A truck driver who lost a ladder caused a four-vehicle accident which killed one person and injured two others. A ladder fell off a truck and onto I-285, causing a vehicle to hit the ladder. The accident caused a chain reaction involving two more vehicles and a tractor-trailer which jackknifed and blocked all lanes of I-285 North. The driver of the first car was killed. The driver of the truck carrying the ladder has not been found or identified although authorities are working from bar codes on the ladder to track down the purchase, which may eventually lead to the driver.
I don't usually link to and blog about stories of fatal wrecks which, unfortunately, happen most every day in Georgia--(it doesn't seem right to use others' tragedies in a blog entry on a personal injury lawyer website). However, this particular news story is a cautionary tale for both those who may haul, carry or secure items to their vehicle - and for those traveling behind such vehicles.
Naturally, Georgia has a specific prohibition on operating a vehicle with a load on or in the vehicle unless the load is adequately secured to prevent dropping or shifting of such load onto the roadway as to create a safety hazard. O.C.G.A. 40-6-254. It's pretty simple: secure your load. Secure it! If you've bought something large, opt for delivery of the large item rather than attempting to strap a mattress or table on top of your small sedan. The cost of delivery is much less than the risk to others on the road and the potential for a serious accident. If you're going on vacation or on a trip with a rooftop carrier or other items strapped on top - use extra bungee cords and appropriate straps for a car roof (sold at hardware and home improvement stores). Check your load frequently while traveling.
If you're a contractor or in a profession that requires you to have equipment such as ladders on your truck, again, make sure it's secured. Employers of those who haul equipment around need train their employees as well as remind them to properly secure the equipment.If the driver of the truck which dropped the ladder and caused the accident was an employee, his employer may on the hook for the civil damages arising from this accident under the
respondeat superior theory (translation: an employer is responsible for the actions of his employees performed during the course of employment).
So, for people traveling behind or near a vehicle that has a suspiciously loose load, what's the best course of action? Common sense says to move out of that lane and don't travel directly behind such a vehicle. If you can't immediately switch lanes, try to put distance between your vehicle and the other vehicle such that you might have time to react if a load comes flying off. My strategy is just to get away from vehicles like that.
The driver with the ladder likely didn't intend for his ladder to fall off and kill someone, but it was as simple as ensuring the ladder wasn't going to go anywhere before getting on I-285. It might have taken just a few extra minutes. This was negligent behavior and not only could there be civil consquences in the form of a wrongful death claim against the driver and his employer,(if applicable), there will certainly be a basis for vehicular manslaughter charges as well. And all of this likely could have been prevented.
Source: "Driver who lost ladder in fatal I-285 crash could face criminal charges," March 13, 2013 AJC online edition.