Last month, a cattle truck traveled off Highway 36 in Missouri and overturned after hitting a ditch at around 4 a.m. The 38-year-old driver of the cattle truck was hurt and taken to a hospital. The cows fell onto the road, and as a result, there were two more accidents.
In the first of these two additional accidents, a 68-year-old Missouri woman was seriously injured when her delivery truck hit a cow that was located in the eastbound lane. This happened about 20 minutes after the cattle truck overturned. In the second of the two additional accidents, a 43-year-old man sustained minor wounds about 30 minutes after the initial cattle truck accident. The Missouri State Highway Patrol, as well as the sheriff’s department, volunteer firefighters, and the Department of Transportation, responded to the scene.
Traffic was severely backed up as a result of these three accidents, and dead cows were observed along the highway. The truck was towed off early in the morning to permit traffic flow.
When a tractor-trailer overturns, the consequences can be devastating, particularly if cargo was not properly secured. A tractor-trailer driver owes a duty of reasonable care when operating a commercial truck. This includes making sure that cargo is secured appropriately and that reasonable care is used while driving to avoid spilling cargo—in this case, cattle—onto the road. A driver who fails to use reasonable care can be held responsible for injuries that are both actually and proximately caused by this failure.
“Actual cause” refers to “cause-in-fact.” A cause-in-fact is something that produces an event and without which the event wouldn’t occur. The defendant’s actions, in other words, have to be such that if he or she hadn’t acted that way, there would be no harm. For example, if the tractor-trailer driver exceeded the hours of service rules, was drowsy, and let the truck travel off the road, this would be a cause-in-fact of the accident.
“Proximate cause” means that an event can be considered the legal cause of the injuries. A causal event that is too remote from an accident causing injuries will not be considered a legal or proximate cause. The issue of legal cause might affect the outcome of lawsuits brought by the drivers involved in the second and third accidents, depending on whether a jury believed that the cattle truck driver’s fatigued or drowsy driving was closely related to the injuries sustained by those drivers.
Missouri follows a rule of pure comparative negligence. This means that the jury will evaluate all of the parties alleged to be at fault and assign a percentage of responsibility to each. The total damages will be evaluated and determined. However, the amount the plaintiff can recover will be reduced by his or her proportion of fault. For example, if one of the drivers in the second or third accident was texting while driving and could have stopped and avoided the cattle, the jury might find he or she was 30% responsible, and the cattle truck driver was 70% responsible. If the total damages were $100,000, the driver of the car would only be able to recover $70,000 from the cattle truck driver.
If you are injured in a truck accident due to fallen cargo, you should retain knowledgeable and skillful representation. The attorneys at Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz may be able to help you recover compensation. Call us at 1-800-529-4004 or complete our online form.
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