Several months ago, we began a series of articles discussing product liability claims that arise from single vehicle accidents. As all of our readers should know, a product liability claim focuses on whether or not a product is defective. The purpose of this series is to emphasize the many different kinds of product liability claims. In automobile cases, the defective product could be the entire vehicle, or a component part such as the seat belt or tires. Unfortunately, the average motorist has no idea how unprotected he or she will be in an accident as a driver or passenger in a defective vehicle.
Our lawyers are trained to recognize defect claims in motor vehicle accident cases. Any single vehicle accident involving death or serious injury, including paralysis, loss of limb or brain damage, should be investigated and carefully analyzed for possible product liability claims. Last month, we looked at electronic stability control systems. This month, we look at defective cab guards and the injurious consequences of those defects.
Cab guards, or what are often called “headache racks,” are required as front-end structures on 18-wheelers that pull flat beds, trailers and log trailers. The purpose of a cab guard is to prevent shifting cargo from contacting the cab of a heavy truck. Many cab guards are made of welded heat-treated aluminum which results in a weakening of the cab guard over time. The weakening of the cab guard due to fatigue stress is relatively unknown to drivers. Many welding requirements established by national organizations are not followed by cab guard manufacturers. The failure to follow such guidelines results in poor welds, poor quality control, and poorly-designed cab guards. Those defective guards don’t work for their intended purpose of protecting truck occupants.
In August of 2003, our firm received a positive result in a case involving a defective truck cab guard. A jury in Lamar County, Alabama, awarded a $12 million verdict to a Mississippi resident in a case involving a defective product that killed her son. The product liability lawsuit was brought on behalf of her deceased son against the manufacturer of a defective truck cab guard. The victim was driving a log truck for a trucking company when the passenger side wheels went off the side of the road. Before he could ease the truck back onto the road, the truck tipped over on the passenger side. When the vehicle turned over, part of the load slid forward, hitting the driver’s protection device – the cab guard. The protection device failed, allowing the few logs that slid forward to press against the back of his cab, causing nearly three feet of intrusion into the occupant compartment. As a result, the victim was killed.
A cab guard is installed on a truck to ensure that a truck driver’s load does not intrude into the cab. Instead of designing and manufacturing a cab guard that works, the manufacturer in the Lamar County case used poor design and fabrication and inferior welding procedures that resulted in a failure, causing the death. The manufacturer did this to save money, and put profits over the safety of its consumers. The company claimed and advertised that its cab guard met the minimum Federal standards and provided maximum protection, even though it did not. The minimum standards require the cab guard to be able to withstand one half of the load applied uniformly across the back of the guard. In our case, the manufacturer never tested the model cab guard on the truck.
Unfortunately, this sort of thing is a common occurrence. Truck drivers make up one of the largest occupations in the United States, spending countless hours on the road. They do this while driving vehicles that are less regulated than passenger cars and small trucks. Without more regulation, these men and women will continue to risk their lives daily to keep America running – sometimes not even realizing how dangerous their jobs are.
We pursue claims against heavy truck manufacturers for defective design and manufacturing including claims for defective cab guards. If you would like more information or have a question, you can contact Ben Baker (Ben.Baker@beasleyallen.com) in our office at 800-898-2034.
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