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Driver Impaled on Freeway: Who's Responsible?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on May 23, 2013 1:34 PM

It may seem like a scene out of the "Final Destination" movies, but on Wednesday a driver was impaled by a metal pipe on a California freeway.

Authorities found the victim, identified as Michael Cox, 33, dead on the side of Interstate 580 in Livermore, California, after a 2-foot-long metal pipe crashed through the windshield of Cox's car, impaling him, reports San Francisco's KPIX-TV.

Although there is no word yet on where the pipe may have come from, there are many possible parties who may be held legally responsible for the driver's death.

Truck Driver at Fault

In most commercial trucking accidents, there is some evidence of fault by the truck driver. This means drivers and their families can often sue for compensation by claiming that the driver was negligent.

A successful suit for someone impaled by a pipe would need to prove the truck driver:

If the truck driver was hauling something inherently dangerous, such as containers full of chemicals, the driver may be held strictly liable for injuries stemming from his cargo's dangerous nature.

Employer at Fault

Injury or wrongful death claims arising from impalement can also target employers. This is because employers can be held liable for employees' actions within the scope of their employment, also known as vicarious liability.

Not only can victims potentially sue the employer for negligent acts of their employees, they may also be able to sue the truck driver's company for negligently hiring them in the first place.

Safety Product at Fault

Perhaps the reason that the pipe went sailing off the truck bed and impaled the driver is that a strap or lock on the truck was defective.

Manufacturers are held strictly liable for products they release to consumers if the product defect was:

  • Unreasonably dangerous,
  • The cause of the injury, and
  • Not caused by some change by the owner after sale.

So if Nev-r-Break Strap Co. sold a strap to hold down metal pipes, which broke and caused a pipe to impale a driver, that company could very well be on the hook for the accident.

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