Maine Trucking Accident Death of Deputy Spurs Review of Carrier Safety Record

The death of a state police detective in a Maine trucking accident on I-95  in Hampden was initially called a “bizarre” and “freak accident,” but is now under greater scrutiny by traffic homicide investigators after the motor carrier’s safety record revealed a troubling history of safety violations. As Bangor truck injury lawyers, we’d say while it’s fair to assert the exact circumstances leading to the detective’s death were uncommon, the term “freak accident” insinuates it wasn’t something that could have been stopped. But if a “freak accident” is even partially the result of poor truck maintenance, improper repairs, overloading or inadequate road safety checks, that can be the basis for a Maine negligence lawsuit against those responsible.

According to local news, the 31-year-old detective was assisting a disabled motorist on the snowy highway when two  wheels of a passing tractor-trailer suddenly came unhinged, flew off in either direction, with one fatally strikng the officer, a husband and new father. The driver of that tractor-trailer reportedly failed to stop at the scene, and his actions/sobriety are under investigation.

Meanwhile, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in January released early 2018 national truck crash statistics, which seem to indicate increasing road risks. The percentage of all fatal crashes involving at least one large truck increased from 11.1 percent in 2015 to 12.4 percent in 2017. Transportation Topics reported deadly large truck crashes were up more than 3 percent in one recent year. Occupant fatalities rose 24 percent in two years.

Trucking industry associations have criticized the FMCSA’s methodology. These same organizations have repeatedly alleged FMCSA’s publicly-released trucking carrier safety violation history is too easily “unfairly misconstrued.”

Without conducting our own investigation or having the official final report, it’s impossible to say who, if anyone, might have been at-fault in this Maine trucking accident, but it’s not been our experience over decades as Bangor trucking accident lawyers that well-manufactured, properly-maintained wheels generally fly off without cause. What especially raises a red flag for us is that this same lumber truck was placed out-of-service last year after two federal safety inspections revealed problems with the the tires, brakes, steering and a fuel leak. The owner of that truck reportedly also owns another commercial vehicle.

Motor vehicle safety experts have gone on record to say that when a truck wheel separates from the trailer, the problem tends to be an issue with the axle, seal or bearings. Although such cases aren’t a regular occurrence by any stretch, it happens often enough to establish some commonalities. The last time it happened in Maine is believed to be the late 1970s. That incident, in Lewiston, also involved a victim (tow truck operator) killed while assisting a stranded driver.

Aside from rogue tires striking good samaritans, tires also have reportedly struck other vehicles, caused crashes and even blasted through windows and windshields, inflicting fatal injuries.

Primary causes identified by safety experts are:

  • Maintenance lapses
  • Defectively-designed or manufactured truck parts
  • General wear-and-tear

State police are investigating the Hampden truck accident, which reportedly includes a full examination of the truck’s condition. It’s likely that any wrongful death case filed by the victim’s widow would require testimony from a similarly-qualified expert witness to establish negligence – and by which party (driver/owner, repair shop, manufacturer, etc.) – as causal.

If you are the victim of a Bangor trucking accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.