Tammy Farver Dead, Heather Christopher Hurt in New Palestine, IN, Accident
New Palestine, IN -- January 4, 2017, Tammy Farver was killed and Heather Christopher was injured in an accident where a wrecker hit a car into oncoming traffic.
According to New Palestine authorities, the incident occurred around 9:30 a.m. near the intersection of US Highway 52 and South Village Drive.
Preliminary reports indicate that 41-year-old Farver was in the westbound left turn lane of US 52 waiting to turn into the parking lot of First Merchants Bank. As she waited, her vehicle was suddenly rear-ended by a wrecker.
This collision pushed her car into oncoming traffic lanes. A moment later, her car was hit head-on by an eastbound sedan.
Following the incident, EMS rushed to the scene and transported both Farver and the driver of the sedan, 47-year-old Christopher, to University Health Methodist Hospital. Farver's injuries were critical, and she was eventually pronounced dead at the hospital. Christopher's injuries were reportedly minor.
The driver of the wrecker, Jason Holderfield, was not injured. He told investigators that he did not remember details on how the crash happened.
At this time, police have not indicated any charges or citations being considered. They say the crash remains under investigation.
Map of the Area
This truly is an unfortunate accident, and these kinds of crashes happen much too often. When most people read about a crash like this, they'll probably assume that things are pretty straight forward. The truck rear-ended the car into oncoming traffic and caused a woman to lose her life. Therefore, the truck driver will be held responsible, and the trucking company will compensate the victim. The truth is that things are almost never this simple. What complicates seemingly straight-forward accidents like these is a legal concept known as proximate cause.
Proximate cause as used in personal injury and wrongful death refers to the event that is most directly responsible for damages sustained in an accident. It is akin to the domino that sets the whole run in motion. If a car driver died in an accident because a truck ran a red light, a jury might determine that, "but for the truck running the red light, the driver of the car would not have been killed." They are determining that the proximate cause of the car driver's death is the truck running the red light.
So let's look at this particular accident and the possibilities that arise. There are essentially three key vehicles involved: the wrecker, Farver's vehicle, and the oncoming vehicle that hit Farver's car. As I mentioned earlier, most people would see the proximate cause as being the wrecker rear-ending Farver's vehicle into oncoming traffic. This is certainly a strong possibility. Maybe the truck driver wasn't paying attention or speeding or following too closely. It could be reasoned that the driver should have been driving in a manner which would have avoided the accident.
However, let's say that maybe several moments passed between the wrecker hitting the car into oncoming traffic lanes and the oncoming vehicle hitting the car. If enough time passed, the truck driver could easily suggest that while his actions played a role in the accident, the oncoming vehicle hitting Farver's car was the main cause of her death. Why wasn't that vehicle able avoid the crash? Was that driver texting? Were they speeding? There are a lot of possible factors that could be involved. If it was found that the oncoming vehicle's driver, under normal circumstance, should have been able to avoid the accident, a jury could determine that the oncoming vehicle's driver was in fact the proximate cause, not the wrecker.
Consider also the hypothetical possibility of the wrecker driver being intoxicated. Obviously I'm not saying this is the case, but for argument's sake, a jury could determine that the truck driver's intoxication was the proximate cause. This opens the possibility that a bar, restaurant, or other licensed business could be held liable for the damages sustained in the accident. Or maybe brake failure caused the accident and a company could be held liable. Maybe a mechanical failure resulted from a botched repair job and a body shop could be held liable.
As you can see, a lot of different factors can be at play in any given accident and our legal system leaves it up to juries to sort this all out. Not all of these factors are particularly common, but they've happened before in other crashes. Whatever the case may be, it all comes down to the context of the accident, the evidence presented to the jury, and, ultimately, the jury's decision.
If I can come up with several scenarios where fault doesn't lie with the truck driver, but with someone else, you can be certain that a commercial insurance adjuster could do the same. This is part of the reason that commercial truck accidents are quite different from car accidents. Add in the fact that their could be hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line and its easy to see that insurance companies have a strong incentive to pursue alternate theories of liability.
While an accident might seem straight forward to many people, there are many directions which truck drivers can point the finger in order to avoid or minimize blame. Whether or not these things are actually true depend on further investigations. The most important thing after an accident is for those affected to be prepared for the obstacles they may face.
--Grossman Law Offices