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Family of Tractor-Trailer Crash Victim Receives $5M Settlement

Tractor-Trailer on fire

The family of a woman killed in a fiery wreck in Old Bridge, New Jersey has recently settled a claim for damages against the employer of the driver whose negligent operation of a tractor-trailer killed her. The $5 million settlement was reached nearly three years after the fatal accident.

Accident at Old Mill Road

By news accounts, on March 31, 2014, Heidi Bennett, a 50-year-old Freehold resident, was waiting at a red light on Route 9 at the intersection with Old Mill Road when the accident occurred. 52-year-old Stephen Seidl of Robbinsville was driving a tractor-trailer, approaching the light from behind Bennett. Apparently, according to video surveillance footage, Seidl did not brake when approaching the red light. Seidl’s truck slammed into the rear of Bennett’s Hyundai Accent, sending the vehicle through the intersection and nearly a quarter of a mile down the road. The collision caused the Accent to burst into flames. Bennett was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Criminal charges and settlement

Seidl was arrested at the scene of the crash. He was subjected to a blood test taken after the arrest, which showed the presence of methadone and Xanax in the driver’s system at the time of the collision. Seidl pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide in 2015. Bennett’s family then filed a lawsuit against the trucking company that employed Seidl, the name of which was kept confidential under the terms of the settlement. As a result of mediation held between the trucking company and plaintiffs, the company agreed to settle the family’s wrongful death claims for $5,040,910. In addition to the private lawsuit, the family has announced that it will seek legislation that will require long-distance commercial truck drivers to be tested for methadone by their employers.

Respondeat superior

The legal theory of respondeat superior allows employers to be held financially responsible for injury-causing behavior of their employees while those employees are on the job. Employers are also held responsible for properly hiring, training, and supervising their employees. As a result of this legal duty, employers will be expected to bear the cost of injuries caused by the negligent conduct, such as negligent driving of their employees. Since stimulant use among truck drivers is apparently not uncommon, it is foreseeable that trucking companies should be aware of the risk that drivers may be using unsafe substances to remain alert on the road, and take reasonable steps to prevent it.

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident in New Jersey, find out if you have a right to compensation by contacting the experienced trucking negligence personal injury lawyer Andrew R. Jacobs for a consultation, at 973-532-9681.

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