On April 9, 2022, Dwayne Haskins, 24-year-old quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers was tragically killed as pedestrian in Fort Lauderdale Florida. For unknown reasons, Haskins was attempting to cross a major highway near the airport at approximately 6:30 AM when he was struck and killed by a dump truck. The truck driver stayed on scene and the police are investigating the accident.
When a tragic death like this occurs, there potentially two legal proceedings that can take place, Criminal and Civil.
Regarding Criminal proceedings, the police will conduct a full accident reconstruction. This will likely include pulling any “Blackbox” computer data from the truck to check the driver’s speed, steering and braking just before the crash. The police will use that data and scene evidence like skid marks to attempt to re-create the accident to determine whether there is any evidence of reckless driving that could lead to criminal charges against the truck driver.
To be successful with criminal charges, the police and district attorney would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the truck driver was reckless and caused the death.
Haskin’s family could also consider pursuing a Civil Wrongful Death lawsuit against the truck driver and trucking company for his tragic death. In the civil case, the claim would be for recklessness or negligence and the family would have to prove by preponderance of the evidence (which is just a more likely than not standard), that the driver was reckless or negligent and caused Haskin’s death.
If the civil case went to trial, the jury would have to weigh the comparative fault between the truck driver and and Haskins himself. The truck driver’s lawyer could certainly argue that he was driving on a highway and never expected to encounter a pedestrian in the roadway and that at 6:30 in the morning, darkness would have limited his visibility.
In my view, the key to the case will be the speed at which the truck was traveling. If the truck was traveling at or near the speed limit, it sounds like an extremely difficult case to win from the side of either the police or the family. However, if the truck driver was driving well over the speed limit, an argument can be made that, had he been driving more slowly and carefully, he could have seen and avoided Haskins and the death would have been prevented.
Ultimately, if a civil case is tried, the jury will need to decide whether the truck driver was negligent and whether Haskins was negligent. If the jury finds that the truck driver was negligent he and his employer can be held liable for compensating the family for his untimely death. That compensation could be very substantial based upon Haskins high earnings as a professional football player.
Nevertheless, the ultimate compensation award would be reduced by any percentage fault assessed to Haskins for his negligence. So, if the jury found Haskins to be 50% responsible for causing the crash, the compensation the family would receive would be reduced by 50%. This legal defense is called Comparative Negligence.
It’s very early to make any real predictions but, based upon what I have read so far, in my opinion this sounds like it is just a terrible tragedy and will be a tough legal case for the family to pursue.
Tim Rayne is a Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer with the Chester County Pennsylvania law firm MacElree Harvey. Tim helps injured accident victims understand their legal rights and receive fair compensation from insurance companies. You can Contact Tim at 610-840-0124 or firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website at www.TimRayneLaw.com.