Fatal Wrong-Way Crash Near SF Airport
Investigators believe that a minivan driver mistook an exit ramp for an entrance ramp and collided head-on with a dump truck.
The wreck happened on Highway 101 near the Broadway exit in Burlingame. A Mazda minivan travelled southbound on the northbound side for about one hundred yards before it smacked into a dump truck.
The minivan driver, a 68-year-old-man from San Francisco, was killed. The dump truck driver was uninjured.
Fault vs. Liability
Police officers and insurance adjusters almost always assess fault based solely on the limited facts which are available at the time. Facts uncovered later often change this preliminary determination. Furthermore, the applicable law might also affect fault. So, a San Jose car accident lawyer should always evaluate your claim. There is no other way to determine how much compensation you might be entitled to receive.
In terms of facts, a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder often contradicts eyewitness statements or fills in evidentiary gaps. Device capability varies by make and model. However, most EDRs measure and record things like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Engine RPM,
- Brake application, and
- Steering angle.
Eyewitnesses are often incorrect or biased. The parties to an accident usually only see things from their perspective. But, assuming the gadget was working properly, computers like EDRs are never biased and never wrong. So, they provide almost bulletproof evidence in court.
Unfortunately, this critical evidence is often unavailable. Unless an attorney sends a spoliation letter to the insurance company, the company typically destroys a wrecked vehicle almost immediately. Spoliation letters create a legal duty to preserve all potential evidence in the case, including a vehicle’s EDR.
There are legal issues as well, particularly in wrong-way collisions. The last clear chance rule often comes into play in these claims.
Assume Stan is northbound in the northbound lane. He sees Oliver coming toward him, and the two vehicles collide. Even though Oliver was driving on the wrong side of the road, if Stan could have avoided the wreck, perhaps by changing lanes, he is legally responsible for all damages, even though he did nothing wrong.
Special Issues in Commercial Vehicle Claims
The last clear chance rule takes on another dimension if one of the motorists was a commercial operator. In California, these individuals have a duty of utmost care. That’s much higher than a noncommercial driver’s duty of reasonable care. And, as the old saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Let’s revisit the Stan/Ollie example and change the facts a bit. Assume Stan was driving a taxi. If that was the case, Stan arguably had a responsibility to swerve out of the way, even though that maneuver is rather dangerous.
Furthermore, the respondeat superior rule often applies in commercial driver wrecks. Employers are legally responsible for their employees’ negligence if it occurred during the scope of employment. California law defines all these important terms in a broad, victim-friendly way.
Vicarious liability theories like respondeat superior are especially important in wrongful death claims. The damages in these claims often run into the millions of dollars. Vicarious liability gives these victims an additional source of recovery.
Reach Out to a Diligent Attorney
Car wreck claims which seem straightforward are often quite complex. For a free consultation with an experienced San Jose car accident lawyer, contact Solution Now Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.