Dennett Blue, Jr. died after hitting a semi-truck that was making a left hand turn into the Cedar Trail Landfill on SR60 in Bartow, Florida on May 18, 2017. The accident happened at approximately 5:30 a.m. as Ariel Soto’s semi-truck got hit crossing the highway. Blue’s semi-truck is shown below with severe crash damage to the passenger’s side. Blue was taken to Bartow Regional Medical Center and died shortly thereafter.
Analysis Of Legal Liability
First and foremost, the semi-truck had a legal obligation under Florida law to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic before attempting a left hand turn under section 316.122, Fla. Stat. Because the impact occurred in the lane of travel, it can be fairly said that the semi-truck’s trailer presented an “immediate hazard” to other traffic on the roadway. Therefore, the semi-truck driver must bear a significant amount of legal responsibility for this accident.
With that in mind, the photograph shows what appears to have hit the semi-trailer at an angle. This type of “glancing” blow to a vehicle has a tremendous amount of force when it occurs at highway speed. The speed limit on this stretch of road should be 60 mph. This angle would have made it difficult for retro-reflective tape on the side of the trailer to work properly and likely made it next to impossible for Blue to see the taillights of the trailer. Therefore, it may have been difficult for Mr. Blue to avoid this accident given all of the circumstances.
Legal Analysis Of Damages
Most semi-trucks on the road are insured with at least $1 million in liability coverage. Mr. Blue’s estate (on behalf of any survivors that he has) will have damages for the damage to the vehicle and for wrongful death. Florida law specifies different damages based on the relationship between the survivor and the decedent. For instance, a spouse or minor child will be entitled to mental pain and suffering while adult children may only be able to obtain damages for lost support and services.
Regardless of the damages that can be claimed, Florida law requires the appointment of a personal representative to bring the claims of all survivors. Therefore, the personal representative is the proper party to negotiate a settlement of the claim. The insurance company for the semi-truck should contact the family of the decedent and offer policy limits to the family in exchange for a release through the personal representative.
Even with a degree of comparative fault, the value of a wrongful death claim may exceed the insurance limit. This is what creates a legal duty for the insurance company to obtain a release for the truck driver (and his employer) within policy limits if at all possible.
Fighting It Out
If the insurance company does not offer its insurance limits, then hiring a truck accident attorney to file a lawsuit and obtain discovery on potentially important matters will be necessary. A number of things should be examined such as the qualifications of the driver, whether the driver is fatigued, and whether all of the lights and safety equipment on the truck were working properly at the time of the accident.
Many trucking companies choose to vigorously defend their industry by mounting a fierce defense to accident cases.
Contact A Lakeland, Florida Truck Accident Attorney
— Amy Gehrt (@AmyGehrt) May 18, 2017