Monday, May 17, 2010

Trucking Company Tries To Avoid Responsibility For Loading Dock Injury


Facts: an out of state truck driver fails to set the brakes at a loading dock, injuring a forklift driver. A lawsuit is filed, and it is discovered that the truck driver took pictures of the resting position of the truck and forklift and turned the photos over to his employer’s company safety director. The safety director’s deposition is taken, and he denies the existence of any photographs, raising the issue of whether important evidence was destroyed.

Every truck driver is given an “Accident Kit” by his company. Usually included in this kit is a disposable camera, some instructions for the driver (including instructions to “Never admit fault to anybody”), and, in this particular case, an “Exoneration Card.” This card basically said that the truck driver was relieved of any responsibility for the crash! Worse yet, the truck drivers were instructed to try to get accident victims to sign these cards!

This made me wonder: Shouldn’t the “Accident Kit” have an “Acceptance of Responsibility” card in the event the truck driver was clearly at fault? So I asked the Safety Director about this at his deposition:

Q. Does the accident packet have a card that says, "Acceptance Of Responsibility," if the driver truly committed a driving mistake, for instance, if he rear-ended somebody?
A. No.
Q. All right. I didn't think so. Thought I'd ask anyway, though.
A. Well, he's told not to say nothing, so he wouldn't answer it anyhow.
Q. Even if he's at fault he's told not to say anything?
A. Absolutely.
Q. Why?
A. If they want a third party narrative from an officer, then he tells him what the sequence of events. We tell the drivers it's left to somebody else to determine fault, usually in a court of law.
Q. Well, what if a driver's clearly at fault, clearly rear ended somebody, I wasn't paying attention?
A. What's clearly at fault?
Q. You don't know what that is?
A. No. If you're driving through an intersection and a light is green, and somebody hits you, who's at fault, the guy that ran the red light or the guy that ran the green light?
Q. Let me give you a hypothetical.
A. Okay.
Q. Truck driver's trying to make a cell phone call, not paying attention and he rear ends somebody clearly at a stop sign.
(Trucking Company Attorney) I'm going to object to the hypothetical.
Q. Do you instruct your drivers under all circumstances, "Don't admit you're at fault even in a situation like that, just don't do it?"
A. I've got nothing further to say about it.
Q. Yes or no?
A. I've got no opinion.

See how it works after a crash? Never admit fault, but always try to get the injured person to admit responsibility. So much for “personal responsibility” or doing the right thing; apparently that only applies to the injured person, and not to corporations or their insurance companies...

After we filed a motion to include a count for punitive damages due to possible destruction of evidence, the trucking company admitted liability at a court ordered mediation, and the case settled for a confidential sum.

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