Our Virginia truck accident and wrongful death client was a passenger in a car on I-64 in Norfolk, VA, when a tractor-trailer rear-ended his vehicle and ignited a deadly fire. The car was moving slowly in the center lane of the interstate at night because of a blown-out tire.
Our client, who was 25 years old at the time, could not escape the car before being overcome by the smoke and flames. He died at the scene, and the executor of his estate hired our local law firm to secure a settlement from the insurance company for the commercial truck driver.
Key Legal Strategy
Our Virginia truck accident and wrongful death client had lived in Portsmouth, and his 5-year-old daughter also lived there. This led us to file suit in the Portsmouth Circuit Court when the tractor-trailer driver’s insurance company denied the claims made by the deceased man’s estate.
The commercial truck driver admitted in a deposition that he did not see the slow-moving car until seconds before he hit it from behind. Despite this, his insurer argued that the driver of the car deserved most of the blame for causing the collision and fatal fire.
Specifically, the insurance company introduced evidence that that the car was traveling at 25 mph on a stretch of highway where the posted speed limit was 55 mph. A witness who was not involved in the crash also testified that the car did not have its hazard lights engaged and that he needed to swerve to avoid hitting the disabled vehicle himself.
Our Virginia truck accident attorneys succeeded in showing that the tractor-trailer operator made inaccurate statements to state troopers who investigated the rear-end collision. Our plaintiff’s lawyers also demonstrated that the truck driver had violated several safety rules spelled out in Virginia’s Commercial Driving Manual.
A final point of contention was whether the tractor-trailer driver’s poorly controlled diabetes rendered him unable to respond in appropriate physical and mental ways to an unexpected crash risk.
The judge assigned to this wrongful death case ordered the deceased man’s estate and the insurance company to try to settle the case through mediation. Throughout that process, our Virginia wrongful death attorneys emphasized the need for their client’s daughter to continue receiving financial support and health insurance coverage until she reached the age of 22. Even though the man had never married the mother of his child, he remained involved in the girl’s life and contributed substantially to her care and upkeep.
In the end, all claims were settled for $3.5 million plus mediation costs.
Insurance companies deploy many arguments while attempting to deny wrongful death claims. Since companies that insure commercial truck drivers often face demands for large settlements, they can be expected to redouble their efforts to blame victims for their own deaths. As plaintiff’s attorneys, we fight back against the insurance companies.
Court and Date: Portsmouth Circuit Court, Portsmouth, VA, Nov. 16, 2010
Staff: Randall E. Appleton and a second staff attorney