Trucking Company Sued Over Crash That Killed Young Mother

A trucking company in New Jersey is facing litigation, along with its employee driver, following a fatal crash in October 2013 that resulted in the death of a 27-year-old mother on Route 206.fueltanker1

According to news reports of the case, the truck driver, who was 21-years-old at the time, was operating a tanker truck when state police officials say he lost control. The tanker crossed to the other side of the road and flipped, at which point it was struck by decedent’s vehicle, and others.

Decedent, an emergency medical services volunteer and mother to a 7-year-old girl, was driving a Honda Civic at the time. She was transported to a nearby hospital in critical condition and later died of her injuries.

The wrongful death truck accident lawsuit alleges the driver operated the vehicle at a rate of speed that was excessive, careless and dangerous. Decedent’s sister, representative of her estate and guardian of her daughter, filed the lawsuit on the girl’s behalf and alleges trucker’s negligent failure to maintain control of the vehicle proximately caused decedent’s death.

The lawsuit seeks damages, interest and costs.

In addition to causing decedent’s untimely death, the crash resulted in 4,000 gallons of gasoline being spilled onto the road, forcing authorities to shut down the highway for more than 12 hours while crews cleaned to ensure safety of other motorists.

Here, as in many truck accident cases, plaintiffs are suing the trucking company on a legal doctrine known as vicarious liability. What this asserts is that liability may be assigned to a person or entity who did not cause the injury, but who has a particular legal relationship with the person who acted with negligence. This is the theory under which many employers may be held responsible for the acts of their employees who were acting in the course and scope of employment.

Trucking companies can also sometimes be held liable for direct negligence if there is evidence they failed to properly vet drivers, or if there was not enough training or a lack of supervision.

A number of trucking firms have sought to sidestep these responsibilities by declining to “hire” drivers as employees, and instead characterize drivers as “independent contractors.” This can sometimes be effective, though an experienced injury lawyer can help to counter this. First of all, just because a driver is classified as an independent contractor doesn’t mean that’s actually what he or she is. There are a number of factors that come into play when determining the nature of an employment relationship, including the level of control over which the company had over the worker, the method of payment and whether driver consistently worked for other firms.

The other way injury lawyers may be able to counter this is via the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. In Florida, courts may impose vicarious liability to the owner of the vehicle that was operated negligently because motor vehicles are considered dangerous by their very nature. If an owner entrusts a vehicle to someone, he or she may be responsible if the driver operates the vehicle with negligence.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Florida trucking accident and have questions about your legal options, call our offices today.

Contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Trucker facing lawsuit over crash that killed Mount Olive mom, Nov. 2, 2015, By Ben Horowitz, NJ.com

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Maniglia v. Carpenter – $180k Florida Accident Verdict Reversed, New Trial Ordered, Nov. 11, 2015, Naples Truck Accident Attorney Blog