Carol Sun was killed in a Palm Beach Gardens, Florida truck accident early this morning. Another person, Patricia Bao-Tran Le was also injured. Carol Sun and Patricia Bao-Tran Le were both only 17 years old.
According to news reports, Carol Sun was a passenger in Patricia Bao-Tran Le’s Toyota 4Runner when they were rear-ended by a semi tractor-trailer near PGA Boulevard.
The impact was so intense that their 4Runner was split in two. I can’t even begin to imagine how horrific the impact must have been.
To make matters worse, this is the second South Florida read-end collision to result in a traffic fatality this week. Early Monday morning, O’Neil Jahlil Fields was killed when his car was rear-ended by another driver on I-95.
Given my perspective as an injury lawyer, there are a number of extremely important issues that must be addressed in this case.
First, the driver of the tractor trailer must be held accountable for causing this terrible accident. In my personal opinion, if you drive trucks for a living you should be held to a higher standard of due care.
Plain and simple.
Second, under Florida law, there is a presumption of guilt when a person rear-ends another vehicle. In other words, in rear-end crashes, the driver who did the rear-ending is presumed to be responsible for causing the accident.
Once it has been proven that Carol Sun’s vehicle was rear-ended, the burden of proof then shifts to the truck driver to establish that he was not responsible for the accident, even though he rear-ended Carol Sun’s vehicle, causing her death.
To be clear, if you rear end another vehicle, you are most likely going to be held accountable. However, the law does allow you to present your own proof to challenge this assumption and prove the other party was responsible.
For example, if a drunk driver recklessly swerves across five lanes of highway to get to an exit he is missing, and a vehicle in another lane clips his rear bumper causing an accident, odds are the driver who did the rear-ending will not be held accountable.
In the case of Carol Sun and Patricia Bao-Tan Le, early crash investigation seems to indicate that Bao-Tran Le was driving the 4Runner when she hit the median and guard rail, bringing the vehicle to a stop in the right southbound lane.
Shortly thereafter, the semi tractor-trailer rear-ended the 4Runner, splitting it in two.
Given my perspective as an injury lawyer, I can tell you that the truck driver’s attorneys will likely make an issue about what caused Patricia Bao-Tran Le to hit the median and guard rail.
This leads me to my second point.
At this stage in the case, it is EXTREMELY important for injury lawyers to conduct an independent investigation into what caused the accident. While police investigators are certainly an excellent resource for this investigation, their conclusions cannot be treated as gospel.
Rather, all the evidence in the case, including eye witness statements, physical evidence collected on scene, photographs, tread marks, etc, must be evaluated in context to determine if the conclusions made by the police are warranted and supported by the evidence.
Regardless, even if Patricia Bao-Tran Le did do something wrong to cause her vehicle to crash into the median and guard rail, the truck driver will still have the burden of explaining why he rear-ended her.
AGAIN, Florida law requires drivers to:
1) Drive at safe distances so that emergency stops can be completed safely.
2) Drive at safe speeds so that emergency stops can be completed safely.
3) Pay attention so that emergency stops can be completed safely.
The bottom line is this: a truck driver, of all people, is expected to drive his tractor-trailer in such a way that he is able to make an emergency stop without causing a rear-end collision when he encounters another vehicle stopped ahead of him.
For this reason, I expect Carol Sun’s family and Patricia Bao-Tran Le to be eligible for very substantial compensation for the horrible outcomes of this accident.
This leads me to my third point.
In every car accident or truck crash case, an injury lawyer must address three essential points to build a winning case.
First, an injury lawyer must be able to prove that another party is responsible for causing the crash. In Carol Sun and Patricial Bao-Tran Le’s case, the tractor-trailer driver will likely be held responsible because he rear-ended their vehicle, causing it to split in two and injure them.
Second, injury lawyer must be able to prove his/her client sustained injuries. In Carol Sin and Patricia Bao-Tran Le’s case, injuries are clear and easily proven.
Third, the defendant must be collectible. Meaning, he/she must be able to actually make monetary payments to the victims for their injuries.
In this case, I am sure the truck driver is collectible because odds are he and his employer carried very substantial auto insurance.
It should also be noted that when a person is acting in the normal course of their employment, their employer is responsible for any damages they cause to another party due to their own liability.
The most common example of this legal concept occurs when truck drivers get into car accidents.
This is a tragic and extremely horrific truck accident. From a legal perspective, it presents a number of legal issues that must be addressed by an experienced and knowledgable injury lawyer.
This case must be investigated by the same people that will be fighting the case in court. Determining what caused Patricia Bao-Tran Le to crash into the median and guard rail is important and must be investigated, however it is not dispositive.
Obtaining employment information for the truck driver is essential. From there, insurance information for the truck driver and his employer will also be needed.
Finally, it is important to realize that much more information is needed before any concrete conclusions about this case can be had. As I mentioned above, investigating this case thoroughly and correctly is extremely important. The information garnered will enable all parties to perform an accurate analysis and draw much more thorough conclusions.
Nothing in this world will ever make this loss right for Carol Sun’s family or for Patricia Bao-Tran Le. I can’t imagine what the affected families are feeling right now. My condolences go out to them and I hope they are able to find solace from this tragic event soon, if that is even possible.