One person died and several others suffered serious injuries when 27 vehicles rammed into each other during a blinding sandstorm on Interstate 80 in northern Nevada. According to police, late afternoon winds blew dust from recently plowed farmland to create zero-visibility conditions on the highway. Conditions were so bad that water trucks were used to dampen the road surface to reduce the brown dust so rescue workers could see to assist the injured victims.
The 27 vehicles involved in the accident included cars, SUVs, tractor-trailers and a tow truck. Police identified the deceased victim as a truck driver whose vehicle slammed into the rear of another truck before being hit in the rear by two other commercial vehicles.
Attorneys like Adam Kutner who practice personal injury and negligence law know that determining responsibility for the serious injuries or deaths that can occur in a motor vehicle accident depends on identifying the parties at fault. When the cause of the accident, as in this case, appears to be an “act of God,” determining if someone was at fault can be difficult for the police, insurance investigator and personal injury attorneys who must sort through the physical evidence and eyewitness statements. Piecing together random bits of evidence to portray a series of events that culminate in a highway crash is similar to putting together a complex jigsaw puzzle.
There is more involved in determining fault in a motor vehicle accident than gathering and reviewing evidence. When representing a client who has been seriously injured in an automobile accident, Adam Kutner must evaluate the conduct of the parties involved in the accident to decide if any one of them was negligent.
Negligence is the failure of a person to behave in a manner that conforms to a standard established by law. This “reasonably prudent person” standard is used to prove that a party to an accident who fails to act with the level of care expected of a reasonably prudent person under similar circumstances is negligent.
A licensed driver is authorized to operate a motor vehicle on the public highways but, according to the reasonably prudent person standard, the driver must maintain control of the vehicle at all times and keep a proper lookout for other vehicles or pedestrians using the highways. Complying with the duty of care requires more from a motorist than simply obeying the vehicle and traffic laws.
For example, a motorist who drives at the posted speed limit might be violating the duty of care if the weather conditions make visibility so poor that seeing other vehicles is impossible at that speed. Being a careful drive involves more than strict adherence to posted speed limits. A person who fails to decrease a vehicle’s speed when conditions or circumstances require it could be negligent if an accident occurs
Attorney Adam Kutner realizes that the police and investigators on Interstate 80 will have their hands full piecing together the cause of the accident. One factor that will be of concern is how the drivers reacted to the blinding sandstorm. Would a reasonably prudent person have slowed down to compensate for the lack of visibility, and did these motorists do so?