A 22-year-old pizza delivery driver has been charged with involuntary manslaughter – a felony, upgraded from the original misdemeanor charge of death by motor vehicle – following the pedestrian accident death of a 36-year-old man in Wilmington, about three hours south of Greensboro.
The young driver had reportedly been on-the-clock at the time of the crash, but operating her own vehicle. That’s common practice in the food delivery industry, but it may not release the pizza chain from liability if the victim’s family were to take civil action against the driver and her employer.
According to investigators, the crash occurred around 6 p.m. on Morningside Drive. The young woman was returning from a delivery when she reportedly reached for her cell phone. Her eyes torn from the road, she drifted into the oncoming lane of traffic. She then struck the victim as he stood outside his parked vehicle’s driver side door. The deliver driver then reportedly sideswiped the victim’s car and then struck a moving truck head-on.
The victim was reportedly tossed over the hood of the moving truck and then thrown to the pavement.
He was soon rushed to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center, where health officials pronounced he had died. The delivery driver sustained minor injuries and was treated at the local hospital before being placed under arrest.
In addition to her felony charge, she is also charged with exceeding the posted speed limit, driving left of center and possession of a schedule VI narcotic. Investigators have not said whether intoxication may have played a role in the crash, but no charges have been filed thus far that would indicate that.
The victim, a lawn care company employee, was reportedly just finishing his day of work and was preparing to drive to his girlfriend’s home.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 431,000 people are injured and 3,200 killed every year as a result of car accidents involving distracted drivers. These are likely low estimates because distraction isn’t as easy to detect as impairment. Drivers who are in their 20s consist of 23 percent of those involved in all fatal crashes, but 38 percent of distracted drivers who use their cell phones.
Rates of texting while driving have doubled nationally, even as states have passed legislation criminalizing the action. In North Carolina, all drivers are prohibited from texting, but only novice drivers (those under 18 with provisional licenses) and school bus drivers are prohibited from using their phones at all.
In a case like this, plaintiffs may assert claims of vicarious liability against the at-fault driver’s employer. This is done on the basis of a legal principle known as respondeat superior, Latin for, “Let the Master Answer.” Generally, an employer is responsible for actions of employees performed in the course and scope of employment. That means the negligent action occurs substantially within the time and geographical limits, job description and with at least partial intent to further an employer’s business. Returning from delivering to a restaurant after making a food delivery almost certainly would meet this legal criteria. One question that might be raised is whether the driver was an independent contractor. However, most pizza delivery drivers are considered employees.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Charges upgraded for NC pizza driver involved in deadly pedestrian crash, May 20, 2016, CBS WNCN.com
More Blog Entries:
Can You be Liable for Injuries if You Text With a Driver? Courts Say Yes. May 22, 2016, Greensboro Car Accident Lawyer Blog