A rear-end collision between a tractor-trailer and a contracted VDOT work truck led to the death of the highway worker. The fatal crash occurred near mile marker 233 of I-81 through Augusta County, Virginia (VA).

Virginia State Police received the first reports of the crash at around 4:55 am on February 1, 2022. Emergency responders found the tractor-trailer disabled on the left shoulder and the work truck overturned in the median. The driver of the smaller vehicle, which police referred to in a press release as a Ford F-650 and a “crash truck,” died at the scene. The semi operator also sustained injuries and was transported to a hospital for treatment.

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Officials publicly identified the deceased highway worker as 32-year-old Shawn P. Dick of Paw Paw, West Virginia (WV). Dick had been working for VDOT under contract, and he was seated in the driver’s seat of the crash truck while wearing a seat belt when the tractor-trailer ran into the rear of his vehicle.

A State Police press release notes the crash truck “was stationary in the left northbound lanes of I-81 as the highway work zone crew was setting up cones to establish the work zone. A tractor-trailer traveling north in the left lane on I-81 rear-ended the crash truck,” As it was parked, the work truck “had its arrow board activated and amber lights flashing.”

Grounds for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit May Exist

Charges are pending against the tractor-trailer operator. Investigators have not released details on why the person behind the wheel of the large commercial truck failed to change lanes when approaching the clearly marked highway work zone, but possibilities that must be looked into include speeding, distraction and falling asleep while driving.

All the evidence collected to support a criminal charge or a citation for a moving violation could also be used to substantiate claims for wrongful death compensation. Even though the deadly crash happened while the VDOT contractor was working, the victim’s family would have the right to sue if evidence of the semi operator’s negligence can be found.

In legal terms, grounds likely exist for seeking workers’ compensation related to an on-the-job death and for pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent or reckless commercial truck driver. Under longstanding legal principles, the company that employed the semi operator could also be named as a defendant in a lawsuit.

Consulting with a Virginia plaintiff’s attorney who has helped individuals and families with such combined cases would clarify would help the family understand their rights and explore their options. In all events. My Virginia law firm colleagues and I send our deepest condolences to Dick’s friends and family.

EJL