Recently, a tractor-trailer slammed into 11 cars that were stopped on a Mississippi coastal highway and killed a 49-year-old father and his 18-year-old daughter as well as two Louisiana men, ages 23 and 21. Four others were injured. A man was driving a Toyota Tundra that was pulling a trailer carrying computer equipment and lost control of the vehicle. The driver overcorrected, and the equipment spilled all over the interstate. Traffic stalled, and an 18-wheeler crashed into the stopped vehicles, affecting nine other vehicles. The scene was described as “overwhelming” and spanned about a quarter-mile of the eastbound lanes on the highway.
The debris and glass were strewn across the interstate. The crews cleared the road. The sheriff redirected traffic, and multiple emergency responders reported to the accident. The firefighters had to remove the bodies of the deceased and other accident victims using a Jaws of Life. The accident remains under investigation, and a reconstruction specialist will have to assess the accident to determine the cause of all the injuries. When tractor-trailers are involved in an accident, the resulting injuries are often devastating due to the size and weight of these vehicles.
Establishing fault in a multi-vehicle accident can be complex and challenging. Although the driver who spilled items on the road is probably at fault, other drivers including the tractor-trailer driver may bear some responsibility. Those injured in the accident can sue the responsible party if they can prove negligence. To prove negligence, they must show the defendant’s duty, a breach of duty, causation, and damages. Mississippi is a pure comparative negligence state, which means that the plaintiff’s own negligence does not bar his or her recovery, but damages will be reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s negligence.
Vicarious liability or “respondeat superior” may apply to a multi-vehicle accident involving tractor-trailer or other drivers who were working at the time of the accident, such as deliverymen. “Respondeat superior” means “let the master answer.” It allows a plaintiff to hold an employer liable for its employee’s negligence if the employee caused the accident in the course and scope of his or her employment.
Generally, the plaintiff will need to prove that the injury happened while the employee was working, the injury was caused by an activity that the employee was performing for the employer, and the employer benefited somehow from the activity being performed at the time of the injury. For example, if the driver who caused an accident was delivering equipment for his employer at the time of the accident, the employer could be liable for the accident.
Each defendant is liable only for the damages allocated to him or her in proportion to the degree of fault assigned by the jury. In Mississippi, any defendant in a lawsuit can use an “empty chair” defense by attributing negligence to someone who is not a party to the lawsuit. That means the jury must also apportion fault to those parties, which can mean that parties that are immune from liability, such as governmental entities, can be assigned some percentage of fault, but no recovery can be made from them.
The statute of limitations for personal injuries in Mississippi is three years. This means that a case against private citizens or businesses must be filed before the three-year period expires, or else the chance of recovery may be permanently lost.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car or tractor-trailer crash, you should consult an experienced Mississippi truck accident attorney to recover damages. Contact the skilled team at Coxwell & Associates, PLLC for a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts
Liability for Slip and Fall Accidents in MIssissippi, Mississippi Lawyer Blog, December 1, 2014
Mississippi Government Entity Not Responsible for Dangerous Property Condition, Mississippi Lawyer Blog, November 24, 2014
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.