Semi Truck Causes Backup Causing Motorcycle Crash
At about noon on Saturday June 15, 2013 a semi truck crashed on the southbound exit on I-15 near Spanish Fork, Utah. The truck was exiting the freeway onto U.S. Highway 6. It appears the truck, carrying apples, was going too fast to negotiate the exit and crashed spilling its contents and obstructing the exit. It took about three hours for the apples and the truck to be removed from the off-ramp. As a result of the semi truck crash, traffic backed up on I-15. The crash is reported by Salt Lake Tribune, Fox 13, and Deseret News.
Just before 3 p.m. a woman was southbound on I-15 approaching the backed-up traffic. She made a lane change to the right to avoid the traffic. She apparently looked to her right rear while making the lane change and did see a motorcycle ahead of her that had also slowed for the backed-up traffic. The woman’s car struck the motorcycle from behind sending the rider flying and his motorcycle crashing into the car in front of him.
The motorcyclist landed on the roadway sustaining a compound fracture to his right leg, bruising, and head injuries. LifeFlight responded and the motorcycle rider was transported to Utah Valley Medical Center where he is reported in serious but stable condition.
Who is responsible for this crash – the semi truck or the car driver? In the law we often speak of proximate cause. Proximate cause is the act that directly produces an event and without which the event would not have occurred.
In the case above one might argue that the car directly caused the injury to the motorcycle rider. She did not see him, she was traveling too fast, and she made a lane change when not safe etc.
Alternatively, one might argue that the semi truck caused a backup of traffic that necessitated her changing lanes. Therefore it was the semi truck that caused the car to change lanes and crash into the motorcycle causing the injuries.
To determine which is right we would look to what we call “foreseeability.” Foreseeability is that which can be reasonable anticipated. Let’s assume that the truck driver negligently was driving too fast and caused his truck to crash. The next question is whether it is foreseeable that traffic would back up on I-15. I think the answer to this question is yes. The next question is it foreseeable that backed up traffic would result in people changing lanes. Again, the answer is probably yes. Is it foreseeable that changing lanes because of backed up traffic would cause a crash? Again, I think the answer is yes.
The trucking company would argue that the car driver was a superseding cause of the crash. A superseding cause is an act that the law considers sufficient to override the cause for which the original person was responsible – in this case the truck driver who crashed his truck. If the car driver’s negligence is seen as a superseding cause the truck driver would be exonerated for causing the crash into the motorcycle.
These aspects of the case, proximate cause and superseding cause, would have to be argued in court. If I were representing the motorcycle rider I would sue both the trucking company and the car driver. At trial we would have the trucking company blaming the car driver and the car driver blaming the trucking company.
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