Monday, November 29, 2010

Trucking Company Blames Accident Victim--And Loses

This recent case shows the depths to which trucking companies will "blame the victim" in personal injury lawsuits. Here's what happened: a commercial truck crossed the median of a major interstate and crashed directly into the path of another truck, seriously injuring the second driver. The injured truck driver sued the truck driver who crossed the median and his trucking company/employer.

One of the trucking company's major defenses at trial was that the injured driver "did not slow down to avoid the accident and that his vision was impaired due to uncontrolled diabetes." This, despite the fact that the offending driver apparently fell asleep at the wheel and falsified his log book to cover up the fact that he had driven too many hours in violation of federal safety regulations.

The jury apparently saw through this defense and returned a $3 million verdict. I'll bet the injured driver never dreamed that his case would go to court when a large truck careened across a highway median and changed his life. Unfortunately, a "blame the victim no matter what" strategy is more common than you would think, especially when the injuries are serious and the insurance company is desparate to minimize its legal responsibility.

My guess is that, in the end, their "let's throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see if some of it sticks" strategy backfired and only angered the jury, which sent the appropriate message with their verdict. I don't know who said it, but it's true: the American jury is one of society's best "attitude adjustment" mechanisms in a democratic society.

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