Articles Posted in Truck accidents

After a car crash, it is not unusual to have at least two versions of how an “accident” happened from the humans involved in it. Some of this is a function of the locations of various witnesses when they made whatever observations that had of the events. So, for example, independent witnesses in traffic behind the point of collision may have sight lines obscured by traffic, weather and the configuration of the roadway. Even with great sight lines, a witness’ visual acuity may be less than perfect. Similarly, those in the involved vehicles may not have had the best view of the events leading up to a collision. Passengers may be sleeping, reading or otherwise distracted by events inside or outside the vehicle. In the case of larger commercial vehicles, like a bus, those in the back may not have a good view out the front. The involved operators, of course, while having what should be the best view of what happened outside their windshield, also have the greatest incentive to minimize their fault in causing a collision – even though they likely have insurance designed to cover any such unfortunate events. In short, human limitations and human bias, can often lead to difficulties in determining what really happened in a car or truck crash and who was at fault for the collision.

These issues can be exacerbated when responding police leap to factual conclusions by accepting the factual position of one party at the scene or inferences that can be drawn from the point of impact on the roadway. This is exactly what happened to one of our recent clients. He was involved in a head on collision with another car. The collision occurred in the other car’s lane. When the police arrived, based on their conversations with the operators, and their determination that the collision occurred in the woman’s lane of travel, they immediately began to focus on our client as the cause of the collision.

This changed, however, when our client was able to recover enough from the collision to point the police in the direction of his dash cam video. This shows that as the vehicles approached each other head on, the woman strayed into the oncoming lane as she was rounding a curve to her right. With about 3 seconds to respond, the other inexperienced driver instinctively tried to evade to the left. When the woman corrected back into her lane, the collision occurred causing our client’s car to spin off the road. The police determined the woman was at fault. Ultimately, we were able to recover fair monetary damages for our client.

On August 28, 2019, after years of litigation, and following a trial that started with four days of motions in limine on July 1, 2019, a Massachusetts Superior Court jury returned a verdict for a combined $36.5 Million on behalf of three seriously-injured high school juniors who were injured in a head-on collision with a school bus owned and operated by First Student, Inc. Jeffrey Beeler, a Partner at Heinlein Beeler Mingace & Heineman, P.C. [HBMHLaw], represented one of the seriously injured young women and obtained a verdict on her behalf of $6 Million, with another $750,000 being awarded to the victim’s mother for loss of consortium. The combined jury verdict of $36.5 Million in the 3 consolidated personal injury cases was recently recognized by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as the largest jury verdict of 2019.

At the time of the collision, the three injured teens were passengers in a car operated by their teenaged friend. The collision occurred at a curve on a two-lane road less than 1/2 mile from their high school in Kingston, Massachusetts. Evidence from the trial suggested that the car was traveling at about 30 m.p.h. prior to the collision; the school bus, which was not carrying children at the time, was traveling at about 34 m.p.h.

Following the collision, both the bus and car ended up in the school bus’s southbound lane.  Due to their extensive injuries, none of the occupants of the car ever recovered their memories of the events leading up to the collision or the collision itself. At the scene of the collision, responding law enforcement officers had access to the bus driver who sustained minor injuries, and two eye witnesses, who also worked for the bus company. In fact, every “eye witness,” whose perspectives were a function of where they were on the curve and traffic in front of them, claimed that the car left its lane, entered the oncoming lane, and hit the bus. Criminal authorities quickly concluded that the car driver was at fault for the collision. The car driver, who never had a memory of events, was prosecuted and eventually accepted responsibility for her car being in the wrong lane.

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