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Are You Safe Sharing the Road with Tractor-Trailers?

October 26, 2018

2 More People Die in Violent I-78 Construction Zone Crash

Once again a tractor-trailer plowed into slowed traffic in a construction zone, causing a chain-reaction crash with multiple fatalities.

The latest accident occurred on Nov. 14 on I-78 in Windsor Township, Pennsylvania, when a tractor-trailer slammed into a passenger car, setting off a series of crashes involving an additional four tractor-trailers, according to news reports. Two people died in the wreck and three were injured. The passenger vehicle and two of the tractor-trailers caught fire.

The crash follows on the heels of a horrific Oct. 12 crash on I-83 in Lower Paxton Township, Pennsylvania, in which a young father, his 16-month-old daughter and a college student died when a tractor-trailer driver impaired by alcohol failed to stop his tractor-trailer for other vehicles that had slowed and consequently struck multiple vehicles in the left/center lane. Police described the scene as involving numerous vehicles that were demolished and dispersed.

Jack Edward Satterfield III, 29, of McComb, Mississippi, was operating his Volvo tractor-trailer on Oct. 12 after drinking five double-shot margaritas and two or three beers earlier that evening at a Mexican restaurant in New Jersey.

The Colonial Park Fire Company, which responded to the Oct. 12 crash, described it on its Facebook page as “one of the most significant and deadly over the last 20 years or longer” to which it had responded.

The two separate cars that were carrying the father with his infant daughter and the college student both caught on fire.

Satterfield, who did not have a valid commercial driver’s license, fled the crash on foot, crossed the interstate, hopped a fence, and watched the aftermath of his deadly conduct unfold from the safety of a hotel parking lot. Troopers reported the smell of alcohol coming from his truck.

He is facing criminal charges including three counts of homicide by vehicle, three counts of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, three counts of accidents involving death or personal injury, and three counts of accidents involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed. He also is charged with DUI-general impairment.

Who May Be Held Legally Liable?

When deadly tractor-trailer accidents occur, there are a number of parties with potential legal liability, Feldman Shepherd attorney Mark Tanner said. Tanner’s practice focuses on trucking and other motor vehicle accidents involving catastrophic personal injuries.

Tanner identified parties who potentially could bear legal liability for the I-78 and I-83 tractor-trailer crashes. They include:

  • The owner of the trucking company
  • The truck driver and his employer
  • The establishment that served alcohol to the truck driver, where applicable
  • Any road construction company responsible for the construction zone if proper warning and safety precautions are not taken to alert drivers to slowing traffic
  • Any firm involved in the manufacture of the vehicles in which the victims died if an unsafe design or the absence of necessary safety features failed to protect them from injury

How Many People Die in Truck Crashes?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 3,986 people died in large truck crashes in 2016. Some 66 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists.

IIHS identifies the main problem as being the vulnerability of people traveling in smaller cars. According to IIHS, trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars, and they are taller with greater ground clearance. This can result in dire consequences when smaller vehicles underride trucks in crashes.

Loaded tractor-trailers also require 20-40 percent more roadway than cars to come to a stop. Wet and slippery conditions and poorly maintained brakes can increase the amount of roadway needed to stop safely.

Truck driver fatigue also poses a crash risk, with surveys showing that many long-distance drivers violate federal regulations limiting their driving time to 11 hours a stretch.

In Pennsylvania, there were 6,807 total crashes involving heavy trucks in 2017, with 145 crashes involving fatalities, according to the state’s Department of Transportation. By road type, 1,915 crashes occurred on the interstate, 3,768 occurred on state-maintained roads that are not designated as interstates, 474 occurred on the Turnpike, and 650 occurred on local roads.

How Many People Die in Construction Zone Crashes?

In Pennsylvania, there were 1,778 work zone crashes in 2017, according to PennDOT. Nineteen people died (including three workers), and 1,106 people were injured. Some 399 of the crashes involved heavy trucks and buses.

Nationally, there were 96,626 work zone crashes in 2015, according to the Federal Highway Administration. On average, every week 12 work zone crashes occurred that resulted in at least one fatality, the administration reports.

How Do Truck Companies Screen Drivers?

“Trucking companies have a grave responsibility to ensure that their drivers are qualified and safe,” Tanner said. “Our lives depend upon it.”

Background checks can reveal information such as proper licensure, criminal convictions, driving infractions, health issues, spotty employment records, substance abuse, and crash and accident history.

While it remains to be seen what the employers of the truck drivers involved in the I-78 and I-83 accidents did or did not do to ensure the safety of those with whom they shared the road, multiple people today are grieving the tragic, sudden loss of their loved ones.

 

The trucking accident lawyers at Feldman Shepherd represent drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists who are injured in accidents caused by the carelessness or recklessness of truck drivers and other culpable parties.

A sampling of recent results achieved includes:

  • A $26.1 million settlement, believed to be one of the largest personal injury settlements ever reported in Pennsylvania, for an accident in which a truck rear-ended a car at a speed exceeding 70 mph, killing one occupant and injuring two others.
  • A $15.5 million verdict for a pedestrian who was struck by a commercial truck-tractor.
  • A $14 million settlement for the family of a 68-year-old man killed in a tractor-trailer accident.
  • A $9.75 million settlement for a man who suffered significant orthopedic and neurological injuries, including a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle and a rented U-Haul box trailer became jack-knifed and was struck by a tractor-trailer.
  • A $6.75 million settlement for the estate of a woman killed when a tractor-trailer failed to stop at a red light.
  • A $4.25 million verdict for the family of an infant killed when a tractor-trailer operator swerved to avoid a vehicle that suddenly entered the highway in front of him.

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