Friday, October 23, 2009

Truck Driving Accident Turns Into Punitive Damages Claim

This preventable truck driving accident seemed simple enough. The truck driver ran a red light under heavy fog conditions (fog "so bad you couldn't see in front of you" according to witnesses) and smashed into a motorist at an intersection.

However, after the lawsuit was filed, it was discovered that the driver:

had a previous speeding ticket in New Mexico, a suspension and/or revocation of his license, multiple moving violations, falsified/missing driver logs, little to no experience in the field, and the inability to speak/read/write English fluently.

What's more, during "discovery" (the process by which parties request and exchange written documents/information) it was learned that the driver logs from the crucial time period surrounding the accident were never produced, and that the logs which were produced “show falsified information with regard to times and/or distances.” (Id.).

As a result of these facts, the judge permitted the plaintiff (the injured party) to amend the complaint to allow a jury to consider a claim for punitive damages against the trucking company for its hiring practices and not producing the missing information, among other things.

Lesson: many trucking negligence cases involve more than the "simple facts" that led to a collision. Occasionally, haphazard hiring or safety practices well before a collision are the true root cause of an eventual collision.

And you can be sure of one thing: the unjured victim will NEVER learn about some of these safety shortcuts unless (1) he or she hires a competent attorney with experience in knowing what information to push for; and (2) a lawsuit is filed.
Trucking companies NEVER voluntarily release this potentially damning information without a lawsuit being filed.

Case: Sabo v. Suarez, United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania (July 31, 2009).

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