Articles Posted in Tractor Trailer/Semi Accidents

tractor trailer

When strangers come upon the scene of an accident or emergency, the first impulse may be to offer assistance in order to save someone from further harm, or even death. Unfortunately, however, such assistance is not always ultimately helpful and may even be, in some situations, more harmful than anticipated. This has, on occasion, led to tort actions directed at “good Samaritans” who attempted to help but ended up causing additional problems. This, in turn, led to many individuals, including doctors, emergency professionals, and other experts, to refrain from providing emergency care out of fear of being subject to litigation. In order to reduce these fears and encourage individuals to reach out and assist during an emergency, many states later enacted “good Samaritan” statutes, granting good Samaritans immunity from liability during emergency situations. A recent case before the Supreme Court of Ohio considered the extent of immunity for a good Samaritan statute with language similar to West Virginia’s good Samaritan statute.

In Carter v. Reese, Carter was dropping off a tractor trailer at a loading dock when he slipped, and his leg was caught between the loading dock and his truck. His leg was not immediately hurt, but he could not move it. He quickly began calling for help. Several minutes later, Reese arrived, and Carter explained what had happened. He asked Reese to move his tractor trailer forward several feet so that he could remove his leg, but he cautioned that the trailer could not reverse, or it would crush his leg instantly. Reese said it would not be a problem, but, when he got in the tractor trailer, he realized he did not know how to operate it. As he attempted to move it forward, he released the brake, and the truck rolled backward. Carter’s leg was instantly crushed and had to be amputated. Carter and his wife sued Reese for the injuries incurred.

Continue reading

A person injured in a traffic accident has the legal right to seek damages from those responsible for the collision. That may include a negligent driver, but it could also include a vehicle manufacturer or parts maker whose shoddy design or production made a car or truck dangerous to drivers, passengers, and others on the road. As a recent case out of West Virginia’s state Supreme Court shows, these products liability cases are highly dependent on the parties’ ability to see and inspect the supposedly malfunctioning vehicle.

truck-wheels-1240494Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Williams were injured in a trucking accident in Ohio County in January 2009. The men, who were employed as long-distance drivers for Werner Enterprises, were traveling on I-79 at the time of the crash. Rutledge was driving the truck, and Williams was resting in the tractor-trailer’s sleeper berth. Rutledge crossed a snow-covered bridge at about 2:30 a.m. when he lost control and struck a guardrail. The impact caused the truck to jackknife, overturn, and slide 30 feet down a steep embankment. Both men were killed in the crash, which also caused a small fire in the truck.

An insurance adjuster for Werner arrived on the scene about three hours after the accident. The adjuster provided a written report and photographs and discussed the crash scene with the company. He also explained that the accident was a single-vehicle crash caused by weather conditions, meaning that the company was likely to be responsible for workers’ compensation death benefits for the two men’s families. A towing company spent most of the day pulling the wreckage of the truck up the embankment and hauling it to a local garage. Within two days of the accident, a Werner official determined that the truck couldn’t be salvaged and ordered the towing company to dispose of the vehicle. A month later, a lawyer for Williams’ family contacted Werner and asked the company to preserve the vehicle and all evidence from the crash so that he could complete an investigation.

Continue reading

232052_semi-truck_2.jpgRecently, a West Virginia woman filed a lawsuit in federal court against Advantage Tank Lines LLC, claiming that one of its drivers was operating a tractor trailer so slowly that she collided with it.

The accident occurred on June 29, 2011. The injured party, Katherine Jean Hartung, was driving in the right lane on Interstate 77 when she encountered Reginald Kenneth Yelverton driving the tractor trailer. Hartung claims that Yelverton failed to drive at or above the 55 mile speed limit. As a result, when Hartung tried to change lanes to avoid the tractor trailer, she ended up striking it, causing significant damage to both the tractor trailer and her own vehicle. Both vehicles ended up having to be towed from the Interstate.

Meanwhile, Yelverton’s statement from the accident report was that he was driving at five to 10 miles per hour because the tractor trailer was loaded with asphalt. Hartung argues that Yelverton acted negligent, while Advantage Tank Lines LLC was vicariously liable as Yelverton’s employer because Yelverton caused the accident during the course of his duties. Yelverton is accused of violating 17C-6-3a of the West Virginia code, which prohibits driving a vehicle slow enough to impeded the normal flow of traffic unless the reduced speed is necessary to safely operate the vehicle or is in compliance with the law.

Through her attorney, Hartung seeks compensatory and punitive damages for serious bodily injury, pain and suffering, loss of wages, loss of earning capacity, loss of ability to enjoy life, mental anguish, apprehension, loss of dignity and humiliation, and shock and embarrassment, among others.

Hartung may well have a successful case. However, it should be noted that under 17C-6-4, special vehicles not designed to carry passengers may not exceed 40 miles per hour on an “open country highway.” Furthermore, West Virginia’s driver laws operate under a point system that punishes those who go over the speed limit. However, the point system does not allot points for driving too slowly. Whether Hartung’s lawsuit is successful depends on several factors. First, does Yelverton’s vehicle qualify as a “special vehicle” per 17C-6-4? Second, was Yelverton’s speed necessary to safely operate a tractor trailer filled with gravel on an interstate highway? To settle the question, witnesses who are experts in the industry practices may need to testify. Did the tractor trailer have any reflectors or flashing lights to warn other drivers?
Continue reading

crash.jpegA recent car accident in Huntington, West Virginia has prompted state authorities to alert fire chiefs and those in charge of county medical services to reinforce a policy on specialized license plates. This took place after one driver bearing an ES license plate caused an accident by turning into oncoming traffic. ES license plates are only issued to employees of a county’s emergency management services department. The driver admitted that he had not worked for emergency management services for close to 30 years. Being able to correctly identify a driver is an important part of law enforcement’s duties, in case the driver manages to flee the scene successfully and law enforcement needs to rely on witness accounts as to the driver’s identity.

The new policy is just one of many that West Virginia has taken lately to ensure that the roads are safer for drivers. This blog has previously discussed efforts to improve a particularly dangerous stretch of interstate, where a high level of tractor trailer accidents have occurred on a frequent basis. The state has also agreed to create a 511 abbreviated dial code for emergencies, which would be available at the end of the year. Several other states already have such a dial code in place. West Virginia officials believe that it will help give drivers access to better information and help them make better driving decisions.

These measures are necessary in light of evidence that West Virginia roads can be quite dangerous to drive. Residents in this state pay among the highest rates for car insurance in the country. The reasons are attributed to, among other things, a high number of teenage drivers with poor driving records and the types of vehicles driven. West Virginia drivers pay a median $2,074 in annual premiums, constituting 4.5% of residents’ income. The state with the highest premiums is Michigan at $4,409, while the state with the lowest premiums is Massachusetts at $1,128. The highest number of West Virginia accidents occurs in Ohio County, based, in part, on a speed limit that many believe to be too high.

bigtruck.jpegThe state has moved to take safety measures along the Interstate in the Kanawha Valley, including the West Virginia Turnpike, after the occurrence of several tractor trailer accidents. Most recently, near the Edens Fork exit along Interstate 77, a driver lost control of his truck when the lumber he was carrying began to spill out. The truck began turning, and when the driver tried to straighten it, he lost control. A very similar accident happened three weeks prior at the same location.

West Virginia Division of Highway officials will check to determine the structural cause of the accidents — whether the area needs road signs or cable barriers or some other solution. Most of the accidents have occurred in rainy conditions, and officials speculate whether a high-friction road coating, which could give drivers better grip on the road, would help drivers in inclement weather conditions.

Already, the West Virginia Park Authorities has enacted measures to make a part of the turnpike near the Cabin Creek exit safer, after four tractor trailer accidents in the past two months. Signs have been posted, and area police have agreed to patrol the area in an effort to slow down traffic. A new flashing sign has also been added to the Sharon and Pain Creek exits to warn drivers of an imminent steep curve.

1192523_truck.jpgIn West Virginia and other states, driver fatigue has come under scrutiny, as several oil and gas workers have died due to falling asleep at the wheel. The latest victim was Timothy Roth, who was killed after the driver of his vehicle fell asleep, veered off of the highway, and hit a sign. Both Roth and the driver were gas company employees headed back to their West Virginia drilling service company’s shop after working a 17-hour day.

Roth was nearly killed in a similar incident two months ago, after another co-worker driver fell asleep and ran the company vehicle into a pole. Roth’s employer, Colorado-based Energy Services, had been fined in other states for permitting workers to drive after working beyond the maximum 14-hour day. Yet cases such as Roth’s are, if not common, sadly not unusual. Over the past decade, 300 oil and gas workers have been killed in roadway crashes due to fatigue from long shifts. Unlike other industries, the oil and gas industry has an exemption from highway safety rules. Yet while the exemption might have helped the industry earn more money, it has put workers’ lives at risk. What is more, the threat is only likely to grow, given the number of new hydraulic fracturing wells that are being drilled across the country, which require more trucks to be driven.

Federal regulators have been following the level of fatalities since 2005. The federal Centers for Disease Control Prevention has called for greater worker safety measures. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration noted that unlike mining companies, oil and gas companies are not required to report whenever a worker suffers a highway accident.

Some experts claim that some of the factors contributing to the problem include drug use at the work site and use of non-union labor, which gives workers fewer options to voice safety complaints. Another factor is that many trucks are old and poorly maintained. Finally, many truck drivers operate as “chameleon carriers,” driving under the name of a shell company so that their actual companies can skirt federal safety rules.

Oil and gas companies have repeatedly tried to avoid scrutiny in other ways. Roth’s coworkers claim, for instance, that Energy Services made them falsify their logbooks to make it seem as though they took rest breaks, when they in fact were still working.
Continue reading

truck_accident2.jpgThis story will serve as a precaution for every West Virginia driver: keep an eye on the road at all times, or you could become a casualty of those who have no concern about driving while intoxicated or on drugs.

A tractor trailer driver from Mississippi was recently sentenced in neighboring Maryland to 21 years in prison for going on a high-speed rampage through three states in December 2010, including West Virginia. A police pursuit of Thomas McNeel, 43, began in West Virginia and reached speeds of 80 miles per hour by the time they reached Maryland. While driving along Interstate 70 and Interstate 81, he damaged four vehicles of civilians unlucky enough to get out of the way in time. Police finally slowed McNeel down by shooting out McNeel’s tires — yet even that just slowed him down to 35 miles per hour. When McNeel reached Washington County, Maryland, he purposely swerved the tractor trailer toward a police cruiser. Because of police dashboard cameras, McNeel avoided being charged with first-degree assault, as police determined that McNeel was just trying to scare the officers in the cruiser rather than actually harm them.

Instead, McNeel was charged with four counts of second-degree assault. McNeel later testified that he tried a synthetic methamphetamine called “bath salts” that morning, which left him unable to remember the high-speed chase. His bench trial took place one year after the original offense and the verdict was handed down soon after.

Most people know that driving is a privilege and a responsibility. We might sometimes bend certain rules, but most people would never consider taking drugs before getting behind the wheel. It is almost miraculous that no one was killed in the incident. However, some civilians did pay a price. The people whose cars were damaged by McNeel’s tractor trailer have asked for $11,000 for repairs, and one woman reported suffering back injuries as a result.

If you or a loved one ever experiences such a situation, you should go out and hire a West Virginia car accident attorney as soon as possible. An experienced car accident attorney would quickly take evidence from the scene of the crime and gather the necessary witnesses. Your attorney would then help you build a case that the other driver was negligent or reckless. Even if the driver were not as obviously reckless as McNeel, it would be possible to get a sizeable award from the jury — known as “money damages,” or just “damages” — that could pay your medical expenses, for pain and suffering, and for any possible property damage. You might even be able to obtain punitive damages — in West Virginia, punitive damages may be awarded if the wrongdoer’s actions were intentional or grossly negligent. The burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, the lowest burden of proof in a trial.
Continue reading

6663_freeway.jpgWrongful death lawsuits are very difficult cases for any attorney to prosecute, as they are often more contentious than many other types of litigation due to the high emotional and monetary stakes involved. As a West Virginia wrongful death attorney, it is important to stay as up to date as possible on changes in the law as they happen, and at the Wolfe Law Firm, we pride ourselves on doing so. Our attorneys recently uncovered an interesting wrongful death decision rendered by the US District Court, District of Maryland, and wanted to share it with our readers.

In the Estate of Anderson v. US, Eric Anderson was a passenger in a vehicle that had stopped on the right shoulder of the Baltimore Washington Parkway and turned on its hazard lights due to limited visibility and inclement weather conditions. After the car was stopped, Anderson exited the vehicle, and was struck and killed by a tractor trailer being operated by an employee of United States Postal Service on its way to a mail processing and distribution center. After his death, his siblings filed a wrongful death and survivorship lawsuit for four million dollars in damages against the government, who then filed a Motion for Summary Judgment to dismiss the action.

Plaintiffs alleged that on the night of the accident, the driver remained in the right lane of the road and did not reduce his speed prior to the impact with Mr. Anderson. In contrast, the driver himself testified that he saw Plaintiff’s vehicle on the right shoulder, reduced his speed, and “conducted an avoidance maneuver” by steering into the left lane. The driver hit his brakes upon seeing Mr. Anderson in the roadway, but was unable to avoid him, as he claimed to be traveling at fifty miles per hour at the time. Plaintiffs allege that the big rig was traveling in excess of the posted 55 mile per hour speed limit. Both parties agreed that Mr. Anderson was killed instantly, but Plaintiffs assert that the victim suffered pre-impact trauma before he was struck by the Postal Service truck. Defendant’s dispute this claim, citing witness testimony that Mr. Anderson had been drinking heavily that night and a toxicology report showing he had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.21% (more than twice the legal limit).

257926_school_bus.jpgWDTV News reports that a Randolph County school bus was involved in an accident yesterday on Route 92. According to news reports, the bus – that was carrying 21 passengers – was rear ended by a commercial truck when it had stopped to allow some of the children to disembark the bus. The collision injured two students, who were taken to the hospital for treatment of their non-life threatening injuries. State Police officers are currently investigating the incident in order to determine the cause of the wreck.

Most traffic accidents only involve a few persons, but when public transportation is involved, cases can become much more complicated simply because there are often far more victims involved. In the case described above, only two children required immediate medical treatment, but given the large number of children onboard the bus, the outcome could have been far worse. While the driver of the truck that rear-ended the bus may have been at fault, there are many other factors that could have contributed to causing the accident. Negligent truck maintenance, malfunctioning brakes, or even broken bus brake lights could have played a part in causing the collision. Determining the actual cause or causes of the accident is a difficult and complicated process, and is best approached by someone with experience and applicable legal knowledge.

If you or a loved one has been involved in such an accident, it is always a good idea to consult an attorney for advice as soon as possible. A West Virginia personal injury attorney can perform a proper investigation and evaluate the resulting evidence to create a plan for your case. By retaining legal representation, you are protecting your rights and helping to ensure that you are able to obtain the medical treatment you or your child needs.

584005_truck_accident.jpgFor the second time in three days, a tractor trailer has overturned on West Virginia’s roads and spilled a load of steel onto the highway. The Charleston Daily Mail reports that Wednesday’s accident happened on the southbound lanes of I-77 caused a truck hauling steel plates to overturn and block both lanes of traffic. Now this afternoon, WSAZ reports that a similar accident occurred when a semi-truck hauling steel coil flipped while driving northbound on I-77. Authorities stated that both accidents occurred due to a shift of the steel loads each driver was carrying. Luckily, neither driver was hurt, nor was anyone else injured in the crashes.

Stories like these show us all just how dangerous driving at highway speeds can be. In both of the accidents described above, the truck in question was coming around a curve at speed when its load shifted and caused each truck to roll over. In both cases it is possible that either their loads were not strapped to the truck securely enough, or the driver was operating the truck at an unsafe speed while turning. Were anyone else was caught up in the debris or struck the overturned vehicle, the driver and the people who loaded the steel could be liable for the damages suffered by the victim because such accidents rarely occur in the absence of negligence.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a semi-truck accident, you should contact a West Virginia tractor-trailer accident attorney to help you determine if you have a viable claim. Your lawyer can investigate the causes of your accident and help you build a successful legal case to help you pay for your damages. Proving negligence requires the keen legal knowledge and skilled advocacy that an attorney can provide, so you should retain a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident occurs.