Tag Archive for: wrongful death

Tractor Trailer

Woman Dies in Accident with Tractor Trailer

A woman has died after colliding with a semi. Lashunda Patrice Wells, 38, of Tuscaloosa, was driving on Interstate 65 near Hayden, Alabama, in Blount County on July 1st. For reasons not yet reported, Wells lost control of her 2005 Nissan Altima. The Altima struck a metal guard rail, bouncing back into traffic. When the car returned to the lanes of traffic, it was struck by a 2005 Peterbilt tractor trailer, as driven by Rick Griesbach, of Westborough, Wisconsin. The Altima then came to rest on the center concrete median. Wells was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Griesbach was uninjured.

Tractor-trailers and semi trucks can be highly lethal presences on roads and highways. While many professional truckers are experienced and skilled at what they do, there is simply more risk of harm involved should anything go wrong on the road either with or near a large truck. Tractor-trailers require almost 150% as long to come to a complete stop when traveling at highway speeds than would a passenger vehicle. Factors such as weather conditions can also come into play, as can any excessive wear-and-tear on the truck’s tires. Where a passenger vehicle may have been able to swerve around a car that quickly merged into traffic, tractor trailers bear a much greater risk of jackknifing or overturning, due to the weight of cargo in the trailer. Thus, attempting to avoid a hazard in the road could result in even more damage than simply colliding with the car or object immediately in front of a tractor trailer.

Accidents with tractor trailers or other large trucks can be highly destructive. Due to the number of components that can fail on a large truck, and the various parties that may be involved in maintaining, operating, and owning a tractor trailer, legal and factual issues involved in an accident with a tractor trailer can be convoluted and hard to keep straight. If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident with a semi truck or tractor trailer, seek experienced legal help to determine if you may be owed compensation for your injuries in the crash. Contact the skilled Montgomery, Alabama personal injury attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum to discuss your options. Our truck accident attorneys are available to offer a free consultation on a possible claim for individuals based in and around Montgomery, including Coosada, Pike Road, Deatsville, Lapine, and Titus. Call 334-262-1911 today.

Single Vehicle Accident Kills Prattville Man

Prattville Man Killed in Single-Vehicle Accident on I-85; Cause Unknown

Last week, a Prattville man was killed when his car left the road and crashed into a ravine off Interstate 85. The accident occurred around 8:20 in the morning on Tuesday, April 28th, near the Chantilly Parkway between Taylor Road and Atlanta Highway. Ryan Smith, 26, was driving his 1997 Mercury Gran Marquis, when the vehicle left the road and crashed into a ravine. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene. Both the northbound and southbound lanes of I-85 were shut down for two hours as police conducted an investigation and road crews worked to clean up the accident.

No other cars appear to have been involved in the accident, and the cause of the crash is unknown at this time. A single-vehicle accident where the car leaves the road may be the result of driver fatigue or an emergency medical condition that causes the driver to lose control. There are also other factors which can cause such an accident through no fault of the driver, such as:

  • Mechanical failure of the automobile due to a defect in the car or a component part, such as a stuck accelerator or steering or brake failure, or from a negligent repair at an auto service center
  • Reckless driving of another vehicle in the area, whose speeding, distracted driving or sudden stop or lane change can cause another driver to run off the road
  • Road hazards and roadway defects, including debris blown on the road from a construction zone, potholes and roads which are designed or built in an unsafe manner regarding blind curves and steep inclines

The cause of this particular tragedy is still under investigation and may never be known. If it can be proven that the negligence or misconduct of another is to blame, the family of Ryan Smith may be able to recover money damages for his wrongful death to hold the responsible party accountable for their wrongdoing and help with funeral and burial expenses and other aspects of this tragic loss.

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Explosive Plane Crash Kills Two

On Wednesday, August 14, 2013, a UPS cargo plane crashed near Birmingham. The crash killed all on board.

Police state that the aircraft was approaching Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport on a flight from Lexington, Kentucky. The plane suddenly exploded in mid-air and fell from the sky. The tower reports that the crew made no distress calls. Witnesses stated that the aircraft split into several pieces before crashing to the ground, skidding across a highway and spreading debris over a half-mile area.

Both the pilot and co-pilot were killed. Their bodies were found some 100 yards from the main portion of the plane. The aircraft type, a twin-engine Airbus A 300, has been involved in at least 10 other crashes since it first entered service in 1974.

The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the cause of the accident. Speculation exists that, due to the sudden nature of the crash, the lack of distress calls and the A 300’s service record, mechanical error may have been at fault.

Liability for wrongful death

Any time a manufacturer sells a defective product that results in death, whether that product is a small medical device or a wide-body jet aircraft, the manufacturer can be sued for wrongful death. Since 1974, Alabama has used the AEMLD, or Alabama Extended Manufacturers’ Liability Doctrine, in such cases. In a defective product case, a Birmingham personal injury attorney must convince the jury that the death occurred because of:

  • A design defect the typical argument is that there was a safer alternative design available, but the defendant failed to use that alternative design
  • A manufacturing defect  the product may have been fine on the blueprint, but was defective by the time it reached the shelf
  • A failure to warn – if the manufacturer knows that a product is dangerous, the manufacturer has a duty to warn consumers about the danger

Since 1978, McPhillips Shinbaum has represented injured victims and their families in personal injury lawsuits throughout Alabama. Call today for your free consultation.

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Wrongful Death and Criminal Acts

A former provost at the University of Alabama in Huntsville has asked a judge to throw out the wrongful death suit filed against him following Amy Bishop’s 2010 shooting rampage.

Bishop, a professor at UAH, shot two people to death and injured three others following a faculty meeting. Bishop was angry that she was earlier denied tenure. She is currently serving a life sentence without parole after pleading guilty to the shooting deaths. The family members of slain faculty members Maria Davis and Adriel Johnson subsequently sued UAH Provost Dr. Vistap Karbhari and President Dr. David Williams, alleging that these university officials knew that Bishop was angry and unstable, and failed to take any corrective action.

Elements of a wrongful death suit

Dr. Karbhari’s attorneys argue that Dr. Karbhari did not cause the deaths of the faculty members. Cause, both cause-in-fact and proximate cause, is an essential element in any negligence case. There can be no intervening cause that comes between the plaintiff’s injuries and the defendant’s conduct. A criminal act, especially one that is random and unpredictable, is generally an intervening cause in a negligence case. Alabama law holds that a criminal act may not always be an intervening cause in all cases.

  • Relationship between the parties: If there is a special relationship between the parties, such as lawyer/client, doctor/patient or some other fiduciary relationship where there is a heightened duty of care, a crime is not an intervening cause in a negligence case.
  • Foreseeability: In this case, the plaintiffs argue that Dr. Karbhari ignored warning signs that Bishop was dangerous. Dr. Kharbari denies these allegations.
  • Voluntary duty: If a defendant begins to take steps to protect a plaintiff from a crime, and then abandons that course of action, the defendant may nevertheless be liable.

At McPhillips Shinbaum, our attorneys represent clients in Montgomery County, Autauga County, Elmore County and throughout Alabama. To speak with a lawyer about your wrongful death claim, contact us to schedule your free initial consultation.

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Pedestrian Killed in Far Northeast Atlanta

The Hall County Sherriff’s Office reports that a pedestrian was killed in a Hall County personal injury accident in the early morning hours of Tuesday, September 3, 2013.

The victim was crossing State Road 211, near State Road 53, when she was hit and killed by an oncoming car. State Road 211 was closed for some time as authorities gathered evidence and spoke with witnesses.

Serious pedestrian accidents such as this are all too common, especially on roads where the pedestrian must walk on the shoulder or cross traffic without a light. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) further points out that most pedestrian deaths occur between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., or during the weekend, when motorists are less likely to be looking for pedestrians. NHTSA predicted that the overall number of pedestrian-vehicle accidents may fall, but that the injuries suffered in these incidents may become more severe.

Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents

Like most other motor vehicle accidents, many pedestrian-vehicle accidents may share one or more common causes:

  • Distracted Driving. Even if motorists are aware that pedestrians may be in the area, drivers may still be too distracted to adequately look out for pedestrians. Most pedestrian victims are either under age 10 or over age 65, perhaps underscoring the fact that drivers are simply not watching carefully enough.
  • Speed. Although the incidents of pedestrian-vehicle accidents increases as the speed limit increases, less than 10% of pedestrian-vehicle accidents involve excessive speed. These statistics suggest that speed is more of an indirect factor. Drivers are watchful for pedestrians on neighborhood streets and side streets, but tend to ignore pedestrians on major roads and highways.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident, regardless of the cause, speak to the experienced attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum to preserve any rights to recovery you may have.

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Fatal Accident in Huntsville Raises Third-Party Liability Questions

A father and son have both denied responsibility in a recent fatal traffic accident in Huntsville.

Court documents state that Richard Scarano allowed his son Gunner Scarano to drive the family truck. The younger Scarano was involved in a collision in south Huntsville that killed a 10-year-old boy and injured two others. The lawsuit names both father and son as defendants, alleging that Gunner caused the accident and that Richard negligently entrusted the vehicle to Gunner.

Third-party liability

This case illustrates the point that the person behind the wheel may not necessarily be the only responsible party. Given the high number of uninsured and underinsured motorists, third-party liability can be a very important component of your negligence case. A third party may be responsible for your injuries in several situations, among them:

  • Negligent entrustment becomes a factor if a person entrusts a vehicle to an incompetent or reckless driver — such as an underage or intoxicated driver — the entrusting party may be responsible for damages caused in an accident.
  • Respondeat superior applies if an employee commits a tort (such as an auto accident) during the course and scope of employment. Alabama has special definitions for each of these terms.
  • Dram shop liability, or saloon owner liability, comes into play if a shopkeeper either serves a minor or knowingly serves an intoxicated person, and that person subsequently causes an accident. A business owner may also be liable if a person was served alcohol “contrary to the provisions of law,” such as serving alcohol in a dry county.

The attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum have been protecting the victims of motor vehicle collisions in Alabama since 1978. Call today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced attorney.

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Two Teenagers Die In Collision With Large Truck

A West Alabama football player died in an automobile accident over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Nineteen-year-old Anthony Robinson was traveling with his 12-year-old cousin on Highway 43 near Robinson’s hometown of Linden, Alabama when both were killed in a collision with an 18-wheeler.

In 2009, large trucks logged nearly three billion miles and caused nearly four thousand deaths. Even after 10 years of decline, large trucks still killed 73 Alabamans in 2009. Fully loaded trucks are simply so huge that they are very difficult, if not impossible, to stop suddenly. Some of the serious or mortal injuries that may result from collisions between a large truck and a passenger car or light tuck include:

  • Burns. If the large truck’s diesel fuel happens to catch fire, the fire can be much hotter and much more intense than a gasoline fire. Severe burns can mean a series of painful skin grafts. Many patients do not survive this procedure. Even if they do survive, there may be permanent disfiguring scars and other permanent injuries.
  • Crushed body parts. Because a large truck has such a hard time stopping, it frequently pushes the other vehicle like a snow plow until both vehicles come to rest against a bridge or embankment, or some other hard and unforgiving surface. By the time the first responders arrive and free the trapped occupants, their legs or arms may have been crushed by the car as it collapsed around them.
  • Severe trauma injuries. Even if the occupants are wearing seat belts and the air bags properly deploy, the sudden force of the impact can frequently cause head, neck and spinal injuries.

The attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum conduct their business according to one guiding principle: dignity. That commitment means that our attorneys always treat you with the respect you deserve, whether that means promptly returning your phone calls or being as prepared as we can possibly be before we go into court. Contact McPhillips Shinbaum to schedule your free consultation.

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Can I Sue for Wrongful Death?

The family of former hockey enforcer Derek Boogaard has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NHL. Boogaard died in May 2011 from an accidental painkiller overdose, drugs the family says the NHL heedlessly supplied him with. Boogaard was drafted to provide NHL fans with entertainment through his fighting skills, which took its toll and caused him to need regular painkillers. It is alleged that the NHL negligently allowed him to get addicted and failed to take care of him when he became an addict.

When can I sue for wrongful death?

Under the Code of Alabama, (Section 6-5-410) you can bring a lawsuit for wrongful death as a personal representative of the deceased against a person or corporation, for an act, failure to act or negligence which caused the death. You must commence the lawsuit within two years of the date of death.

How are damages distributed?

Wrongful death is a civil remedy, so if your lawsuit is successful a jury awards damages. The damages are distributed to heirs in accordance with the Alabama Statute of Distributions. This provides rules for how assets should be distributed if a person dies without a will, but also applies to damages from a wrongful death lawsuit even if the deceased had a will. The order for distribution depends on the surviving family members:

  • A surviving spouse has first priority on the distribution of damages and receives at least half of the damages in all cases, up to a maximum of all damages if there are no surviving children or parents.
  • Surviving children that are also children of a surviving spouse receive equal shares of the remaining damages after the spouse has received the first $50,000 and half of the remainder of the damages.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, surviving children share the damages equally.
  • In the absence of a surviving spouse or children, the damages award is shared by surviving parents.

If you have lost a loved one and think it may have been caused by negligence, arrange a consultation with a compassionate Montgomery wrongful death attorney.