A crash caused by a dump truck driver who appears to have taken his own life raises many questions about how the injured victim can file insurance claims. The incident occurred in James City County, Virginia (VA), but the driver was reportedly working for a North Carolina-based company.
Interstate trucking rules represent just one complication created by the pedestrian crash in the Grove community on the evening of Feb. 26, 2021. According to county police, the driver of the dump truck struck a man who had just stepped off a WATA bus in the 8700 block of Pocahontas Trail. The truck driver initially pulled into a parking lot, got out of the cab and looked back to see the injured pedestrian. Before police and EMTs arrived, however, the driver fled the scene.
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Compounding what was already a hit-and-run case, the driver took the dump truck to North Carolina. Police later determined that the driver was a mechanic who was under contract to the truck’s owner to make repairs to the vehicle.
A third unusual circumstance arose the day after the pedestrian crash when the truck driver was found dead. The man appeared to have hanged himself from a tree behind the workshop in North Carolina.
The pedestrian survived. Statements from doctors at Riverside Medical Center in Newport News, VA, indicate that while the pedestrian suffered serious leg injuries, his life was never seriously in danger.
Who Has Liability?
Investigation into the James City County crash continues, but news reports quoting an official release from the police indicate very little doubt that the dump truck driver acted negligently. Virginia state law accords right of way to all pedestrians stepping on and off public buses. Additionally, the description of the incident as a deliberate hit and run points strongly to the truck driver’s fault.
The driver’s death presents no obstacle to the crash victim’s ability to hold that person accountable by filing an insurance claim. Any policy covering the driver will remain in effect until an injury settlement is negotiated or a civil trial verdict is issued.
Additionally, insurance policies that cover commercial truck drivers apply across state lines. This may matter in particular in this case because the injured pedestrian may have grounds for filing a claim against the company that owns the dump truck.
That company entrusted the driver with its vehicle. In doing so, it may have created a legal relationship in which it assumed liability for the driver’s negligence or recklessness. The legal term for this relationship is respondeat superior (“let the master answer”). Many personal injury and wrongful death cases list trucking companies as the principal defendant/respondent because it was the managers failure to ensure that the drivers they hired were adequately skilled, licensed and supervised.
Of course, any insurance company that receives a claim can be expected to contest its policyholder’s liability. While the pedestrian who was hit and hurt after stepping off the transit bus in James City County has the right to seek compensation, they should strongly consider hiring a Virginia truck accident attorney to advocate for them.