DeLand, FL — A motorcyclist from DeLand was killed on Wednesday (November 6, 2013) after an 18-wheeler truck pulled out in front of him on Old Daytona Road. Police identified the motorcyclist as 37-year old John Varga Jr. and identified the truck driver as Ervin Woodruff, 34.

Woodruff was driving an 18-wheeler north along Newport Avenue at about 9:35 p.m. when he came to a stop and then proceeded to turn onto Old Daytona. Not seeing Varga’s westbound motorcycle, apparently, Woodruff pulled into his path and caused a collision.

Varga’s motorcycle crashed into the left side of Woodruff’s trailer and he was killed immediately.

Police and the FHP were investigating the matter and said that a standard toxicology test would be given to Woodruff, though there’s no indication alcohol was a factor. More updates will be released later.

Scene of the Accident


The particulars of this accident are interesting because I’ve actually seen this same fact patten several times over the past few months. An 18-wheeler or semi-truck will either disregard a stop sign altogether or simply not look closely enough before pulling into traffic and causing a wreck. Now, it would be easy to think that this kind of accident is going to be simple: the truck driver is at fault and should therefore have to compensate the victim or their family for their damages. But, any attorney worth their salt will tell you that’s rarely the case. On the contrary, the trucking company will likely fight very hard to avoid accepting full liability here.

In Florida, a jury determines who is awarded damages in a lawsuit by using comparative fault; i.e., who is at fault for the accident. Even in an instance where it seems that one party is 100% at fault, the defense can argue that the victim was, in fact, speeding and therefore 10% at fault as well – just to make this easier to think about. It’s not uncommon for a trucking company to try and find reasons that the victim or some other third party contributed to the accident as well, even if it’s just a little bit. By lowering their liability (ex: 100% at fault to 80% at fault), the trucking company is able to save themselves money because the compensation is based on the percentage of fault. Example: Driver A hits Driver B and causes $100 in damage. But Driver A is only 80% at fault because Driver B was actually speeding and on the phone at the time, not paying attention. In this scenario, Driver A is only liable for $80.

The primary motivation here for the trucking company is to protect their financial interests, including their driver.


— Grossman Law Offices

Recent Comments to the Blog

Jason is back to work and is now playing Sled Hockey and wheelchair rugby!! Jason is the strongest and most amazing man! He may nly have 1/2 a leg, but that is ALL he is lacking!! Thanks to prayer and GOD and awsome first responders and Baylor doctors. Jason's wife, Sheila
— Sheila
I'm a former employee. I had brought up this exact scenario and suggested a maintenance procedure that would eliminate the possibility of this type injury. Obviously my warning went unheeded.
— Tophat
I was actually a couple cars back from this wreck, one of the first on the scene, and helped administer CPR on the victims. The truck driver was going way too fast, but it was actually his trailer that swung around and hit the suv, the semi-truck ended in the median.
— Leif Burton
I appreciate how you've commentated on this tragedy--informative, with questions, but not hurtful. I live within 30 mins of this crash site, and I am appalled at the entire situation :(. I can't even begin to understand what could have happened to make this come to fruition, but I will be keeping up with it so I can learn what investigations bring to light about how something awful like this could happen. Rest in peace, Thomas, Carolyn and Carolyn...
— Summer
I am Anthony Siffords daughter. im 13 and i miss my dad i just wanted everyone to know that he is in a better place now and i would to thank everyone for the support. i miss my dad but it was amazing to see how many people had been toughed by my dad god bless thanks for everything...
— Hannah Sifford
I am Rodney Palmer's sister-inlaw. I am amazed and grateful for all the heartfelt wishes and support for our family... It is difficult indeed to put our thoughts into words, but we very much appreciate your kind and helpful words at a time when these things mean so much. Losing someone as special as Rodney has been tough, but knowing the he has touched so many people's lives keeps my sister's strengthens our family.
— Maureen
A lot of people say smack about lawyers, but I want to say that I'm glad there is a way that people who are wronged by corporate neglect can get justice and force change. We are living in a world where corporations and govt care less than ever about common people, and I support your work. I hope I will never need your services.
— Martin Onasis
My friend Michael was the one who got hit by this train. This is the ONLY article I can find on it!! How is that possible? It happened almost 5 days ago! Thank you for actually caring about us "no name" people. I hope when more information comes in you will post it as soon as you can. Thank you again!! God bless you
— Leslie
Tony was the step Grant father and it's been hard for the whole family but we know he is in a better place now. It's nice to know that people are rasing awareness with my grandfathers story. Thanks, family and friends of Tony Wray.
— Mercedes Stanley
Thank you for posting these accident articles on your site. At the company that I work for, e deal with monitoring construction activity and work around trenches and all sorts of construction equipment/vehicles. I sometimes wonder if construction companies have enough safety training to inform employees of how to protect themselves while on the job.
— Erik Hofmann
I'd like to thank you for giving my cousin's death some type of recognition and letting our family know he is not a lost cause. Thank you <3
— Victoria

Responses (3)

  1. Mr. Grossman, just a curious question. If vehicle A comes to a complete stop at an intersection. The driver looks both ways and determines it’s safe to proceed making a left hand turn onto a two lane road. Is the driver of vehicle A still at fault if vehicle B traveling with no headlights on, at more than 3 times the speed limit blowing through a 4 way stop intersection 150 feet prior to striking vehicle A on the left hand side? In addition to these facts the driver of vehicle B at no time applied their brakes. Is this scenario any different than the article you just mentioned?

    1. Of course, that fact pattern would certainly change things. When I wrote this post, those details weren’t available and it wasn’t apparent that the intersection was a four-way stop. If that motorcyclist had been excessively speeding (with no headlights on), then it would certainly seem that he’s liable for the accident. Whenever a jury has to look at an accident like this one and determine causal factors, they always look to the proximate cause. Was the purported speeding and failure to employ headlights preventable? Yes. Had the motorcyclist been traveling at a normal speed, with headlights on, would the accident still have happened? Determining the answer to that is usually the way an attorney would define proximate cause.

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