Being ready to respond to a road hazard is a basic duty of every driver on a public road or highway. Professional drivers have an even higher standard.
A truck driver who fails to take necessary and appropriate action can cause a lot of pain and damage. That is what happened to Constance.
Driving through a fire causes massive tractor-trailer collision
The high desert in the eastern part of Washington is subject to brush fires. On the day of the crash, an area of a major highway was covered with black smoke from a brush fire.
Constance was driving. Seeing the black smoke and poor visibility conditions ahead, Constance slowed down. She pulled into the right lane, and stopped behind other vehicles that had also pulled over for safety.
A commercial semi-truck driver was heading down the same highway, towards the same brush fire. But instead of joining the other vehicles that pulled over, and with complete disregard for the dangerous conditions and lack of visibility, the trucker drove into the “black out.”
He crashed into the stopped vehicles.
His failure to respond to the brush fire resulted in a multi-vehicle tractor-trailer collision.
Some of the folks in stopped vehicles had minor injuries. Others – including my client Constance – were hurt very badly.
A full life changed in one instant
Constance had always been an active member of her eastern Washington community of Coulee City. She worked for nearly 30 years as an educator for the Nespelem School District. After she retired from the school district, she worked part-time at a local cooperative preschool.
Coulee City is a small town in the rural part of Washington State. Before the tractor-trailer collision, Constance would drive to various activities outside of her community and around the state. Her hobbies and interests included international travel, theater and acting, doll collecting, gardening and volkswalking. (If you are wondering, volkswalker is a form of non-competitive fitness walking and hiking.)
That all changed.
Constance’s injuries from the crash affected every aspect of her full and active life. She didn’t have the energy or physical capacity to inspect and to unpack dolls that she purchased before the crash, let alone continue collecting. She wasn’t able to travel as she did prior to the crash.
Even though she was president of the local theater company, she could no longer do the basic scheduling and planning duties. Constance had to start hire out all the gardening tasks around her home. She couldn’t participate in volkswalking events.
The rules of the road (exist for a good reason)
After a lifetime of public and community service, Constance lost her freedom and independence because a truck driver couldn’t be bothered to follow a basic rule to avoid a road hazard.
After a lifetime of public and community service, Constance lost her freedom and independence because a truck driver couldn’t be bothered to follow the basic rules of the road.
The truck driver violated a countless number of rules of the road.
As an operator of a commercial vehicle, he had duties rose far above the duties of regular drivers.
He failed at every level when he drove his truck and trailer blindly into the brush fire“black out” at a high rate of speed. Constance – and many other drivers – had known to pull over, but the professional trucker even didn’t bother to slow down. The damage done to Constance’s vehicle shows the speed in which the truck driver entered the “black out”.
Unfortunately, in my 30+ years working in truck crash law, I have seen commercial drivers disregard dangerous conditions far too often. What I usually hear is from the truck driver is, “Well, I thought I could safely get through (the hazard / dangerous weather/ road condition).”
Constance’s story is an example of what happens when drivers think the rules of the road don’t apply to them.
Attorney Kevin Coluccio