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Los Angeles officer dies when dump truck skids into squad car

Victims and their families want answers to help them understand why and how accident injuries or deaths occurred. The story behind a truck crash can take time to develop fully. Investigators look beyond driver error for evidence of negligence, which may include an ignored mechanical problem.

Initial reports about a Beverly Hills dump truck accident seem to point to negligent truck maintenance. The truck driver apparently could not control the vehicle, as it skidded along a street and crashed into a Los Angeles Police Department patrol car. The roll-off truck overturned, after rendering the police car almost unrecognizable.

The 40-year-old squad car driver, a member of the LAPD force for 16 years, died in the collision. His partner suffered injuries and was hospitalized. Reports said the rookie was released from the hospital less than a week after the accident.

Investigators are far from a final report about the crash. California Highway Patrol suspects the truck had a mechanical problem. Skid marks may show the truck driver's brakes failed, although authorities plan to conduct thorough analyses on both vehicles.

State police said the dump truck's inspection record was clean. A brake issue found in 2010 was not detected in a 2012 inspection. Investigators learned the truck changed owners after the last inspection and was modified.

Civil courts determine whether a defendant was responsible for an accident and injuries. It's up to the plaintiff to establish the link between negligence and a loss. In some cases, carelessness is evident on multiple levels.

Driver error is often the default position in motor vehicle accident, but there's more for investigators to consider. A mechanical problem may be due to a vehicle defect, caused by faulty design or manufacturing. In other cases, the reason for a failed vehicle part may be maintenance neglect, which can shift the blame to the owner, a leasing company or an employer.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Dump truck in fatal crash with LAPD cruiser passed last inspection" Joseph Serna, Mar. 14, 201 

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