FACTS: Last Monday, the passenger of a pick-up truck was ejected from the vehicle when the speeding truck lost control on eastbound Interstate 8 and rolled down an embankment. Rain was likely a factor. The passenger, who was not wearing a seat belt, died in the accident. Walton Law Firm LLP is currently litigating a case that is factually very similar to this one.
LIABILITY ANALYSIS: This type of accident raises several issues related to liability. First, the passenger’s surviving heirs would have a wrongful death case against the driver of the pick-up truck for negligent driving. Since it was a single car accident, it was reportedly traveling 85 mph, and it was raining, the police have probably attributed fault to the driver for operating the vehicle at an unsafe speed in rainy conditions. There may also be a negligent maintenance theory as the tire tread on the vehicle was considered to be lower than the recommended amount.
A wrongful death case, if proven, would entitle the heirs to the loss of love, society, companionship, and support of the victim.
Other potential avenues of liability could be a case against car manufacturer for product defects or against the State of California for negligent road maintenance (the presence of a guardrail, etc.), but those claims are unlikely considering the circumstances of this accident. From initial reports, it appears to be the result of unsafe driving on a rainy road.
The victim’s failure to be wearing a seatbelt will likely be the subject of major debate if any claims were made. No doubt the insurance company for the driver will argue that had a seatbelt been worn the woman would not have been ejected, and indeed may still be alive.