Truck accidents shatter many lives. Over the course of my career as a personal injury lawyer, I secured substantial jury verdicts and settlements for serious trucking crash lawsuits in Florida. I got $5.5 million for a couple killed in a high-speed accident when their van was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer traveling above highway speed and $1.3 for a propane truck that ran out of control and killed a motorist who was on vacation with his family, just to name a few. As I’m limited by the terms of confidentiality agreements, I cannot discuss the details of the cases, the names of the parties or the insurance companies involved, but some broad lessons can still be learned.
As an injury lawyer for two decades, I don’t just try cases. I use my trucking experience of solving truck injury and wrongful death cases to further the cause of safer roads. Cases like the ones mentioned protect the rights of trucking accident victims by recovering financial compensation. They also transmit a powerful message of change and of the need to prevent crashes to the trucking industry and to insurance companies.
Motor carriers need to know that they can be held accountable for the corporate culture of cutting corners on safety rules and taking risks to save money. There are attorneys who will hold them responsible for the violations and they will be penalized. Collisions with commercial vehicles produce such horrific injuries and so many fatalities that trucking companies should do what they can to see that they don’t occur anymore.
Investigating catastrophic truck accidents requires having specialized knowledge and working closely with experts to guarantee that any accident-causing shortcuts are discovered. But the trucking companies often are not being held accountable for flagrant violations and the injuries they cause, because far too many personal injury attorneys do not have the necessary expertise.
Many lawyers can competently handle a simple auto accident but not all personal injury lawyers handle truck cases. A plaintiffs attorney’s lack of expertise and experience allows unsafe trucking companies to continue cutting safety and maintenance corners by ignoring rules, hiring unfit drivers or putting unsafe trucks on the roads. Too often trucking companies accept no responsibility for their flagrant disregard of the rules.
The goal to make our roads safer and change the trucking industry is ambitious. We need to hold accountable trucking companies that endanger public safety for a bigger bottom line.
While railroads have solidified into a few strong motor carriers with the power to exert influence over each other, thousands of large and small trucking firms compete over prices. As trucking companies do whatever they can to reduce costs, truckers end up working long hours for low pay. Not surprisingly, sleepy truck drivers crashing into cars is a problem that won’t go away even after many decades of would-be solutions.
Technology improvements, like electronic log devices, are something I advocate for as they can make us safer. But they may not prevent all truck accidents. In many of my own truck-accident cases for individuals who are injured or even killed, it’s the trucking company and even the safety director who are putting pressure on truckers to violate the law.
For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates electronic log devices for commercial motor vehicles. Their aim is to better enforce existing hours of service laws for truckers. The electronic log devices replace paper logbooks and monitor location information, engine hours, movement and miles driven.
Truckers should adhere to the required rest breaks and avoid fatigue and this should benefit road safety. But as investigations reveal, truck drivers are still falsifying the numbers by switching over from using electronic log devices to a fake paper logbook. Some truckers tell how they feel they are forced to do so to bypass the fatigue laws, as they are constantly exceeding the maximum service hours.
Another problem is that safety features, warning procedures and devices aren’t normal practice for every trucking company. Every safety feature costs money. In this business, when some companies fight hard to survive, having correct safety equipment is the first area that suffers cutbacks.
These companies make a simple calculus, they reason that they can afford to only spend money on gas and salaries. Like most other catastrophic events in life, there’s a tendency to think that accidents or lawsuits and their overwhelming costs will never happen. Commercial trucking companies who adopt this attitude gamble with their own lives and fortunes and with the lives of the motorists who share the roads.
Personal injury lawyers go hard after commercial trucking companies because they’re supposed to behave like the certified professionals they are. Their screw-ups can do a lot of harm. The essential fact is that many commercial trucking companies who get sued could have done something to keep the accident from happening. Many motor carriers will decry the cost of the lawsuit while ignoring the cost of preventing accidents in the first place.
As a personal injury attorney with experience litigating accidents where tractor trailers or large trucks are involved, my goal is to discover each and every trucking safety violation behind an accident and hold trucking companies fully accountable for every bad choice. Any large truck accident case result hopefully forces the entire commercial truck industry to understand there’s a price when they put unsafe trucks on the roads and re-evaluate safety.
Sean Cleary, of the Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary in Miami, handles complex personal injury cases.