A 15-year-old passenger died when an out-of-control dump truck overturned onto her car while careening down a steep hill in McDowell County, North Carolina (NC). The fatal crash happened a little after 1 pm on July 18, 2017.
State Highway Patrol investigators told reporters that the dump truck was speeding down Cox Creek Mountain in the southbound lane of NC 226 when it crossed the center double yellow line and began to tip over. The northbound car became trapped under the truck as it turned all the way onto its side. The truck’s speed carried it and the car some distance along the pavement, inflicting fatal injuries on the dump truck operator and leaving the car’s driver with life-threatening injuries.
According to statistics compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 4,050 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes during 2015. Another 53,263 big rigs were involved in wrecks that left people injured.
The agency further noted that 6 percent of these collision could be blamed in some degree on “vehicle-related factors” such as malfunctioning brakes or bald, underinflated, or blown out tires. If an equipment problem contributed to causing this deadly rollover crash in McDowell County, the trucking company may have some legal responsibility for settling personal injury and wrongful death insurance claims.
The actions of the dump truck will need to be reconstructed to the extent possible, as well. Driver error causes the large majority of all wrecks, and collisions involving commercial trucks and construction vehicles are no different. Losing control of a heavy truck is especially easy on a downhill like the side of Cox Creek Mountain.
A list of tips for negotiating steep hills put together by a local government in Australia offers this universally applicable advice:
- Make sure your vehicle is in low gear before commencing descent and do not rely on your service brakes (the gear required to ascend a hill is usually the same gear required during descend)
- If you fail to engage the correct gear, then stop the vehicle immediately and make the correct gear change.
- Do not attempt to descend a hill in neutral gear or with the clutch depressed
- Use the auxiliary brakes to help control the vehicle speed
- Only use the service brakes for managing emergencies, traffic conditions and cornering
If the dump truck operator failed to take such safety precautions or follow other best practices for descending a mountain safely, he could be considered negligent for insurance purposes. Working with an experienced Carolina personal injury lawyer and wrongful death attorney will help the victims uncover and use evidence of the trucking company or truck driver’s negligence.