On the morning of April 13, 2017, a fiery collision occurred south of the Hale Boggs Bridge in Luling, Louisiana on Interstate 310. The collision between a hobbled dump truck and a gasoline tanker caused a massive explosion reminiscent of a bomb drop and claimed the life of one driver and serious burn injuries to another driver. Motorist Andreas Plyler captured an unbelievable video of the moment the explosion occurred. The collision occurred less than 5 miles from our office on River Road in Luling, LA.
The thoughts and prayers of the entire team here at Louisiana Disability Law go out to the family of the deceased driver and the burned driver and his family. In any situation such as this, the lives of all affected are certainly changed forever, and the legal system cannot truly replace what was lost.
The incident does, however, provide a good example to discuss issues of comparative fault and damages under Louisiana Tort Law. I preface this discussion by stating at the outset that I do not know all of the facts that lead to this collision and that I am making no comment on who is or was at fault in the incident. This is only a discussion of legal principles at play in any incident, and this merely provides a contemporary example for further discussion.
Louisiana is a comparative fault state for negligence claims. This means that in court, a judge or jury will assess fault to each party who is found negligent for an incident. The fault assessed can be anywhere from 1%-100% (if a party is 0% at fault, then they are not a cause of the incident).
Let’s look at some of the primary players in the crash discussed above – (1) driver of dump truck; (2) driver of gasoline tanker; (3) owner/lessor of dump truck; (4) owner/lessor of gasoline tanker; (5) employer of dump truck driver (if different than owner); (6) employer of gasoline tanker driver (if different than owner); (7) manufacturer of dump truck; (8) manufacturer of gasoline tanker; (9) maintenance provider for dump truck (if different than owner/lessor); (10) maintenance provider for gasoline tanker (if different than owner/lessor); and/or (11) other potentially responsible parties including other drivers, other parts manufacturers, anyone else. From a legal perspective, inquiry (called discovery) into these issues will be important in determining who bears responsibility for the incident.
Under Louisiana law, if a party is responsible for 1% of the incident, they are responsible for 1% of the total damages and if a party is responsible for 100% for the incident, they are responsible for 100% of the damages. Each party therefore only bears responsibility for their contribution to the incident.
For the injured and deceased parties, they would only be able to recover for that percentage of fault attributed to others, not including their employer (which falls under worker’s compensation protections).
So let’s assume the tanker driver and/or his employer are found 30% at fault, the dump truck driver and/or her employer are found 20% at fault and all other responsible parties are found 50% at fault. Under this scenario, the tanker driver could recover 70% of his damages and the dump truck driver’s family could recover 80% of her damages. Again, this is only an example based on assumptions I am making to illustrate comparative fault. This is not to place fault on any party in this incident as I do not have all the facts and, even if I did, distributing fault is the role of the judge or jury.
Of course, from a legal perspective, you want to minimize your client’s fault and maximize the fault of all others, based on the evidence and the laws applicable to the case at hand.
Again, our thoughts and prayers are with the affected families of this tragic incident that hit close to our Luling home.
Should you or a loved one suffer a disabling injury and need a local attorney to advocate for you, give Loyd a call at (985) 240-9773.