• October 27, 2021

Jeffie Barbee Killed in Crash with 18-Wheeler on I-81 North in Washington County, VA

Washington County, VA -- October 21, 2021, 76-year-old Jeffie Barbee was fatally injured in a collision with a tractor-trailer on Interstate 81 North in Washington County.

Authorities say the incident happened around 3:25 a.m. on I-81 North near mile marker 10.3. Preliminary investigation suggests 64-year-old truck driver Dale Allen pulled his commercial 18-wheeler onto the right shoulder of the interstate and fell asleep behind the wheel after stopping. Reports indicate the truck then rolled slowly back into the northbound lanes and crossed through them until it ran off the left side of the road and hit a guardrail.

The truck came to a stop across both travel lanes; soon after, Barbee approached in a northbound Mini Cooper and hit the truck's trailer. Barbee suffered critical injuries in the collision and was transported to an area hospital where she died on Friday, Oct 22.

Allen was unhurt and was charged with reckless driving.

The crash remains under investigation as of this writing. No further information is currently available.

Commentary on Jeffie Barbee Accident on I-81 North in Washington County

It seems pretty significant that that semi-truck in the roadway became a 40-ton roadblock after the driver not only pulled over to take a nap (not a legally sanctioned reason to stop on the shoulder), but apparently failed to properly stop and put the truck in gear. Moreover, if the driver believed he was at a full stop and planned to catch a few winks then it's unlikely the truck's lights were on, suggesting it may have been hard to see in the roadway.

As things stand it seems like the trucker made several serious errors before this crash and tragedy followed. Of course, neither he nor his employer are required to agree with that. Despite how damning the details appear, the company may already be building its defense against any suggestion that it's responsible for this terrible event.

Jeffie Barbee Killed in Crash with 18-Wheeler on I-81 North in Washington Co, VA

People are often rudely shocked when they approach a trucking company after a crash and are told in so many words to kick rocks. The default position of just about every trucking company is to dispute any allegation of wrongdoing and not to admit fault no matter how preliminary reports might portray things. They are free to argue with both the news and the police, and will do so vigorously unless/until the objective facts of the situation say they are to blame. Generally that means they'll find a way to spin matters to point the finger at road or lighting conditions, weather, other vehicles, or even the victims themselves for "improper evasive maneuvers." Just as insidious, they might vaguely acknowledge that the truck driver might have done something wrong (without truly admitting blame), then promise to "look into it" and kick the can down the road as long as they are able.

There are additional complexities to consider here because the crash happened in Virginia. "Old Dominion" uses an archaic and unfair theory of liability called pure contributory negligence. In a nutshell, this system says that a victim may only collect damages if they can prove another party was 100% responsible for an accident. If defense can show the victim was even slightly to blame, the case is thrown out. This system is highly adversarial toward victims, and in a "pure contrib" state one's case must be airtight--not impossible, certainly, but it requires careful and thorough attention to obtain the necessary proof.

I recognize that the reported details of this crash seem pretty straightforward in terms of fault, but as always I must discourage taking that for granted. Almost no commercial truck accident is really open-and-shut by the time a company weighs in and tries to escape liability. That's why a full investigation is crucial to ensure only the facts do the talking. At the very least, the victim's loved ones deserve to know that every effort was made to bring them all the available answers. Any further steps would partly depend on what is uncovered.

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