A mother of three was struck and killed by a dump truck near a suburban middle school outside Washington, D.C., on Monday. The tragedy highlights a few factors that are common in truck accident cases.
Jennifer Lawson, 39, of Arlington, Virginia, was placing her child into a car seat when a dump truck struck her and her van, The Washington Post reports. Fortunately, her child wasn't hurt.
As the investigation into the fatal dump truck accident continues, several factors will be key in determining potential civil liability.
Ownership of the Truck
Identifying who owns the truck is essential when considering a potential truck accident lawsuit. In this case, the dump truck is a privately owned commercial vehicle, and investigators plan to conduct a "full commercial-vehicle inspection," according to The Washington Post.
The issue of ownership is important, because had the dump truck been owned by a government entity, the victim's relatives would likely have to first file a notice of claim before filing a lawsuit.
Potential Employer Liability
If the dump truck driver was working for someone else, his employer could potentially be held liable for the accident if the driver was acting within the scope of his employment. Under the theory of respondeat superior, employers can be liable for their employee's actions if the employee was following orders from the boss when the accident occurred.
On the other hand, if the truck driver was running personal errands unrelated to his job at the time of the accident, the employer may be able to avoid liability. Similarly, if the driver is an independent contractor who didn't receive directions from his employer on which route to take, then the employer may not be held accountable either.
What Caused the Crash?
Drivers have a duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care to avoid hurting or killing other people on the road. However, people parked on the side of road also have to meet the "reasonable person" standard.
Right now, police haven't determined who was at fault. Identifying who's at fault in this case could be important because Virginia is a contributory negligence state. This means that if the mother was even 1 percent at fault, her relatives may be barred from recovering any damages in a possible lawsuit.
As you can see, even a seemingly straightforward truck accident can raise many legal questions. That's why it's best to consult an experienced truck accident lawyer who can help with your particular case.