Daniel Wilson, of Lake Worth, was killed in Boca Raton, Florida following a motorcycle accident with a tractor trailer. The driver of the tractor trailer, Edouard Jean-Pierre, survived. Since this case is still under investigation by police, the exact details of what happened have not yet been made public in their totality.
However, news sources are reporting that Wilson drove his 2008 Zhejiang motorcycle to the right front corner of Jean-Pierre’s tractor trailer, which was stopped in the southbound lanes of Congress Avenue. When traffic began moving again, Jean-Pierre allegedly hit the gas and crashed into Daniel Wilson’s motorcycle. This caused Wilson to fall off the motorcycle into the path of the tractor-trailer’s tires.
Horrifically, Wilson was then crushed when the truck’s massive tires ran over him. Sources indicate that he passed shortly after arriving at Delray Medical Center.
As a Florida trial attorney, my purpose in writing about this story is to offer my analysis of the legal issues that a case like this creates. However, before I delve into those thoughts, I must emphasize that no concrete conclusions can be drawn at this time since the accident investigation is still under way and we do not yet know all the necessary facts.
That said, I strongly suspect that the evidence will show that Jean-Pierre is responsible for causing this accident. If this suspicion proves correct, Daniel Wilson’s family may be entitled to very substantial monetary compensation for his wrongful death.
Let me explain: There are three fundamental things that must be present in any truck accident case if legal action is to take place. They are:
1) A negligent party who can be held legally accountable 2) Provable injury caused by that negligence 3) A collectable defendant
To understand why Wilson’s family may have a good case, lets consider these fundamental elements one at a time:
In order to satisfy this aspect of the case, there must be proof that someone either did something wrong or failed to do something right, thereby causing the accident.
When it comes to Daniel Wilson’s death, I suspect that Jean-Pierre acted with negligence in two ways. First, he caused Wilson to fall off the motorcycle by crashing into him. Second, he then ran over Wilson with the tractor trailer.
Before we conclude that Jean-Pierre is liable for Wilson’s death due to negligent operation of the tractor trailer, there are a number of very important questions that I would like to see answered.
First, was this a rear end collision? If so, there would be a presumption of negligence if Jean-Pierre rear ended Wilson’s motorcycle. In other words, Jean-Pierre would be presumed to be the negligent party.
If this was not a rear end collision, was it a side swipe? Was it a case where one driver cut the other one off?
Or, was Daniel Wilson in Jean-Pierre’s blind spot? Did Jean-Pierre even check his blind spot before moving? Did the tractor trailer have working mirrors?
Was Jean-Pierre paying attention to his driving? Was he a texting truck driver? Was he distracted in some other way? Is there a connection between this truck accident and DUI. Or, was Jean-Pierre suffering from trucker fatigue?
While I may have my suspicions about this case, it will be necessary for an attorney to evaluate all the available evidence to see what it proves about negligence in light of applicable law.
Since it is clear that Daniel was killed, this aspect of the case will likely be very easy to prove. While this may be so, it is important to note that there have been other fatality cases when an intervening cause, following the accident, either caused or contributed to the victim’s death.
For example, there have been truck accidents where injured parties later died due to the medical malpractice of treating physicians. Had the physicians not acted with their own negligence and caused additional harm, the victim may have lived.
However, even if this is the case, we cannot forget what the evidence tells us about how Wilson would have been introduced to an intervening cause that led to his death. In other words, Jean-Pierre may still be held liable, even if he did not directly cause Wilson’s death.
My point in mentioning this, is merely to show that nothing can be taken for granted in a case as serious as this one. However, given the facts already known about this case and the manner in which Daniel was killed, I strongly doubt proving injury will be a problem.
In order to translate negligence and provable injuries into real compensation for Daniel’s family, there must also be a responsible party who has the actual means to pay compensation. In most accidents that concern motor vehicle negligence, such as this one, compensation is usually paid for by insurance companies.
In other words, Daniel Wilson’s family may be entitled to a very substantial insurance claim against Jean-Pierre’s auto insurance.
Since this case concerns a truck accident, there are two special conditions that are not always present in other motor vehicle cases that may provide additional resources for collecting on any out of court settlement or judgement won in court.
First, commercial trucks are required by law to carry substantial insurance. This insurance amount can vary depending on the gross vehicle weight and the nature of any cargo being transported.
Since Jean-Pierre was driving a commercial vehicle, I strongly suspect that he may have substantial liability insurance.
Second, there is a concept in law called “respondeat superior.” This is a Latin term that refers to the liability corporations have for the actions of their employees. If the evidence proves that Jean-Pierre was driving the tractor trailer within the scope of his employment (which he most likely was), then the trucking company that employed him may also be liable to Daniel Wilson’s family for his death.
This issue is an important one because it may provide Wilson’s family with another source of compensation for their loss. Not only will they be able to collect against any insurance policies, assuming they are legally entitled to such compensation, but they may also be able to collect compensation from the corporate assets of the trucking company.
Putting all the legal issues aside, the bottom line is that this case is a horrible tragedy all around. It is a God awful loss for Wilson’s family and I am sure it is a terrible life experience for Jean-Pierre as well. Even though Jean-Pierre may be held legally accountable for this accident, I have no reason to suspect that he acted with ill-will or an evil motive.
Unless the evidence shows otherwise, this case seems like a horrible, freak accident that probably happened because someone was simply not paying attention. If that is the case, we should also point out that Jean-Pierre is certainly suffering as well.
At the end of the day we are all people and accidents of this type are terrible things to be part of.
My condolences go out to Daniel Wilson’s family. I am sorry for their loss and I hope they are able to find peace sometime soon.