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Why This Truck Driver is Being Held Responsible for the Death of a Deputy

— April 12, 2024

While we are not privy to all of the facts of this case, looking at the reported facts and the police department’s findings, a determination that the truck driver was at fault in this case seems reasonable.

Wrongful death cases often have surprising results for those unfamiliar with the intricate details of the case and of the law that governs them. In many cases, even a simple traffic infraction can lead to serious injuries and death, which is what appears to have happened in the recent case of a 23-year-old deputy killed in a traffic accident with a truck driver.

In this case, the deputy was coming down the road while a tractor-trailer driver apparently pulled out from a stop sign to turn left. Based on the facts reported, investigators deemed the accident the trucker’s fault. We’ll break down this accident and how fault may have been determined, plus explain what the family of drivers in similar crashes can often do to seek justice.

Alleged Facts of the March 2023 Fatal Accident Involving Richland County Deputy Salrin

The alleged facts of this case are pretty simple: reports attest that trucker Everett Knapper was driving a truck down Windy Lane and came to a stop sign where he was going to turn left. Deputy Jacob Salrin was reportedly coming from his left on Bluff Road, and when Knapper allegedly failed to yield, Deputy Salrin crashed into the truck’s driver’s side.

Both drivers were injured because the accident happened at the front of the deputy’s car and the driver’s side of the truck, but the deputy died from his injuries.

A quick review of the location of the accident on Google Maps shows only a single stop sign governing the intersection on the Windy Lane side, allowing traffic on Bluff Road to go by while traffic on Windy Lane is supposed to stop and wait at the stop sign.

Reports show that the investigators determined Knapper was at fault for the crash, but they did not have enough evidence to file criminal charges.

Analysis of the Case

In most auto accident cases, any criminal liability is determined by looking at whether a violation of a traffic law was involved. Here, no criminal charges were filed for the death, but it is possible there might have been grounds to issue a traffic ticket. When it comes to civil injury law – the kind our Columbia, SC car accident lawyers practice – fault is analyzed under a legal framework of “negligence.”

With negligence, you must show that there was a violation of a legal duty and that that violation or “breach” was what caused the victim’s injuries. In this case, pulling out from a stop sign into cross traffic would be the breach of duty at the core of the case.

Stop sign; image by Joshua Hoehne, via
Stop sign; image by Joshua Hoehne, via

Running a stop sign is illegal, but does it qualify as “negligent”? Generally, a traffic law intended to keep people safe can satisfy the duty element for a negligence case, and a violation of that traffic law can qualify as a breach of said duty. This is because of a legal doctrine called negligence per se, where a legal violation automatically counts as negligence.

If there is no specific traffic law on point that was violated, then the analysis would instead turn on whether the driver upheld a more general duty of “reasonableness.” Under this principle, drivers are required to conduct themselves as an “average driver of reasonable prudence” would. This would mean that the driver should do basic things like keep their eyes on the road, keep both hands on the wheel, and check their blind spots. However, this analysis is not necessary when a traffic law is on point because we can use negligence per se rules instead.

While we are not privy to all of the facts of this case, looking at the reported facts and the police department’s findings, a determination that the truck driver was at fault in this case seems reasonable. This then brings up the question of what the deputy’s family is able to do, or at least what families of drivers killed in similar cases can do.

How Families Can Sue for Wrongful Death in a South Carolina Truck Accident Case

Rules are often a bit different for on-duty police officers and other emergency responders, given that injuries might happen in the course of their job and involve Workers’ Compensation rules. However, in most other cases where a driver is injured or killed in a crash like this one, the injured driver or the family of the deceased driver will be able to pursue an injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

When a driver hits you, you can sue them under South Carolina law. Some states have no-fault insurance rules that block a lawsuit unless your injuries meet certain standards, but our at-fault rules permit a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in most cases. To win your case, you would have to prove the elements discussed above, which include proof of the harm you suffered. The damages you can claim in one of these cases include lost wages, medical bills, vehicle repair costs, and pain and suffering damages.

When it comes to deadly accidents, the family can often sue for wrongful death instead of personal injury. The analysis is essentially the same, but the damages are expanded to include damages for the family, such as burial expenses. In a parallel case called a “survival action,” you can also sue for the same damages the victim would have sued for if they lived, such as their pain and suffering before their death.

One important issue to contend with is who you sue in a truck accident case. Truck drivers who are independent contractors or self-employed are generally sued directly, with their insurance covering damages. However, if they work for a trucking company, the trucking company might be on the hook for its driver’s negligence. The trucking company could also potentially be liable for problems with the vehicle – such as malfunctioning brakes – or negligent hiring – such as when they hire an unqualified driver.

If you or a loved one was involved in an accident similar to this one, there is help available. Working with a lawyer, you can bring your claim and get compensation for what happened to you.

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