By anderson-law2, Jun 8 2016 09:50PM
Photo Courtesy of Oregon State Police
The Oregon State Police reported that on June 5, 2016 at about 9PM a 2015 Freightliner towing a flatbed trailer was traveling westbound on Highway 20 east of Burns when it attempted to pass a slower moving motorhome in a no passing area (double yellow line). While in the eastbound lane of travel, it encountered an oncoming 2005 Ford Focus. The driver of the focus swerved her vehicle towards the ditch to avoid striking the truck head-on. At the same time, the driver of the truck swerved towards the ditch. The vehicles collided head-on near the fog line of the highway.
The Oregon State Police reported that the driver of the Ford, Sara E ALLISON, age 30, of Boise was pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency personnel. A passenger in the vehicle, Matthew T ALLISON, age 27, also of Boise, was taken by air ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland for life threatening injuries. The driver of the Freightliner, James W DECOU, age 32, of Roy, Utah, was transported to Harney County Hospital where he was treated and released for minor injuries.
Highway 20 was closed for several hours for investigation of the crash. The Oregon State Police reports that his is an ongoing investigation with potential criminal charges being considered.
In the case of a tragic crash like this the facts indicate that there also is civil liability on the part of the semi-driver and his employer. That is, the truck driver and his employer are liable for damages suffered by the Sara Allison and by her family for this tragic loss and by Matthew Allison for his injuries.
No passing zones may be established on Oregon roads where the road authority has determined that overtaking or passing or driving to the left to the center of the road way would be especially hazardous and that passing in that zone should be prohibited. The road authority then marks the road by a yellow unbroken line on the pavement to indicate that passing is not allowed.
Passing in a no passing zone is a violation of Oregon law which provides in ORS 811.420 that a person commits the offense of passing in a no passing zone if the person drives a vehicle on the left side of a roadway in a no passing zone that has been established and designated to prohibit such movements by appropriate signs or markings posted on the roadway.
Even if there is not a “no passing zone” established on a certain section of roadway, there is another Oregon statute that limits passing. ORS 811.410 provides that (1) A person commits the offense of unsafe passing on the left if the person violates any of the following requirements concerning the overtaking and passing of vehicles:
(a) The driver of a vehicle that is overtaking any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.
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(c) The driver of a vehicle shall not drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing a vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless the left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing to be completed without interfering with the operation of a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or a vehicle overtaken.
When Oregon statutes like these are violated, as they clearly appear to be in this tragic crash, the driver of the semi-truck is not only liable for his negligence, he is strictly liable, meaning that he and his employer are responsible and liable to the injured parties because his conduct in driving was not only negligent, it was negligence per se. That is negligence due to the violation of a law meant to protect the public, such as these no passing laws. Negligence per se differs from ordinary negligence in that a plaintiff alleging negligence per se need not prove that a reasonable person should have acted differently. The conduct (in this case unsafe passing) is automatically considered negligent, and the focus of the claim will be over whether that conduct caused damage to the plaintiff. In this case, the conduct of the semi-truck driver put the truck in the oncoming lane where it was not allowed to be, causing the collision with the Allisons’ vehicle, and all their tragic damages and losses.
At Anderson Law Center, we have over 35 years of experience helping individuals and families navigate the complexities of legal issues involving auto accidents, semi-truck accidents, and wrongful death claims in Oregon. We are licensed in Oregon and Idaho, with our main office in Boise, Idaho. If you need advice or help with a car, truck, semi-truck, commercial vehicle, motorcycle, or bicycle accident, give us a call for a free consultation.