A decision recently released in the case of Baumann v. Zhukov by the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of a truck driver who caused a September 2012 accident that later resulted in five members of a Maryland family losing their lives. The family was killed when their vehicles were hit at full speed by a semi-truck while they were stopped in traffic from the accident caused by the defendant. The family’s estate reached a settlement with the driver of the truck that directly hit their vehicles, but the Eighth Circuit’s ruling will prevent the plaintiffs from collecting any compensation from the negligent truck driver who caused the traffic build-up that eventually resulted in the deadly crash.
The fatal accident occurred after the family members, who were driving in two cars, stopped in stalled traffic that was the result of an accident less than a mile ahead. Shortly after their cars came to a stop at the end of the line of traffic, a tractor-trailer crashed into one of their vehicles at 75 miles per hour, nearly demolishing both cars and killing both drivers and all of the passengers: two adults and three children.
According to the ruling, the driver of the truck that crashed into the family’s vehicles had been driving for at least 14 hours straight prior to the accident, and he was unable to operate his vehicle safely. Lawsuits were filed on behalf of the family against the driver who crashed into them, as well as the negligent driver who caused the accident that initially stopped traffic.
The Courts Rule in Favor of the First Truck Driver
The first driver admitted responsibility for the first crash that stopped traffic, but he blamed the second accident and the resulting death of the family entirely on the truck driver who failed to slow down, directly causing the fatal crash. The first driver’s attorneys argued that the negligence of the second driver was an “efficient intervening cause” in the chain of causation between the first crash and the death of the family, and that their client should not be responsible for the deaths. The district court and the Eighth Circuit agreed that the second driver’s negligence was the legal cause of the accident, and it broke the chain of liability between the first driver’s negligent conduct and the crash that killed the family.
Defendants May Avoid Liability By Proving an Intervening or Superseding Cause
Plaintiffs in Indiana personal injury and wrongful death cases need to be careful when defendants deny responsibility for an accident and claim there is a superseding cause. In Indiana, a defendant can be relieved of liability for an accident if they can show that the negligence of a third person is a superseding cause (also called an efficient intervening cause) of the damages. In order to successfully prove a superseding cause, the defendant must show that the plaintiff’s injury was caused by the negligent conduct of another party and that it could not have been anticipated by the defendant. Defendants can be successful in avoiding liability with this argument, and plaintiffs must be prepared to properly respond.
Have You Been in an Accident?
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an Indiana car accident, contacting an aggressive Indiana personal injury attorney to assist you will be a decision you do not regret. Here at the Indianapolis accident law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, LLP, we have years of experience getting fair compensation for our clients, and we are not afraid to fight insurance companies when they don’t offer a fair settlement. At Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we represent clients throughout the Midwest in most personal injury and wrongful death actions, including semi-truck accidents. Call us today at 888-532-7766 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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