A Dangerous Disturbance

Oil TankerA recent post in the Telegram demonstrates the particular danger that a traffic accident can have for not just other vehicles, but an entire neighborhood. Recently, there was a car accident between a vehicle and a propane tanker for Eastern Propane and Oil. When the emergency responders arrived at the scene of the accident, they saw and smelled a cloud of gas. The chief of police stated that the truck was misting propane. Between 8 and 10 families within a half-mile radius were forced to vacate their homes after the propane tanker rolled over in a crash. The police wanted to evacuate the homes so that they could be certain that there would be a safe environment. The authorities closed Routes 62 and 68 at a distance of about one mile. There was great concern that any type of emission could ignite it. They also decided to open up a shelter so that any person who could not return to their home would have a place to stay while people attempted to return the environment to safe conditions.

The authorities managed to stop the gas leak after nearly four hours. There was a wait of about six hours before the authorities reopened the roads in the area and public safety personnel had to go to each door to evacuate residents after the two-vehicle crash. Unfortunately, the accident was rather serious and both drivers involved in the collision were gravely injured. Because of the drivers’ injuries, it is still difficult for the police to know exactly what caused the traffic collision.

Who is liable for the accident?

This accident is particularly interesting because it involves factors such as vicarious liability.  It is predominantly used in tort law to apply the wrongdoing of one party to a related party. Vicarious liability is a principle that, more or less, can be utilized to bring claims against an employer for the actions committed by an employee. So, in this case, if the driver of the propane vehicle belonging to Eastern Propane and Oil was responsible for the accident, it would mean that the victim of the car accident could not only bring a claim against the truck driver but also against Eastern Propane and Oil. Typically, for a claim of vicarious liability, it must be an action that the employee undertook that is reasonable. For example, it is reasonable for an employer to assume that if it hires truck drivers, these drivers may accidentally crash into other vehicles, opening itself up to liability. However, it would be unreasonable for an employer to foresee that a truck driver would drive the truck into the middle of the street and deliberately set fire to it in order to cause an explosion and injure people. In such an event, it would be more difficult to prove a claim for vicarious liability unless the company knew that the person had psychological and/or emotional injuries and should not have been responsible for a vehicle that could pose a danger to many people.

If you are in a car accident in the state of Massachusetts, contact the Sheehan Law Firm. We can use our experience and knowledge of the law to help you recover compensation for the injuries you have sustained in a wreck.

Photo Credit: Konabish ~ Greg Bishop via Compfight cc