Lawyers in our firm’s Personal Injury/Products Liability Section have handled a large number of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits throughout the years against trucking companies. Many of the cases involved such things as driver fatigue, excessive speed and inattention to road conditions. Others have been based on companies’ improper hiring and inadequate training of drivers. Tractor trailer drivers operate extremely large vehicles that have the capability to cause a great deal of harm to others on the highways. Drivers, as well as the companies that employ them, have to follow regulations that other drivers don’t have to follow. As a result, commercial drivers receive training that the rest of the motoring public are not required to get. Consequently, commercial drivers have a greater obligation to safety than other drivers on the highways throughout the country. That’s not to say, however, that individuals who drive their personal cars don’t have to observe and obey traffic laws – they do. But commercial drivers have additional rules and regulations to follow.
Establishing fault in an accident when a truck driver runs a red light or rear-ends a vehicle that is legally stopped isn’t all that difficult in most cases. But difficult issues can be involved even in those cases. It may be necessary to find out exactly why the driver wasn’t operating the vehicle responsibly and safely. The trucking company’s conduct when it comes to the hiring and training of drivers can also be involved. Without any question, a tractor trailer that is operated dangerously on the road creates a serious safety hazard. It takes skill and expertise to adequately investigate accidents involving large tractor-trailer rigs.
In a recent case that we handled, the wife of a truck driver came to our firm after a lawsuit was filed against her husband’s estate. Her husband, a truck driver, was killed in a highway accident after his vehicle broke down in the roadway. Federal law requires a truck driver to put out three warning triangles. Our client’s husband (the decedent) only put out two of the required three triangles. Another tractor trailer approaching the scene hit him from behind while our decedent’s rig was blocking the roadway. Initially, when we first investigated the incident, things looked bad for our client’s case. But we filed a counterclaim in the pending case and ultimately reached a favorable settlement for our client. We had performed testing that proved the driver who hit the decedent’s vehicle should have seen the stopped vehicle in the roadway at a sufficient distance that would have allowed him to have taken steps to avoid the collision. In other words, this was a crash that never should have happened.
Another trucking case handled by lawyers in our firm involved the driver of a tractor trailer rig who was faced with an emergency situation. In that case, a vehicle had stopped in the driver’s lane of travel. Our truck driver wasn’t following too closely, nor was he speeding. He locked down his brakes and steered his vehicle into the oncoming lane of traffic. While this avoided hitting the vehicle stopped in his own lane, our driver collided with a vehicle coming toward him in the opposite lane of traffic. We successfully argued at trial that the emergency situation required the driver of the approaching tractor and trailer to steer his vehicle to the right onto the shoulder of the road in order to avoid a collision. This case required our litigation team to focus on the driver’s failure to follow the training he had previously received, which if followed would have allowed him to avoid the crash. The case was resolved satisfactory for our client.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, oversees the trucking industry. The primary mission of the FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses on our nation’s highways. FMCSA has produced a publication titled “A Motor Carrier’s Guide to Improving Highway Safety.” This guide discusses various countermeasures as examples of defensive driving strategies that can prevent highway accidents. Commercial drivers, who are properly trained, can prevent accidents by following their training in many situations. Those who aren’t properly trained, or who don’t follow their training, create hazards on our highways. Many trucking accidents can be avoided, saving many lives simply by having a trained commercial driver behind the wheel of 18-wheeler on the road.
If you need more information on any aspect of trucking litigation, contact Chris Glover, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section. Chris has successfully handled a number of trucking cases involving injuries and deaths. You can reach Chris at 800-898-2034 or by email at Chris.Glover@beasleyallen.com.
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