Truck accident lawyers can tell you that it can be a little a tricky determining who is liable for the injuries sustained in an accident involving a commercial truck. In some situations, there may be more people responsible than simply the driver of the truck. A Missouri appellate court very recently held that a truck driver’s employer was liable for its own actions that contributed to the fatal accident.
Liability for the fatal wide-load truck accident
In the case of Brown v. Davis, the plaintiff’s husband was killed as he drove his car across a narrow bridge and was struck by a piece of logging equipment that had been on the back of a flatbed truck owned by the defendant. The court found that the truck driver’s should have foreseen the risks of transporting an oversized log skidder across a bridge without first stopping oncoming traffic. In fact, the court held, the employer had a legal duty to take appropriate precautions but failed to do so, including giving the truck’s driver a misleading signal.
The specific facts of the case
The owner of the trucking company at issue sent his nephew to drive the truck transporting logging equipment from Missouri to Illinois. The owner drove ahead of the truck to make sure the road was safe for travel. During the trip, it was necessary to cross the Missouri River which involved crossing a narrow bridge. The owner crossed the bridge first and gave an “all clear” signal to his nephew.
However, once his nephew began to cross the bridge, it became apparent that another car was also on the bridge. Believing that there would not be enough room for the two vehicles, the nephew driver pulled the truck over to the side of the bridge. In doing so, the logging equipment that was being hauled struck the bridge and came free. The heavy equipment collided with the car killing the driver.
The wrongful death action against the driver and the company
The driver’s wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner, the trucking company, and the truck driver. The nephew admitted his negligence in the operating the vehicle, but the owner denied that he was negligent. Specifically, the owner argued that he owed no duty of care to the driver of the car. He also argued that and even if he owed a duty it was not breached.
Standard protocol for wide-load trucks
At the trial of this case, a local sheriff provided testimony that it was standard protocol for any wide truck to arrange for safe crossing of the bridge by calling ahead to the sheriff’s office. In fact, the sheriff testified that he had personally closed the bridge on several occasions for similar crossings. Furthermore, the owner’s nephew and the driver of the truck testified that on several other occasions when he drove for his uncle, he or his uncle would normally “close” the bridge themselves. However, on this particular occasions, a witness testified that he saw the owner moments before the accident, sitting in a gas station parking lot, but no one was stopping anyone from crossing the bridge.
Jury awarded million dollar verdict
Ultimately, the jury found in favor of the victim’s family and awarded her $3 million in damages on her wrongful death claim. The owner appealed the jury award unsuccessfully. In Missouri, the survivors of the deceased victim can bring a lawsuit for damages both on behalf of the victim and compensate the family for their own personal losses. The purpose of these damages in a wrongful death case is to reimburse the families for the medical bills, funeral expenses, and other costs that may have been incurred as a result of the untimely death.
Wrongful death damages in a Missouri
In Missouri, the goal of a wrongful death claim is to obtain compensation in the form of monetary damages, for the following:
- funeral and burial expenses
- medical bills related to the deceased person’s final injury or illness
- the value of wages and benefits the deceased would likely have earned
- pain and suffering experienced by the deceased just prior to death, and
- the “reasonable value of the services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training, and support” the deceased person provided to surviving family members.
If you have questions regarding trucking accidents, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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