Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

While in many truck accidents, it is easy to determine the parties involved in the accident, in other instances, it can be complicated. For example, if a person is injured in a hit and run accident with a tractor-trailer, even if the person observes identifying information on the trailer, it may be difficult for the person to prove the truck driver or the company that employs the truck driver should be liable. This was shown in a recent Tennessee case, in which an appellate court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims, due to insufficient evidence that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s harm. If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident, it is wise to speak with a knowledgeable Tennessee truck accident attorney regarding what evidence you must produce to recover damages.

Factual History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was driving on a road in Nashville when the defendant’s tractor-trailer crossed into the plaintiff’s lane and collided with the plaintiff. After the accident, the defendant truck driver fled the scene. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant alleging claims of negligence. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court granted, dismissing the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff appealed.

Establishing Liability in a Hit and Run Truck Accident

On appeal, the primary issue was whether the plaintiff set forth sufficient factual evidence to allow a rational trier of fact to determine that the defendant owned the truck involved in the accident. The court noted that the plaintiff and plaintiff’s passenger both testified in their depositions that they saw the defendant’s name on the trailer but not the tractor. The defendant’s representative, however, testified that it regularly exchanged its trailers with other companies, which would use their own tractors and drivers to pull the trailers.

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When a person engaging in activities arising out of his or her employment causes a motor vehicle collision, not only may the person be held liable for any harm caused by the accident but in many cases, the person’s employer may be held liable as well. Recently, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee discussed when an employer will be held liable for the negligence of an employee driver, in a case in which a tow truck driver struck an unconscious pedestrian. If you were injured in an accident with a truck driver, you should speak to a Tennessee truck accident attorney regarding what damages you may be able to recover.

Facts Regarding the Accident

Reportedly, the plaintiff’s decedent was assaulted at a convenience store, after which he was chased and struck in the head with a rock, rendering him unconscious in the left lane of a road. He was wearing camouflage. The defendant driver was driving a tow truck that was towing a police car. He turned into the left lane of the subject road at a speed slower than the posted speed limit. As he approached the decedent, another individual ran into the road to alert the defendant driver of the decedent’s presence. The defendant driver swerved to miss the individual and struck the decedent. The decedent ultimately died from his injuries. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant driver, his employer, and the County. A bench trial was held, during which the sole issue was whether the Defendant employer was liable for the purported negligence of the defendant driver.

Vicarious Liability Under Tennessee Law

The court stated that drivers have a duty to keep a lookout that an ordinary prudent person would keep in the same situation. Further, the duty to keep a lookout while driving is codified at Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-143.  The court noted, however, that merely because an accident occurs, it cannot be presumed that anyone acted negligently. Rather, the court explained that a person alleging negligence must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, but that the defendant’s conduct fell below the standard of care, which amounted to a breach. The plaintiff must also establish proximate cause.

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In many cases in which there are disputed issues of fact surrounding a car accident, such as how the accident occurred or whether the accident caused the plaintiff’s harm, either party will hire an accident reconstructionist. A reconstructionist can determine, among other things, the force generated by the accident, but there is a limit to the testimony a reconstructionist is permitted to offer. In a recent case arising out of a rear-end collision involving a tractor-trailer, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee analyzed whether a reconstructionist is permitted to offer an opinion as to the cause of a plaintiff’s injuries. If you suffered injuries in a collision with a tractor-trailer in Tennessee, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Tennessee truck accident attorney regarding your potential claims.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was driving a van when he was rear-ended by a truck driven by the defendant driver, on behalf of the defendant trucking company. Prior to the trial, the defendants stated their intention to offer the expert testimony of an accident reconstructionist during the trial. In response, the plaintiff filed a motion to preclude the reconstructionist’s testimony, arguing that he was not qualified to opine on the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries because he was not a medical doctor. The defendant argued, however, that the reconstructionist was testifying as to the force the accident would produce and the kinds of injuries that typically would arise out of such force, rather than the medical cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Upon review, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion.

Opinions on Causation

In evaluating whether an expert should be permitted to testify, the court assesses if the expert’s testimony is reliable, and if so, if it is relevant. The court’s inquiry as to an expert’s qualifications must be related to the facts of the case, the nature of the issue, and the expert’s specific area of expertise. The party seeking to admit testimony must prove that it is admissible by a preponderance of the evidence. In evaluating whether testimony is reliable, the court will assess whether the expert’s theory can be tested or has been subject to peer review, the known error rate of the theory, and whether the theory is widely accepted.

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When a person is injured in a truck accident, the person has a right to pursue claims for his or her damages. If the person was acting in the course of his or her employment at the time of the accident, however, the pursuit of compensation may be complicated by another party’s claim. This was evidenced in a recent case arising out of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Eastern Division, in which the plaintiff’s employer filed a motion to intervene to assert claims against the defendant. If you were injured in a Tennessee truck accident, it is in your best interest to consult a knowledgeable attorney to discuss how another party’s potential claims could affect your recovery of compensation.

Factual Background

It is alleged that the plaintiff was driving a tractor-trailer owned by his employer, when it was struck by another tractor-trailer, driven by the defendant. The plaintiff and his wife subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant in the federal district court, seeking damages for injuries caused by the accident and loss of consortium. The plaintiff also filed a workers’ compensation claim with his employer to recover benefits.

Reportedly, the plaintiff’s employer filed a motion to intervene pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24. The employer argued that it had paid $34,000 in benefits to the plaintiff and that it suffered property damage as a result of the accident and, therefore, should be allowed to intervene in the proceedings. Upon review, the court granted the motion.

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Under federal law, for an expert report to be admissible the party introducing the report must show the expert witness is qualified, the report sets forth an opinion relevant to determining an issue of fact, and the testimony is reliable. The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee recently explained that a district court evaluating whether an expert report should be admitted is not required to analyze whether the report is correct, but only if the report is supported by a reliable foundation. If you were the victim in a Tennessee car accident, it is in your best interest to retain a knowledgeable car accident attorney to discuss the circumstances surrounding the accident and develop a plan to assist you in recovering damages.

Factual Scenario

Allegedly, the plaintiff and the defendant driver were involved in a car accident. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant driver, a truck driver, was negligent and that his employer should be held vicariously liable for her injuries. In response, the defendant alleged that the plaintiff caused the accident. The defendants served the plaintiff with expert disclosures as required by Federal law. The defendants’ expert reviewed photographs, video footage, and analyzed the specifications of the plaintiff’s vehicle, a reconstruction program and his own experience in determining that the plaintiff caused the accident by driving into the path of the defendant driver and that the collision was minor. The plaintiff moved to preclude the expert and his report, arguing that the report was contrary to the photographs of the accident and the physical evidence. The plaintiff also argued the report alleged negligent behavior on behalf of the defendant driver, not the plaintiff.

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Under Federal and State laws regulating motor carriers, tractor-trailer drivers are required to keep logs of their driving times. If you were involved in a car accident with a tractor-trailer, the logs may be important evidence in proving the tractor trailer’s driver was negligent. While the employers of tractor-trailer drivers involved in collisions have a duty to produce any logs in a lawsuit arising out of the collision, it may not always be clear when it is necessary to retain records. The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee recently held that boilerplate language in an incident report was not sufficient to place the employer on notice that it needed to retain records. If you are involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer you should confer with an experienced Tennessee personal injury attorney as soon as possible, to ensure any evidence that is helpful to your case is not lost.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff and a defendant tractor-trailer driver were involved in a collision in October 2016. Plaintiff sued defendant driver for negligence and defendant’s employer for vicarious liability. In June 2017, plaintiff sent defendants correspondence in which she requested that defendants preserve any evidence related to the accident, and specifically asked defendants to retain any daily logs produced by the electronic logging device in the truck for the date of the accident and the six months preceding the accident. Defendants advised plaintiff they no longer had the logs due to the fact that they were automatically overwritten every six months. Plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions against defendants alleging that defendants purposefully destroyed evidence related to the accident.

If you have been involved in a Tennessee automobile accident and are considering whether to file a lawsuit, one of the questions that you must contemplate is whether the defendant is going to have the funds, or insurance, necessary to pay for any damages that you may be awarded. When you can’t actually recover from a defendant, it may not be worth your time and expense to initiate a lawsuit.

One way that plaintiffs can sometimes obtain a better chance of recovering on their award is to sue a defendant’s employer as well if the accident occurred while the defendant was on the job. This is called vicarious liability. While vicarious liability can be used to recover from employers who are responsible for their employees, the courts draw the line at making employers responsible for independent contractors that they may hire. A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals looks at what distinguishes an employee from an independent contractor in this analysis.

In this truck accident case, E.M. was struck by a truck driven by C.C. E.M. was thrown from his own vehicle and suffered serious injuries. He sued C.C. and Highways, Inc., for his injuries. At the time of the accident, C.C. was driving a dump truck for Highways, Inc., and was performing his duties as a driver for Highways, Inc.  E.M. argued that C.C. was acting in the role of employee, while Highways argued that C.C. was acting in the role of independent contractor. Highways quickly moved for summary judgment and, in support of their motion, submitted a list of nineteen undisputed facts, based on an affidavit from C.C., that they alleged showed that C.C. was a contractor. E.M. disputed nine of these facts and argued that this was enough to create genuine issues of material fact as to C.C.’s status and avoid summary judgment. The court held a brief hearing and ultimately concluded that there were no material facts in dispute. Accordingly, the court dismissed the claims.

One of the central tenants of being a litigant is that you have a duty to preserve any evidence that you know may be relevant to the litigation. Once it is reasonably foreseeable that litigation may occur, a party must make all reasonable efforts to “hold” important evidence and present it from being disposed of. This means that parties may be required to maintain all their emails, back up documents, and preserve any relevant voicemails. The duty to preserve applies equally to physical evidence that needs to be maintained and should not be destroyed, as illustrated in a recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

In this truck accident case, J.G. and E.G. were injured after an accident involving their tractor and a trailer. On the day the accident occurred, J.G. was using his tractor to haul a trailer that belonged to R&J Express, LLC. According to the plaintiffs, the tandem axle on the trailer came loose while they were driving on the highway and the trailer quickly lost control. It eventually overturned, causing the tractor to overturn as well, and leading to both plaintiff’s injuries. Shortly thereafter, J.G. and E.G. retained counsel, and the counsel sent a litigation hold letter out to R&J instructing them to preserve the trailer at issue. Four days later, J.G. signed over the title of the tractor to his insurer, which had paid out for the accident, and the tractor was sold for scraps.

Several months later, J.G. and E.G. filed their lawsuit and R&J promptly responded. R&J then filed a motion for sanctions based on the spoliation of evidence. R&J argued that J.G. and E.G. knowingly failed to preserve evidence when they signed over title to the tractor after retaining legal counsel. R&J stated that because there were no witnesses to the accident, their defense would have to rely primarily on showing that some other technical error caused the accident. To the extent that the technical error came from the tractor, R&J were severely prejudiced as they had no ability to examine the tractor and determine any defects.

In many personal injury cases, the question of who caused an injury can be complicated. In a car accident, for example, there may be several actors at play who contributed to an accident, and the victim may have previously experienced back or neck pain. Or a personal injury victim may later suffer another accident or injury, making it difficult to determine how much of her pain was caused by the initial injury. In these types of situations, determining causation can become tricky, as the Tennessee Supreme Court noted in a recent case involving causation in a truck pileup.

This Tennessee truck accident case resulted from a three-truck pileup that occurred in Shelby County, Tennessee. D.B. was working as a truck driver and driving his truck in July 2009 when he came upon significant traffic. D.B. slowed down and was able to come to a complete stop. However, H.F., who was also driving a truck for his employer, Celadon, was not able to stop in time and ran into the back of D.B.’s truck. As D.B. was recovering from that impact, a third truck driven by S.D., on behalf of his employer, Chickasaw, ran into the back of H.F., causing further damage to H.F. and D.B.’s trucks.

Although he did not initially believe he was injured, D.B. later began to suffer back and neck pain that increased in severity over time. He was ultimately forced to file a workers’ compensation claim and seek medical treatment. His neurosurgeon at the time found that he was suffering from a disc herniation and put him on reduced work. Eventually, D.B. was forced to stop working altogether. In 2010, D.B. filed a lawsuit against Celadon and Chickasaw, alleging that the accident with their vehicles caused his injuries.

Often in a Tennessee truck accident, it may not be clear who is completely to blame. One party may fail to check a lane before merging, while the other is busy texting on her phone. In some states, the courts deal with this by apportioning fault and damages between parties in a negligence claim. Others, like Tennessee, are comparative fault states. Tennessee only allows for a negligence or personal injury claim to be successful when the defendant is more than 50% responsible for the accident. Thus, the plaintiff can have some degree of fault but not too much, or the claim is not viable.

In a recent automobile accident case, the question of comparative fault arose. At the time of the accident, D.P. was driving a delivery truck for his employer on a highway in Tennessee. The defendant, D.T., was also driving on that highway with his wife, ahead of D.P. and in a different lane. D.P. approached a construction site with police but did not observe any signs requiring him to slow his speed. He proceeded around the site at his same speed of 60 miles per hour. As he passed the site, D.T. decided to change lanes, immediately moving into the lane in front of D.P. D.P. was unable to slow down and ran into D.T. The accident was caught on a video camera on D.P.’s truck.

D.T. filed suit against D.P., alleging that D.P. failed to use reasonable care while driving, including failing to drive at an appropriate speed under the circumstances. According to D.T., D.P. should have slowed his vehicle when he approached and went around the construction site. D.P. quickly moved for summary judgment, arguing that the video camera clearly recorded the accident and showed that he was driving within the speed limit and that D.T. had quickly crossed lanes ahead of him. He claimed that his actions were reasonable and prudent under the circumstances and that D.T. was more than 50% at fault for the accident. The plaintiffs admitted that the video recording of the accident was correct, but they argued that reasonable minds could differ as to whether D.T. was 50% or more at fault.

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