California Highway Patrol reports that an SUV carrying four siblings was traveling on westbound I-80 near Emeryville when it crashed into a parked big rig situated on the shoulder of the road near a curve. The accident occurred around 1:20 in the morning; the driver of the big rig had pulled over to sleep. He was cited for parking on the shoulder, which is only permissible by law in emergency situations.
The siblings were driving a Nissan Xterra, which crashed into the large truck and became stuck beneath its trailer, reports police. Preliminary reports do not state whether Manson bars were in place on the big rig at the time of the crash; these bars are meant to prevent just such accidents from occurring, although not all trucks are equipped with them due to their expense and the added weight they pose for operators.
Two women and one man were left dead from their injuries at the scene. The remaining sibling, a 17-year-old, was transported to an area hospital with major injuries, according to CHP. The oldest sibling was 26 years of age. Police say that speeding and wet road conditions are thought to have contributed to the crash, which remains under investigation.
Although fault is yet to be established in this particular case, it is not unusual for families of car accident victims to seek out wrongful death damages when a loved one is taken too soon. Even if it is found that the driver of the vehicle was partly to blame, that does not preclude the driver of the erroneously parked big rig from being held to account for his potential role in the deaths.
In California, the concept of comparative fault exists. Comparative fault essentially means that the plaintiff and the defendant are both responsible to some extent for the death or injuries sustained during an accident. It is entirely possible for a jury and judge to find that while speeding may have been partially to blame for the accident, the driver of the illegally parked truck also contributed to the outcome experienced. A jury would be tasked with determining the percentage of fault, and a judge would calculate any reduction of awards received by the plaintiff. For example, the plaintiff may be found to be 40 percent to blame for the accident; in that case, an award of $1 million would be reduced to $600,000.
Wrongful death claims arise when one person dies due to the actions or negligence of another person. These claims are heard in civil court and brought about by the survivors of the deceased or their personal representative of the deceased’s estate. Wrongful death claims can be filed by the deceased’s spouse, domestic partner or surviving children. If the deceased has no spouse or children, then the parents or siblings of the deceased would be next in line to file such an action.