Jeep, Semi-Truck Crash Kills 2 in Clarke County, VA

Faulty brakes appear to have set the stage for a crash in the northwestern corner of Virginia that killed two drivers. Depending on what State Police investigators find, the families of both deceased individuals could have grounds for filing wrongful death claims.

Information released to the media indicates the deadly crash happened in the 15300 block of U.S. Route 340. The scene is near the Clarke County community of White Post, roughly halfway between Front Royal and Winchester.

According to investigators, a Jeep entered the roadway locals call Lord Fairfax Highway unexpectedly and hit a Mack truck hauling concrete. The force of the collision knocked the Jeep and semi off the highway, where both vehicles caught fire. Emergency medical personnel declared the drivers dead at the scene.


Authorities publicly identified the Mack truck driver as 66-year-old Lewis E. Thompson of Grottoes, VA. They also named 31-year-old Shea E. Hawkins of Winchester as the driver of the Jeep.

A press release put out by the State Police explains, “was traveling east on a private drive when its brakes failed, causing the Jeep to enter Route 340.” Whether the brakes were defective or if the Jeep’s owner simply neglected to do necessary maintenance will make a great deal of difference for filing wrongful death claims.

Laws Place Duties on Drivers and Vehicle Owners

The Mack truck driver’s family almost certainly has the right to seek compensation for a wrongful death. The other person failed to yield right of way before entering a highway. Section 46.2-826 of the Virginia Code covers this situation. Specifically, the statute reads, “The driver of a vehicle entering a public highway or sidewalk from a private road, driveway, alley, or building shall stop immediately before entering such highway or sidewalk and yield the right-of-way to vehicles approaching on such public highway and to pedestrians or vehicles approaching on such public sidewalk.”

The owner of the Jeep might also have acted negligently and, therefore, have liability for settling wrongful death claims under section 46.2-1066 of the Virginia Code. That law specifies, “Every motor vehicle when driven on a highway shall be equipped with brakes adequate to control the movements of and to stop and hold such vehicle. The brakes shall be maintained in good working order.”

What if the Brakes Failed Without Warning?

Equipment failures cause thousands of serious and deadly crashes across the United States each year. As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains one of the largest and most frequently updated recall websites. Bad tires and faulty brakes top the list most days.

Still, manufacturers often hesitate to issue recalls. Evidence of such hesitation could create liability for the company that produced the brakes on the Jeep involved in this fatal crash in Clarke County. Finding all the evidence necessary to prove that the collision resulted from a set of brakes a company should have recalled would take serious effort. But plaintiff’s attorneys who pursue defective product lawsuits exert such effort as part of their everyday responsibilities.