An off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, who was a 13-year veteran in the force, died last week in a freeway auto accident when his 2001 Chevy Silverado truck veered off the roadway and ejected him from the vehicle. According to an article in the Pasadena Star News, Dale Goddard III, 36, of Chino Hills, was driving from the westbound 210 Freeway to the southbound 15 Freeway.
The truck reportedly drifted to the left, rolled down the embankment and came to rest on the southbound 15 Freeway. Investigators are still looking into what caused the truck to go off the freeway, crash and land on its roof. Alcohol is not believed to have played a role. But investigators believe Goddard was not wearing his seatbelt. His co-workers say they are shocked that the officer, who was vigorously involved in seatbelt enforcement, was not buckled up himself.
We hope the officer’s family makes sure that a thorough investigation is conducted. The officer’s co-workers will probably make sure that happens, but there are certainly a few issues here that would catch the eye of a seasoned personal injury attorney or an auto product defect attorney who looks at this incident. First of all, the question is what caused the officer to lose control of the vehicle? Was there a mechanical defect?
Secondly, what caused the officer to be ejected from the truck? Investigators’ preliminary investigation reveals that the officer was not wearing his seatbelt. Goddard’s co-workers reportedly can’t believe their ears that the officer would not have worn his seat belt. If we had this case, the first thing we would look at is whether there were any seatbelt defects.
Having handled a number of seatbelt failure cases, we would search all the data systems we have access to for previous failures of the same buckle. In fact, we have previously – at least on two occasions – come across seatbelt failure in Chevy trucks. We would look into whether the buckle in question had known “unlatching” defects.
Often we see that the same buckles are used on various models and makes of cars. Our experts usually look for load marks on the belt and various parts of the belt such as the seatbelt buckle tongue, latch plate and the D-ring of the seatbelt assembly. Most of the time, such testing gives us physical evidence of whether the occupant was wearing his or her seatbelt at the time of the accident.
This is an important question that must be answered so that family and friends of the officer can lay to rest their questions and concerns and remember their loved one for who he really was. We pray for the family and hope they get the answers they deserve.