A 79-year-old man from North Carolina was driving his Buick along a section of Maine highway commonly referred to as “The Bluffs,” which overlooks the Frenchman Bay. It’s a stunning view, and the driver pulled onto the shoulder around 1 p.m. to take a look. His 73-year-old wife stayed in her seat while he exited his vehicle, which was fully off the roadway.
A 2007 box truck, driven by a 41-year-old Bangor man, seated next to an 18-year-old passenger, came barreling down the road, veered across an oncoming lane of traffic and went off the side of the road as it headed east toward Bar Harbor. The truck crashed into the Buick and struck the man who had stopped to site see. He was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
His wife too suffered serious injuries, but they are not believed to be life-threatening. The truck driver was not seriously hurt. His young passenger was not injured.
The road closed for several hours while investigators worked to piece together what happened. They have not yet released why the truck crossed the center line into oncoming traffic and off the side of the road.
Reporters were able to glean, based on photos taken at the accident, that the truck involved belongs to a large insulation installing company, with 125 locations in 48 states. The firm also installs rain gutters, shower doors, mirrors, fireplaces, garage doors and shelving.
The fact that this driver may have been working – and for a large firm – at the time of the crash could be good news for the decedent’s widow, should she choose to file a truck accident lawsuit.
That’s because the legal theory of vicarious liability – also sometimes referred to as “imputed negligence” – is a form of secondary liability that arises under the common law doctrine of respondeat superior, Latin for, “Let the Master Answer.” Basically, employers can be held responsible for the negligent actions of their employees if that action arose in the course and scope of employment.
This is often far more preferable to filing civil action against an individual, even if that person has auto insurance. That’s because companies – especially those that require their workers to drive as part of their daily duties – tend to purchase sizable liability insurance policies for just this purpose. So long as the individual was acting in the course and scope of employment – i.e., making a delivery, returning to a job site, running an errand for a supervisor – the injuries that result from that action should be covered under the policy.
Although action could possibly be taken directly against the driver, it’s likely that his insurance coverage would be substantially less. The likelihood of individual assets covering the full amount of a wrongful death or serious personal injury judgment is usually quite low.
Companies have a duty to hire responsible drivers, make sure they are properly trained and give them the tools to safely do their jobs. Although we don’t know exactly what happened here, it’s probable the driver’s company will at some point contend with liability in this case.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Man hit, killed by truck in Bar Harbor, Sept. 16, 2015, By Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News