Early Friday morning, around 12:30a.m., a passenger car spun out on a snow slick Interestate 81 near mile marker 58 in Wythe County, Virginia. The car came to rest in the left hand lane of the two northbound lanes. William Edward Smith Sr., 54, of Sylva, N.C., pulled his Dodge Caravan over onto the right hand shoulder and stopped so that his son could render aid to the stranded driver. As William Edward Smith, Jr., 25, of Mooresburg, Tenn. began making his way toward the stranded vehicle, a tractor-trailer driver lost control of his big rig and started jackknifing toward the minivan. The tractor trailer crashed into the minivan and then ran over the younger Mr. Smith. Both father and son were killed.
At the time of the crash, it was snowing quite hard and the road was white. The truck driver caused the collision because he violated several Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These safety rules require truck drivers to exercise extreme caution when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. If the roads become dangerous, the rules require the truck driver to stop driving. If the truck driver had followed the rules, then these two courageous men would still be alive.
Virginia State Police Trooper H.D. Mooney has not completed his investigation of this crash. Charges against the truck driver are pending.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are more than 450,000 tractor-trailer related collisions each year.
In the vast majority of the cases that we investigate on behalf of victims and survivors of truck crashes, we find several violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations by the truck driver and the truck company. In my legal opinion, for a truck driver to operate an 80,000 pound vehicle, when snow is sticking to the road and the forecast predicts blizzard-like conditions, constitutes gross negligence and could subject both the driver and the truck company to punitive damages.