Deadly Auto-Dump Truck Collision
When a small passenger car and a large dump truck collide, the results are nearly always fatal for the victims.
This wreck happened on County Road 46 at the Highway 52 interchange near Coates. Eighty-seven-year-old Wanda Narum, of Vadnais Heights, was westbound on CR 46 attempting to merge onto the Highway 52 ramp when an eastbound gravel truck smashed into the passenger side of her car, almost completely caving it in. Ms. Narum was pronounced dead at the scene.
The intersection was closed for several hours while authorities investigated, and they have yet to release a report.
Dump truck drivers, taxi drivers, and other commercial operators are common carriers in Minnesota. This status means that they are one step short of insurers of safe conduct, and they have “a duty to afford the highest degree of care for the safety of their passengers.”
This enhanced duty often plays a significant role in intersection collision cases, because it is often not easy to determine who had the right-of-way. Since the victim has the burden of proof, if the victim cannot establish negligence on the part of the tortfeasor (negligent driver), the victim cannot recover financial compensation.
Non-commercial drivers have a duty of ordinary care, which basically means that they must stop (or slow down, if they have a “yield” sign) and look both ways before merging. However, since common carriers have a higher duty, they must arguably wait until the intersection is completely clear before proceeding further. The higher duty of care makes negligence easier to prove.
Commercial tortfeasor cases usually involve not only an enhanced first party liability but also third party liability, thanks to the respondeat superior rule. This rule has three basic elements:
- Scope of Employment: Once upon a time, the scope of employment was very limited, and normally only applied to situations like a delivery driver making deliveries on his/her normal route. But this element is much more broadly defined now, and usually includes any situation wherein the employer benefitted from the employee’s conduct, even if that benefit was something like driving a vehicle with the company logo.
- Employee: Similarly, an employee is not just an individual who receives a W-2 at the end of the year. An employee can also be an independent contractor, unpaid volunteer, or any other individual that the employer controls, at least to a certain extent.
- Foreseeability: It is foreseeable that two vehicles may collide on a highway. It is also foreseeable that one vehicle may illegally pull out in front of another one.
In respondeat superior cases, employers may be liable for both economic damages, such as medical bills and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Partner with Aggressive Attorneys
The tortfeasor is often not the only party who is responsible for the victim’s damages. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Amery, contact Novitzke, Gust, Sempf, Whitley & Bergmanis. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.