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Runaway livestock sparks disastrous truck accident

While the following accident did not occur here in New Haven, Connecticut, the extreme circumstances of the crash -- plus the complex legal situation that will likely follow it -- will interest local readers.

A fatal truck accident in Tennessee claimed the lives of four people and left at least one other with some undisclosed injuries. Many people may think that, if the accident wasn't truly an "accident," that the truck driver was distracted, or sleepy, or negligent in some other way. But in each case, the answer (so far, anyway) is no. Instead, a far more random element triggered this fatal wreck: a cow.

Yes, a stray cow wandered on to the freeway and the truck collided with it. That sent the vehicle careening into oncoming traffic, where it plowed into a number of vehicles. The crash is being investigated, and it will be some time before officials have specifics and details as to how the whoel ordeal occurred.

A top priority for investigators is finding the owner of the cow. As silly as that may sound, it is crucial to the process. The owner of livestock has a responsibility to properly secure their animals. The owner of this particular cow could be held partially liable for the crash, probably under the legal term known as "proximate cause." 

Proximate cause is a complex idea that establishes liability for an accident. It is particularly helpful in chain reaction crashes where numerous collisions between various cars are involved. Proximate cause states that everyone shares blame for the wreck -- but that the share of blame is not necessarily equal. One person may be mostly liable for a wreck; while in a different case, three or four drivers may be held mostly liable.

The best way to describe how proixmate causes works is the "but for" test. Imagine someone makes an illegal left turn at an intersection, and as a result, a crash occurs. Proximate cause says that but for the illegal turn by the driver, the accident would not have happened. Thus, the driver "proximately caused" the crash.

Source: thecarrollnews.com, "Woodlawn man among four killed in Tenn. accident," June 26, 2013