Over the weekend, a 23-year-old man from Salt Lake City, Utah lost his life when his SUV collided head-on with a semi-truck. The accident occurred on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. in Parleys Canyon, Utah.
The deceased male was driving west on Interstate 80 when he ended up in the eastbound lane for unknown reasons, hitting an oncoming semi-truck. He was partially ejected from his SUV and died at the scene while the semi-truck driver appeared uninjured. The police are investigating the cause of the fatal car accident.
Though this case happened in Utah, these same types of accidents occur in Colorado more than we like to imagine. Here, it appears the victim caused (in part at least) the accident with the semi-truck. It also shows (in part) why, regardless of fault, collisions with semi-trucks are exponentially more dangerous than most other types of vehicle accidents.
Semi-Truck Accidents and Liability in Denver CO
Accidents involving semi-trucks differ from those involving smaller vehicles in a few ways. One difference, of course, is that the sheer size of the semi-truck usually means there are more serious injuries and a higher chance of fatalities—especially for the people in the car that collided with the truck. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), there were a total of 4,136 deaths in 2018 due to large truck accidents. of these deaths:
- 16% were truck occupants
- 67% were passenger vehicle accidents
- 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.
Those statistics are pretty telling and fall in line with the assumption that the truck driver is usually responsible for the accident. That assumption leads to another difference to consider, which is liability. There are two things with regard to liability that matter:
- Colorado follows the modified comparative negligence principle, meaning if the victim is 50 percent or more at fault, he or she forfeits compensation and any percentage of fault under 50 will result in a reduction of any compensation package (the reduction will be proportionate to the percentage of fault).
- There may be more people at-fault for the accident than just one of the drivers. If the semi-truck is found to have caused the accident in any way, one or more of the following could be held responsible:
- Truck driver
- Trucking company
- Insurance company
- Truck manufacturer
- Shipper or manufacturer of the products transported by the truck.
What this means is simple: there can be more than one party responsible for the accident (including the injured party) and more than one party liable for compensation. The parties are only liable for compensation, however, if the injured party's contribution 49 percent or less.
If the above-case scenario occurred in Colorado and the deceased person was 70 percent at fault for the accident, his estate would not be able to recover wrongful death compensation. But if the truck driver or trucking company was at fault by 51 percent or more, the deceased's estate could recover damages proportionate to the truck driver's and/or trucking company's fault.
Given that the deceased drove into the trucker's lane from the opposite direction probably puts the bulk of the liability on the deceased driver. As such, his estate will likely not recover damages.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious accident with a semi-truck, it's important to talk to a lawyer. Contact a car accident attorney today to discuss your case.