Posted On behalf of Michael D'Amico of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Mar 10, 2015 in Truck Accidents
Two lawsuits regarding a horrific 20-vehicle crash cannot move forward to trial, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled this August.
In 2005, a dump truck traveling on Route 44 in Avon spun out of control down a 500-foot incline, leading to a fiery crash and killing multiple victims. The dump truck hit a bus and 18 other vehicles as it careened down the mountain.
Several lawsuits resulted from the crash, including one against the state government, claiming that Route 44 had a dangerous design and lacked adequate safety measures.
In a 5-1 decision, the state's highest court ruled that the steep road and lack of warning signs on Route 44, a negligent design claim, was subject to the constraints of the defective highway statute which shields the state from liability except in certain circumstances. Generally, the state is immune from personal injury lawsuits resulting from vehicle accidents, with limited exceptions. One exemption from liability is General Statute 13a-144, in which the state legislature allowed liability to state government if a defective highway causes injuries and is the sole proximate cause of the crash. What constitutes a defective highway has long been an issue in the state's courts.
Debate regarding state highway defect statute
Many Connecticut courts have interpreted the statute as applying only to claims based upon disrepair of roads and signage - not design defects. Had the justices allowed the case to move forward the state would be subject to liability for the negligent design of roadways without the limitation that the design be the sole proximate cause of the crash. Concerned about broadening the potential liability of the state the Connecticut Supreme Court stated, "virtually every design defect claim pertaining directly to the layout of the road would be actionable under the defective highway statute." Others, including safety advocates, dismiss these concerns . In the lawsuit, the injured victims claimed that there should have been a brake check area at the top of the mountain and a truck ramp at the bottom. The state did implement new safety measures, including a brake check, three years after the crash.
Trucking company at fault
The state wasn't the only entity facing liability. The truck that caused the accident had faulty brakes. The owner of the trucking company was eventually charged with manslaughter after a year-long investigation revealed that the driver was inexperienced and the truck had undergone poor maintenance. The owner of the trucking company received a six year prison sentence.
Truck accidents can be deadly
The Connecticut Supreme Court's recent decision illustrates many of the issues that arise in truck accidents in the state. If the truck company does not maintain its vehicles, hires inexperienced or unskilled drivers, improperly loads a truck, or is otherwise negligent, it can be held liable for injuries. Driver error, the number one cause of trucking accidents in the state, can also lead to liability for injuries. And while in this case the state remained immune from liability, that is not true in every situation.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your situation. A personal injury lawsuit can potentially allow victims recovery for medical expenses and other costs associated with an accident.