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Determining Liability: Did Plane Crash or Firefighters Cause Death?


San Francisco police have released information that a fire truck ran over one of the Chinese teenagers who died from the plane crash at the San Francisco International Airport. Firefighters were responding to the plane crash when they ran over the girl’s body, which was covered in fire retardant foam. The police do not know, however, whether the girl died from injuries sustained by the plane crash or in the fire truck accident.

The San Mateo County coroner is expected to release the results of his examination of the girl’s body next week, and the police will continue to investigate to determine the exact cause of death.

This is not the first time that two subsequent accidents have been linked to one death. Consider chain-reaction car accidents, where a person might be injured by the initial hit but killed by the second or third collision. As you can imagine, determining liability in these accidents can be its own nightmare. In California, liability depends on the percentage of fault. If the first car accident caused 20 percent of a person’s injury but did not cause death, the driver will still be accountable for 20 percent of the damages.

Of course, the challenging part is determining that percentage and then holding the various parties accountable. One family may need to bring multiple lawsuits just to recover the compensation they need to move forward after a fatal accident. Because of the complexities in these lawsuits — and any personal injury case — it is vital to have experienced legal representation on your side if you have lost a loved one to negligence.

Source: CBS News, “Teenage girl killed in Asiana crash was hit by fire truck, S.F. police say,” CBS Interactive Inc., July 12, 2013