Jennifer Thomas was killed immediately after a tire flew off of a semi-truck and exploded through her windshield while she was driving on the I-75 South. Now, her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver and his trucking company. Named as plaintiffs in the suit are her husband and the administrator of her estate. They have filed their case in federal court.
What Do the Plaintiffs Claim?
Jennifer Thomas’s 2016 Acura was carrying her mother, father, and son when a 50 lb semi-tire exploded through her window and killed her instantly. Yurien Bello Chavez was the driver. The company that he worked for and the owner of the vehicle he was driving was US Xpress Transport. The truck was heading north on the I-75—the opposite direction that Jennifer Thomas was heading in.
The lawsuit claims that the truck lost two of its tires. One of these tires bounced over the median into oncoming traffic. When the tire struck Jennifer Thomas’ vehicle, she lost control of the car and struck the driver to her right. She eventually came to a stop after crashing into the median.
The suit names 10 counts of negligence against Chavez and the truck company. The main count of negligence is that Chavez failed to properly inspect his vehicle on a 24-hour schedule as required by law.
The suit also names counts of negligence against US Xpress Transport, which is also required to inspect their vehicles prior to allowing them to leave on a delivery. The suit further claims that US Xpress Transport failed to properly train and vet their employees before allowing them to go out on delivery.
In August, Chavez was charged with second-degree vehicular homicide for using unsafe equipment, failure to inspect the equipment, and defective tires.
How Strong are the Plaintiffs’ Claims?
Flying tire accidents may seem like a completely random occurrence or an act of God, but the truth is that they are entirely preventable. When a tire leaves a vehicle, the owner and operator of the vehicle is ultimately responsible for what happens. In this case, it killed a mother and nearly killed her son, mother, and father.
However, that doesn’t mean that the driver necessarily committed the bulk of the liability. One interesting point that can be found in the linked article is that the trucking company has refused to allow the plaintiffs in this case to examine the truck. This indicates that there is something there that could be potentially damning for them in court.
But the law is still on the side of the plaintiffs in this case.
Federal Laws Governing the Trucking Industry
There are numerous federal laws governing the trucking industry. These laws are based on public safety and necessity. Two laws that are pertinent to this case require inspections of vehicles.
Trucking companies are required to inspect their vehicles prior to making deliveries. This ensures that the vehicle is roadworthy and won’t malfunction, potentially causing serious danger to other drivers.
A second requirement mandates that the driver of the truck inspect their vehicle every 24 hours while out on delivery.
In this case, it’s unclear whether or not the driver could have or should have known that there was a problem with the wheels that led to the accident. But this is more pertinent to his criminal case than the civil lawsuit filed against him and his trucking company. The owner of a vehicle is ultimately responsible for the vehicle’s maintenance and when something breaks down, they’re liable for it.
Is Anyone Else Liable?
Much depends on whether or not the vehicle was serviced prior to going out on delivery. If the vehicle was serviced and the tires that were placed on the vehicle are new, then a claim could be made that the mechanic who improperly installed the tires is responsible for the accident—not the driver or the company. Nonetheless, the driver and company are responsible for inspecting the vehicle and if there is something there that they should have caught, then they are responsible for the plaintiff’s death.
Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death lawsuits are personal injury lawsuits filed on behalf of a deceased victim. The family of the victim and the victim’s estate can both be named as plaintiffs in a wrongful death claim. The estate can be compensated for medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering experienced by the victim in the accident.
The family of the victim can also be compensated for their emotional pain and the loss of their loved one. They will be compensated for the loss of financial support to their family. Jennifer Thomas’ husband can be compensated for loss of consortium, companionship, and emotional grief. Her son can be compensated for loss of moral guidance and emotional grief.
Additionally, there were three other people in the car at the time of the accident, and they all likely suffered injuries of their own. They can be compensated for their medical expenses, missed time from work, and pain and suffering damages as part of a separate claim against Chavez and the trucking company.
Lastly, there will be a question as to whether or not punitive damages are appropriate in this incident. Punitive damages are awarded when the defendant was grossly negligent. In other words, their negligence was so egregious that it deserves to be punished by the court. Punitive damages generally require proof that the defendant placed others in harm’s way without cause or concern for the wellbeing or safety of others.
Talk to a Kennesaw, GA Personal Injury Attorney
No one can ever compensate you for the loss of your loved one, but you can hold the negligent party accountable for their misdeeds. The Kennesaw, GA trial attorneys at the Roger Ghai Law Offices have recovered major verdicts from trucking companies before and can use our expertise to help you in your lawsuit. Give us a call and schedule a free consultation today.