COVID-19 UPDATE: We are open! Our team is working and offering consultations via phone, e-mail, and video conferencing.

Freeway Fall Death: Liability Rules for Complicated Accidents

Craig McClellan

From a fairness perspective, whether the family of an accident victim deserves compensation is often a simple question. The law often makes the actual outcome much more complicated, however. This reflects the reality that things go wrong in unexpected ways - the consequences of seemingly minor actions can run out of control and go in unforeseen directions.

A recent San Diego accident is a sad example - this case could result in a wrongful death claim against a delivery truck driver or his employer. Two men were making deliveries in a truck last weekend when the trip took an unexpected but deadly turn.

As the driver changed freeway lanes in rainy conditions, he somehow lost control of the truck and hit a wall on the side of the road. His passenger was not wearing a seat belt and the impact threw him out of the truck. This alone would have been dangerous and probably would have resulted in serious injuries. But to make matters worse, the truck crash had occurred on an overpass - when the passenger flew through the windshield, he fell over the edge of the wall and onto a roadway below. Sadly, he suffered fatal injuries.

In a case like this, someone could potentially argue that the driver should not be liable for this outcome because he could not have expected that his passenger would fall over the edge of the overpass. The law, however, would probably agree with the victim's family that the passenger was likely to suffer severe injuries after flying through the windshield - and because the driver could have foreseen that happening in a crash, it probably does not matter exactly how the passenger received his injuries.

This is one of many cases in which our basic senses of fairness could potentially conflict with how the law assigns responsibility - an experienced San Diego personal injury lawyer can help victims navigate similar cases.

Source: NBC 7 San Diego, " Man Falls from Freeway Overpass in Deadly Crash," Monica Garske, Dec. 15, 2012