On September 13, a potentially explosive crash occurred on Highway 281, with an 18-wheeler skidding into the guardrail. Upon impact, the truck burst into flame. Three men traveling in a nearby plumbers’ truck pulled over and extricated the driver from the cab, dragging him clear. The driver sustained only cuts and bruises, but the truck was totaled. This type of accident opens up multiple types of potential liability and questions, for both the trucking company and – in certain situations – the driver’s rescuer.
Trucking Company Liability
Normally, if an accident occurs involving an 18-wheeler, the discussion centers around the potential liability to a car struck by the truck. While no other driver was involved in the accident on Highway 281, this is more due to luck than anything, as the driver described losing control of the vehicle. Four hundred and thirty-three fatal crashes involving semi-trucks and large trucks occurred in 2017, and of these accidents, a significant portion involved automobiles. Sheer size and velocity mean that many of the fatalities in such accidents were passengers and drivers of smaller cars.
Liability to an injured person in a truck accident can include actual damages, such as the person’s medical bills, and also other potential damages such as lost wages and future earning potential. Because of a concept called respondeat superior or vicarious liability, it is somewhat common for trucking companies (rather than drivers) to wind up paying any damages, because truck drivers can very often be held to be acting within the scope of employment (driving) when the accident occurred. However, if the truck driver is injured, they would likely wind up bringing a claim in workers’ compensation if they believed that someone other than themselves was responsible for the accident – because the most likely entity, in that case, would be the trucking company.
The Good Samaritan Law
While the truck driver was saved from major injuries by the actions of the three plumbers, there are occasions where the well-intentioned help of ‘Good Samaritans’ can lead to even greater injury that might otherwise be sustained. Texas has a ‘Good Samaritan’ law meant to protect those who might sustain injuries due to a Good Samaritan’s lack of knowledge, but the law also insulates helpers from severe liability in some respects. The crux of the law is that unless a helper’s act is ‘willfully or wantonly negligent,’ they are insulated from any liability that might otherwise result from their actions.
In other words, anyone who stops to assist an injured person will be immune from civil suit if they somehow harm the person by their actions, unless they acted in a willfully or wantonly negligent manner. For example, if someone pulls over to help an accident victim and cause bruising or chest problems due to giving CPR in an inexpert way, the Good Samaritan will likely not be found liable, because such an act is not wantonly negligent; it is an honest and reasonable error. If they pull over and strike the accident victim in the head with the car’s tire iron, they would be held liable because this would be wantonly negligent behavior.
Call Our Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers
These types of crashes have the potential to cause problems for all involved, whether you are a trucker, a motorist or even a Good Samaritan. If you have been involved in a trucking accident, calling an attorney can be a big step in deciding how best to proceed. The skilled New Braunfels truck crash lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm can help answer any questions you may have and try to assist you in deciding how to move forward. Call our offices today to set up an appointment.