Portland Truck Crash Kills Woman on Maine Turnpike

A tractor-trailer truck driver hauling recycled paper lost control of his vehicle recently on the Maine Turnpike in Kittery, and slammed through a steel guardrail, before crossing over the median and colliding head-on with a sport-utility vehicle driven by a Rhode Island woman.

The 59-year-old SUV driver was killed instantly, according to media reports. A spokeswoman for the Maine Turnpike Authority called it one of the most severe she’d ever seen. While some truck accidents had been precipitated by tractor-trailer drivers taking out up to 800 feet of guardrail, few actually crossed over the median, she said.

There is no evidence the trucker tried to brake in the moments before impact, which usually suggests one of a few things: Extreme fatigue, intoxication, a medical event or a mechanical defect.

Authorities have identified the driver as a 58-year-old from New Hampshire, employed by a trucking company based out of Massachusetts. He was driving southbound on the turnpike when he crossed over the median and struck the SUV in the northbound lane.

Law enforcement officials say they are examining all possibilities for cause. In today’s fast-paced world, they also have to anticipate the possibility the trucker was distracted, possibly with text messaging or social media. They will analyze his phone to see if that was the case. (Although it’s more often the case with younger drivers, older drivers aren’t immune either.)

Next officials say they will examine the trucker’s log books  to determine how many hours he was on the road, to give them an idea of whether he may have had excessive road hours, which would point to driver fatigue.

Additionally, investigators have taken samples of the man’s blood and will test them for intoxicating substances. They will also delve into his medical history to see whether he maybe suffered a stroke or heart attack that led to the crash. Finally, detectives will have his rig checked out, to see whether any mechanical problems precipitated the crash and may have caused him to lose control or prevented him from braking.

Our Portland truck accident attorneys know whatever information they find will be pertinent not only to whatever criminal investigation may follow, but also to the likely civil lawsuit that will follow.

The Maine County Department of Transportation conducted a five-year study of truck crashes in the state, ending in 2010, and found 8,451 total occurred in that time, with 1,800 of those resulting in injury and 96 in fatalities. While most were reported to be in normal physical condition, those involved in fatal crashes were disproportionately fatigued or at fallen asleep.

Drivers who are tired are often pushed by employers to work more hours than they physically should or are legally allowed.

When mapping out a possible civil lawsuit following a large truck crash, you would first consider what role the company had. The legal doctrine of vicarious liability holds that employers can be held responsible for the actions of their employees simply because they were overseeing the worker’s action at the time – even if the employer hadn’t done anything inherently wrong. However, the employer might be directly negligent if it encouraged falsification of log books or overloading of trucks to encourage bigger loads to get to destinations faster.

Usually, employer insurance will cover employee accidents, but there have been plenty of cases where employers allege drivers are “independent contractors,” and therefore aren’t covered. This is where a lawsuit over a simple crash could get especially complicated. Individual truck drivers may carry their own insurance, but the limits tend to be far lower than what commercial carriers have, so it’s important that employers are held accountable in these circumstances.

Our crash injury lawyers are dedicated to helping truck accident victims pursue the best course of action.

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

Additional Resources:

Tractor-trailer crosses median in fatal Maine Turnpike crash, Sept. 18, 2014, By Dennis Hoey, Portland Press Herald

More Blog Entries:

Maine Car Accident Attributed to Older Driver Inattention, Sept. 26, 2014, Portland Car Accident Lawyer Blog


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