In a horrific tragedy, a child was killed in a car accident 30 miles north of Modesto in Stockton, California. The accident occurred on Highway 4, known as the "cross town freeway" which connects Highway 99 and Interstate 5 in Stockton.
The name of the child was not released nor would it be blogged here anyhow. In any event, local news outlets such as the Stockton Record and News 10 in Sacramento have reported two children were in the back seat of a Ford Fusion which was hit from behind by a two truck traveling the same direction on Eastbound Highway 4. Once child, a toddler was killed and the other was placed in critical condition as of Friday night. The California Highway Patrol has also reported that the tow truck driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The tow truck company is out of Manteca, California, which is located between Modesto and Stockton.
This accident will surely lead to a civil liability on behalf of the two truck driver and the company for whom he works. In light of this tragic event, it is still important to review the legal principles behind accidents such as this.
Again as written in previous blog entries, negligence is the failure to exercise the care that a reasonably person would under the same circumstances. The question is whether the driver of the tow truck acted as other drivers would under the same circumstances. To prove the tow truck driver civilly liable under a negligence theory the plaintiff must prove (1) The driver owed a duty to other drivers (2) The driver breached this duty (3) The case of the accident was the driver's breach of this duty and (4) The plaintiff sustained injury.
Under the facts known here, there was some type of traffic jam on Highway 4 in Stockton. The tow truck driver although traveling under the speed limit, still ran into the back of the Ford Fusion, containing the two children. An ordinary prudent driver would have slowed in time to avoid a collision. This is especially true since the driver was from a local company and should have been away of the frequent traffic jams on this particular stretch of highway. Even if he or she was unaware of the usual traffic jams on this highway, a prudent driver would not hit someone from the rear anyhow. The driver of a car who hits another car from behind is almost certainly held civilly liable for damages. This theory of rear end collisions is almost common knowledge.
If readers remember from previous blog entries, then they will remember that vicarious liability is when one person is held civilly liable for the wrongs that are done by people who they direct or control. The most common example of vicarious liability is with the employer-employee relationship.
Under this theory of liability, employers can be held liable for their employee's wrongdoing when the employee is acting "within the scope of employment." There are several questions the law tries to answer when determining whether the person acting was acting as an employee or as an individual. (1) Did the conduct occur during the time limits of the employment? (2) Did the conduct occur within the space limits of the employment? (3) Was the individual serving the needs of the employer? (4) Was the conduct which caused the harm something that the employer hired the employee to do?.
Here, the tow truck driver was driving a tow truck on a highway near the location of his company. It would be assumed that Manteca tow trucks would be driving in this area as it is within a 10 minute drive of Manteca. In addition, the driver was driving during the day time on a highway, which suggests the driver was doing exactly what he was hired for. Although the company may have a different version of events, it is going to be difficult for them to wiggle out of being liable for their employees action.
For any questions or comments contact the Law Office of Tai C. Bogan