A near-miss sideswipe from a tractor-trailer turned into a fatal rollover for the driver of an SUV on I-40 through Burke County, North Carolina (NC). The deadly crash near exit 118 toward the town of Hildebran happened at around 8 am on January 10, 2018.
Witnesses told investigators with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol that the semi operator drifted out of his lane and cut off the SUV, causing the woman in the smaller vehicle to run off the side of the interstate. She then appeared to overcorrect her steering, which led to her SUV spinning and flipping over at least twice.
The woman, who officials did not publicly identify, died from her injuries at the scene. The tractor-trailer driver stopped and spoke with law enforcement officials before being charged with failing to maintain control and for causing a death while operating a motor vehicle.
The first charge can describe an illegal lane change or simply straddling a lane marker. Either way, leaving one’s lane without properly checking blind spots and ensuring that the way is clear can set the stage for a deadly incident like this one on I-40 in Burke County. No crash even needs to occur; just forcing another driver to brake and swerve often proves to be enough to create a situation in which people suffer injuries or lose their lives.
My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our deepest condolences out to the friends and family of the SUV driver who died as a result of what appears to be the tractor-trailer operator’s momentary negligence. Sadly, only a small lapse in judgment or attention is all it takes -- especially at interstate speeds, when vehicles travel several hundred feet in just a few seconds.
We urge all drivers to change lanes with caution. Checking mirrors and relying on one’s memory of where other cars and trucks were a minute or so ago never suffices. This is particularly true when moving over in a tractor-trailer, whose length and height leaves large swathes of adjacent lanes invisible to the driver in the cab.
Regardless of how the charges against the semi driver being blamed for the deadly crash in Burke County get resolved, the evidence that he left his lane without taking proper care to ensure others’ safety can be used to substantiate wrongful death insurance claims. Consulting with a caring plaintiff’s attorney will help the deceased woman’s family understand how to acquire and use the information gathered by state troopers.