An out-of-control box truck struck and killed a man driving a car south of Martinsburg, West Virginia (WV), on the morning of July 27, 2017. The deadly crash happened near the Tabler Station Road exit from I-81 at around 11:30 am.
The box truck driver had been traveling north on the interstate through Berkley County when, he told police, he lost control and ran onto the grassy median. Unable to stop or steer, the truck driver crossed into the southbound lanes and collided with a car.
The impact spun both vehicles around, and the truck landed on top of the car. The man behind the wheel of the smaller vehicle initially survived, but he died from his injuries while being airlifted to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, VA.
Multiple news outlets identify the deceased victim as 37-year-old Daniel Raney. He had lived in Berkley County.
Twenty-two fatal crashes in West Virginia during 2015 involved large commercial trucks, according to the latest report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This represented just a fraction of the 4,311 deadly heavy truck and interstate bus wrecks that year. It is telling, however, that one-quarter, or 1.023, of those collision involved single-unit trucks.
When people picture commercial truck crashes, they usually think of 18-wheelers and tankers. Tractor-trailers do pose risks when operators act negligently or recklessly, but even smaller commercial vehicles can be deadly when they are not kept under control.
An earlier study by the FMCSA determined that large truck crashes had four primary causes:
- Nonperformance: The driver fell asleep, was disabled by a heart attack or seizure, or was physically impaired for another reason.
- Recognition: The driver was inattentive, was distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle, or failed to observe the situation adequately for some other reason.
- Decision: For example, the driver was driving too fast for conditions, misjudged the speed of other vehicles, or followed other vehicles too closely.
- Performance: For example, the driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control.
News reports on the deadly truck crash on I-81 south of Martinsburg do not offer any details to indicate whether one or more of those factors led to the tragedy. The comments made by the truck driver, however, suggest mechanical problems may have occurred. FMCSA researchers did find that brake problems played some role in 29 percent of the crashes they analyzed.
Driver error and mechanical problems often combine to set the stage for deadly truck crashes. When they do, the family of the of the deceased victim can have grounds for filing insurance claims or civil lawsuits against the truck driver and the company that owns the truck. Improper or neglected vehicle maintenance can make a trucking company legally responsible for a wreck.
Speaking with a wrongful death attorney who is licensed in both Virginia and West Virginia and who has represented wrongful death victims in both states will help the family understand and exercise their options for seeking compensation and damages.EJL