Accidents involving semi-trailer trucks often seem simple and straightforward, but untangling the legal relationships between the owner of the truck, any lessee of the truck, the driver, any firm employing the driver other than the owner or lessor and any other firm with a legal interest in the truck can be complicated. A relatively simple recent accident involving a semi-trailer truck and an SUV demonstrates how complicated these relationships can be.
The sequence of events comprising the accident is straightforward. A semi-trailer truck ran a stop sign Washington Road in Darke County. After failing to stop for the stop sign, the semi struck an SUV that had the right of way. The SUV was driven by a resident of Van Buren Township. The driver of the SUV died shortly after being treated for her injuries at the scene. The driver of the semi suffered minor injuries that were treated at the scene. Police arrested the driver of the semi and charged him with involuntary manslaughter and failing to obey the stop sign. Police are continuing to investigate the accident.
The family of the dead woman has a claim for what is known in Ohio as “wrongful death,” that is, taking the life of another by a wrongful act. The arrest of the truck driver appears to indicate that police are blaming him for the accident. Assuming that subsequent investigation supports the police’s initial allegations, the semi-driver was negligent in failing to obey the stop sign and his negligence was the cause of the woman’s death. Simple, right?
Not quite. Let’s add a few facts that are not mentioned in the newspaper report of the accident. For example, suppose further investigation shows that the accident was caused by faulty brakes on the truck or some other mechanical failing? A second pertinent question is the identity of the party who owns the semi-trailer. Did this person or corporation keep the truck in proper operating order? Perhaps the legal owner of the truck kept it mechanically sound, but what if the truck had been leased by another party? Was the driver the legal owner of the truck? Was he the one who failed to maintain the truck?
Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in such an accident may decide to pursue a claim for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages or pain and suffering. The questions listed above must be answered before the SUV driver’s family can commence a legal claim. A knowledgeable injury attorney can provide a useful evaluation of the evidence and help untangle any legal mysteries surrounding the truck’s ownership and the cause of the accident.