Preventing Accidents on our Highways

Oct 29, 2018 | Industry Regulations, Lawsuit, Trucking Accidents

Don’t Wait Until a Lawsuit to Hold the Trucking Industry Accountable

Imagine if twice every month in the United States, a small commercial airliner were to crash, killing everyone onboard.

Hard to fathom, right?

Because we as a society wouldn’t let it get that far. At the first hint of a pattern, there would be scores of hearings and investigations scrutinizing the airline industry as a whole, along with any relevant operational or equipment failures.

New safety protocols would be assured, because we don’t tolerate that type of preventable death toll in the United States.

Or do we?

Unfortunately, we do and it’s happening — just not with jets. The carnage is instead occurring on our roads, where one industry in particular has been treated with kid gloves even as fatalities continue to rise.

We’re referring to the trucking industry.

Not Just Driver Fatigue

Remember our April blog post on new regulations aimed at curbing truck driver fatigue? While truckers continue to complain about these safety measures, there’s a reason they exist: to save lives.

More than 4,300 people were killed in collisions with semi trucks and tractor trailers in 2016 — a 28 percent increase over 2009, according to a Kansas City Star investigation published last month.

The newspaper used the airliner analogy to underscore the severity of that statistic.

As plaintiffs lawyers who have handled a number of these cases, we wish we could say we are surprised by these numbers. But through our work, we’ve been exposed to the seamy underside of the industry, where some truckers are all too willing to fudge records and cut corners to make their next delivery.

And driver fatigue is just the half of it.

The Star highlighted the instances of rear-end crashes with semi trucks and tractor trailers — often the deadliest of accidents, and arguably the easiest to prevent.

They pointed in particular to a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study, which found that at least 300 people die and 15,000 are injured annually in wrecks where a semi runs into the back of another vehicle.

Now, here’s what’s particularly galling about those statistics, and what the newspaper does an excellent job of pointing out: It involves the notion of preventable error.

According to the Star investigation, the industry has been fighting tooth and nail against certain types of technology that would most assuredly reduce the number of rear-end trucking accidents.

We’re talking about automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning systems and other high-tech safety features — things that have become increasingly common in passenger vehicles. While this type of technology can’t eliminate human error, it can provide a safety net for everybody on the road.

At least that’s what safety advocates are saying, and they’ve been studying the issue for years.

A Pattern of Opposition

Companies that install these types of collision prevention systems say they can eliminate more than seven out of 10 rear-end truck collisions, according to The Star.

And on at least 10 occasions since the late 1990s, the newspaper learned, the National Transportation Safety Board has urged federal regulators to require these types of forward crash avoidance systems on new rigs.

This year, as in several years previously, it included automatic emergency braking systems for trucks on its annual list of “Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements.”

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, lobbied heavily by the trucking industry, has repeatedly resisted.

Money buys influence in Washington — that is a known fact. But why the fervent opposition?

Perhaps industry leaders have calculated the financial risk and decided they’d rather pay for lobbying (and a multitude of wrongful death lawsuits) than face the cost of dealing with the problem head-on.

But what about saving lives? Where does that enter the picture?

Something we’ve pointed out before bears repeating here: 66 percent of trucking fatalities involve occupants of other cars and vehicles.

These are people who are just going about their daily business, driving to school or work, often caught completely unaware as a behemoth vehicle barrels down the road heading straight toward them.

And yes, many truck drivers are decent, working class people trying to make a living in a monotonous and tiring job. But even the good drivers can make mistakes. So with or without the bad actors, the industry and government need to do a better job of enforcing safety and eliminating error.

In the meantime, we’ll keep fighting on our end to hold these companies accountable when these types of accidents do occur. We can, at the very least, send a message through our tort system that this kind of preventable death toll will not be tolerated.

CASE: Confidential
VENUE: St. Clair County, IL
SETTLEMENT: $2.4 Million
DATE: September 27, 2018

ent was rear-ended by a semi-tractor trailer on Interstate 55, and suffered severe neck pain, which required surgery and continued pain management. Our client’s medical bills were $98,000. She was able to continue working, and therefore had no wage loss. The defendants originally settled the case for half-a-million, with a different law firm.

Then we got involved. We got the settlement set aside, got summary judgment against the trucking company, set the case for trial – – and on the eve of trial, the trucking company settled for $2.4 million.

If you are seeking answers and fair compensation after a trucking accident, we encourage you to contact our law firm. We are experienced in the latest trucking regulations and industry standards, as well as known methods of deception and other forms of negligence that can increase the amount of money you are owed.

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