One of the dangers of driving is the unpredictability of other motorists on the road. Even the most attentive drivers may find themselves involved in an accident due to another’s inattention or recklessness. While any type of road mishap is capable of causing catastrophic and fatal injuries, a wreck involving a tractor-trailer is often more serious due to the massive size, force, and weight of big rigs compared to other vehicles.
According to an Old Bridge Police Department spokesman, a 50-year-old Freehold woman was killed after a tractor-trailer rear-ended her Hyundai Accent in a southbound lane of Route 9 in the intersection of Old Mill Road on March 31 around 12:33 p.m. The impact caused a fire and pushed the passenger car a quarter of a mile down the road. Heidi Bennett was pronounced dead at the scene. The wreck caused authorities to close Route 9 for hours. The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office refused to release the identity of the tractor-trailer. The accident remains under investigation and no charges have yet been filed.
The Monday afternoon fatal collision on Route 9 that killed Bennett illustrates the extensive injury and damage that a tractor-trailer may cause. A vehicle that rear-ends another is almost always presumed at fault. The law requires drivers of tractor-trailers and any other commercial vehicles to exercise extreme caution to avoid rear-ending another vehicle.
Common reasons why a big rig rear-ends another vehicle include distracted driving, drunk driving, speeding, driving too close to the victim’s vehicle, driving too fast for the conditions, falling asleep behind the wheel, fatigued driving, and poor judgment. Any of these causes would constitute negligence on the part of the truck driver. There are many ways that a trucking company may be held liable for a crash, including negligent hiring, failing to provide adequate training, and allowing a driver to work more than the maximum number of hours.
Other factors may also be considered in determining the cause of a commercial truck accident such as poor road conditions, road construction, brake failure, blown out tires, and other mechanical failures. If there is evidence that defective parts played a role in the mishap, a product liability claim can be brought against the manufacturer or seller of the truck or its faulty parts, or even the maintenance company. This does not mean, however, that a claim cannot be brought against the driver and the trucking company that employed him. If it was known that there was a problem with the truck and it was not repaired or replaced, the responsible party may be considered negligent.
When motorists are killed in tractor-trailer accidents, the surviving families have every right to seek compensation for the loss of their loved one through a wrongful death claim.