Foreseeability And Car Crashes

September 6th, 2016 by Farhan Naqvi in Motorcycle Accidents

A motorcycle rider is dead following a bizarre chain-reaction motorcycle crash that took place near the Interstate 80/Interstate 580 interchange.

Nevada Highway Patrol officers state that a large truck lost part of its load, and the contents spilled onto the highway; the debris caused two trailing vehicles to crash into each other. After another vehicle slowed down to avoid the wreck, a motorcycle rider slammed into the back of the slow-moving car.

No one else was hurt and none of the names were released.

Rule

To obtain compensation for damages, the plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the complained-of injuries were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) action or inaction. This rule comes from the 1928 decision Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Company. In this case, Ms. Palsgraf and her daughters were waiting at the station for a train to Coney Island. Meanwhile, on the other side of the platform, a tardy passenger whom some witnesses described as somewhat overweight tried to clamor on board a departing train as it was already in motion. To assist the man, one railroad steward tried to push him into the car from behind while another one tried to pull him inside from the top of the stairs.

During all this activity, the man dropped a small package which, unbeknownst to anyone else, contained fireworks. The fireworks exploded, creating a shock wave that knocked over a large penny scale on the other side of the platform, and these scales fell onto Ms. Palsgraf.

The trial and appellate courts sided with Ms. Palsgraf, but New York’s highest court reversed that decision. Judge Benjamin Cardozo, who later served on the United States Supreme Court, wrote that the “consequences to be followed must first be rooted in a wrong,” and that the scales falling onto Ms. Palsgraf was not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the workers’ almost comical attempts to help the passenger board the train. In dissent, Judge William Andrews proposed a much broader “zone of danger” test under which the railroad company would have been legally responsible for Ms. Palsgraf’s injuries.

Application

It is normally best to sue a company if at all possible, because companies typically have greater resources than individuals. If the above story resulted in a trial, and the survivors of the motorcycle crash victim filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the trucking company because of the driver’s failure to properly secure the load, what would be the probable outcome?

In Palsgraf, there were three degrees of separation (passenger jostling to crane toppling over to plaintiff’s injury) between the negligent act and the victim’s damages. In the above story, there were four degrees of separation (lost load to two-car collision to slowed vehicle to motorcycle crash) between the negligent act and the victim’s damages.

Therefore, under the majority rule, it appears that the trucking company would not be responsible for the motorcycle crash. However, under Nevada law, truck drivers are common carriers and, as such, they are held to a much higher standard than non-commercial drivers. In special circumstances, some courts expand the “zone of danger” test; for example, a judge in New York recently allowed a man to be prosecuted for DUI manslaughter even though he was not even in his car at the moment the victim died, because his allegedly drunk driving set a chain of events into motion which culminated in the victim’s death.

Reach Out to a Feisty Lawyer

Motorcycle crashes often involve complex legal issues. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury attorney in Las Vegas, contact Naqvi Injury Law today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.


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