wheel. Nevertheless, the same duty of care applies in these situations. More on that below.
Semi-truck crashes have an extremely high fatality rate. Some of the serious injuries these victims sustain include:
- Serious Burns: Gasoline and diesel fuel burn at different temperatures. Furthermore, many large trucks carry fuel in external tanks. The catastrophic burns in these wrecks usually require extensive treatment at expensive specialty burn centers. Moreover, burn injuries have extremely high infection rates.
- Broken Bones: These wrecks normally do not simply break bones. The force usually shatters them. As a result, doctors must use extremely aggressive measures to set these bones. Therefore, these victims usually suffer at least some permanent loss of motion.
- Head Injuries: The massive force in these wrecks also causes serious head injuries. The blunt force trauma and/or the sudden violent motion could cause one of these wounds. Although the symptoms are treatable, head injuries themselves are always permanent. When brain cells die, they do not regenerate.
Even if the victims survive, the medical bills usually total tens of thousand of dollars, or even more. Most health insurance companies refuse to pay these expenses, and most families have no way to pay them out of pocket.
A Lexington personal injury attorney typically sends a letter of protection to medical providers in these situations. This letter guarantees payment when the parties resolve the case. So, providers charge nothing upfront for their services.
First Party Liability
As mentioned, the same duty of care applies to all truck drivers, whether they have been licensed for a few hours or a few decades. Among other things, the duty of care requires motorists to avoid accidents if possible. That “if possible” element is often controversial, particularly in rear-end wrecks.
Ordinarily, a driver who slams into the back of another vehicle is clearly at fault for the wreck. But large truck claims are far from ordinary. Frequently, especially since so much money is at stake in these claims, insurance company lawyers try to stretch the sudden emergency doctrine to rear-end crashes. This doctrine excuses negligence if the tortfeasor (negligent driver):
- Reasonably reacted to
- A sudden emergency
Most people react reasonably to fatal wrecks. They pull over to the side of the road and wait for emergency responders to arrive.
However, a stalled car is usually not a “sudden emergency” in this context. It’s certainly unusual to encounter a non-moving vehicle in a traffic lane. But it’s also unusual to run over a large pothole or encounter a vehicle that stops short at a light. None of these things are sudden emergencies in this context. This label only applies to things like hood fly-ups and powerful wind gusts.
Third Party Liability
Vicarious liability, or third party liability, is usually quite important in wrongful death and other catastrophic injury claims. Most individual tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in these claims.
This compensation usually includes money for things like lost future financial and emotional support. If the victim is someone like a 30-year-old woman with a full life ahead of her and a family to care for, we are talking about a lot of money.
Of course, no amount of financial compensation can possibly fill the emotional void a wrongful death leaves. To imply that such a thing is possible is almost insulting. However, financial compensation assuages grief and enables the survivors to move on with their lives. Since no one can turn back the clock and reverse the effects of the wreck, financial compensation is the best relief available.
The respondeat superior theory usually applies in commercial vehicle wrecks. Employers are financially responsible if their employees are negligent as they go about their job-related duties. Kentucky law broadly defines all these key terms. For example, “employees” are not just people who get regular paychecks. Owner operators, independent contractors, and even unpaid volunteers are typically employees for negligence purposes.
Large truck crashes often cause extremely serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters. #goodelawyers