Now that the holiday season is upon us, traffic and congestion on roadways big and small is at a peak. Trucks and tractor trailers remain a common site on interstate highways and local roads. Recent data suggests that truckers are finding it harder to obtain liability insurance to cover their fleets. Some insurance companies have left the market in response to several large personal injury truck accident settlements that have been made over the past few years.

The Department of Transportation has reported that although the number of people killed in accidents with large trucks declined 20% over the past decade, the number actually increased last year. Furthermore, there has been an increase over the past few years in the number of large verdicts where juries award tens of millions of dollars or more to families of truck accident victims.

Continue Reading Large Verdicts in Truck Accident Cases on the Rise

In a prior blog post, I discussed what to do after a truck accident occurs. In this blog post, I will focus on a specific example of a dangerous truck accident. A graduate student was driving in moderate stop-and-go traffic on the interstate. While he was stopped in a line of cars, a tanker truck driver that was traveling at about 25 mph rear ended a vehicle that was 2 cars behind the student’s vehicle. As a result, a chain-reaction impact occurred. The car behind the graduate student’s car rear ended his car, causing his seat to break. His car was then forced into the car in front of him.

Continue Reading The Dangers of Trucking Accidents

Truck accidents often can result in serious or even fatal injuries. An example of such an accident is one that many people read about last summer: the accident where a Wal-Mart truck and a limo van collided. The accident severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and two other occupants and killed fellow comedian James McNair.

Another example of a serious truck accident occurred recently involving a grain truck and a car. In that accident, a 32-year old woman was driving her car through an intersection when a farm truck driver, who was hauling grain for his employer, pulled out from a stop sign and into the woman’s path. Her car struck the side of the truck, resulting in serious orthopedic injuries. The woman suffered fractures to her right ankle and her femur at the knee. She underwent multiple ankle surgeries, including a fusion and surgery to repair the fracture to the femur. Her past medical expenses totaled $276,000. Her lost earnings totaled about $69,000. Since the accident, the fused ankle has made it difficult for her to participate in activities requiring prolonged standing or walking.

The injured woman sued the truck driver and the small farm that employed the truck driver. The plaintiff alleged that the truck driver failed to yield the right-of-way. She alleged that the farm was liable for the truck driver’s negligence. The truck driver argued that the plaintiff had failed to keep a proper lookout.

After depositions were conducted in the case, the parties settled the lawsuit for $900,000, which was paid by the farm’s insurance company.

These two accidents illustrate just how seriously someone can be injured or harmed when a truck collides with another vehicle. Accidents happen, and so you must always be careful when you are on the road, whether as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or driver. Truckers have important jobs and the vast majority of them are safe, conscientious drivers. However, sometimes they cause collisions, and when that happens, the consequences are serious.

At Stark & Stark, we have represented many people who have been injured in truck accidents. We have the skills, resources, and experience to understand and address the unique challenges that injured people face when going up against a trucking company in a personal injury claim. If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, car accident or some other type of accident as a result of some else’s negligence, it is recommended that you consult with experienced legal counsel immediately.

Tractor-trailer bus collisions are among the worst that occur on busy American highways.  Because of the relative size of the two vehicles in such a collision, the injuries are catastrophic, often with deadly consequences.

It is essential for anyone injured in such a devastating collision to seek competent legal counsel immediately to protect his or her rights and the rights of their entire family.   Too often, people wait to retain counsel, believing that the owners of the bus and tractor-trailer companies will do the right thing.  But in many cases, the transportation companies and their insurance carriers are at the scene looking for any loophole to escape responsibility.  This is why it is essential that victims of these horrific crashes hire the most experienced crash/collision personal injury lawyers to handle their case, attorneys with proven records of accomplishment.

At Stark & Stark, many of our partners have dedicated their lives to representing victims of injury, including bus and tractor-trailer crashes.  Most recently, my Stark & Stark colleague Michael Donahue and I co-counseled with New York personal injury attorneys Shana De Caro and Michael Kaplen, and in collaboration represented an Indian family in the United States for a summer vacation when their tour bus was involved in a violent crash on its way to Niagara Falls. The bus left the roadway, rolled over and proceeded into the woods.  When the tour bus came to a stop, one member of the family was dead and two were seriously injured.

In this instance, we quickly filed suit and brought our combined knowledge and experience in this area of litigation to bear in hiring the leading experts in the field of bus and tractor-trailer crashes.  Even though these clients lived thousands of miles from the site of the crash and the location of the lawsuit, they were informed at all stages of the legal battle fought on their behalf in the American Courts.  Almost two years from the date of this tragic collision, justice was achieved for the Indian family in the form of a multi-million dollar settlement. The perseverance of the attorneys at Stark & Stark and De Caro & Kaplen, LLP combined as a matchless legal team.

Recent events involving tour bus crashes emphasize the need to retain competent legal counsel without delay.  Bus accident victims and their families have a right to seek personal injury and wrongful death damages against errant bus drivers and their companies. Any such lawsuit may well involve more than one state’s law or court system, and numerous complex choices and decisions may have to be made to effective navigate the litigation process and help maximize the recovery. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

 

 

Drive on any highway in America, and the chances are good that you will see at least one tractor trailer driving on the same stretch of highway.  They are as ubiquitous as road signs.  They may be called different things: big rigs, trucks, semis, tractor-trailers, but they all serve the same purpose: American commerce and industry.  Without them, society would not be able to function properly.  Fuel, freight, food, clothing, textiles, raw materials, parcels, and packages are just a few of the many items that depend on the trucking industry to get to and from various places across the country.

Most truck drivers operate their rigs safely and efficiently.  Likewise, most truck owners keep their vehicles in top-notch condition, allowing them to travel many thousands of miles without a problem.  There are exceptions, and sometimes an owner fails to inspect, maintain, and service his truck.  When that happens, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Recently, a man was riding in a pickup truck on the highway when a drive shaft broke off from beneath a tractor-trailer in the oncoming lane.  The 20pound metal shaft bounced off the road and crashed through the windshield of the pickup truck, striking the victim’s face and neck.  He lost consciousness, and three hours later, he was dead.  The victim’s estate and his survivors sued the owner of the tractor-trailer, alleging the failure to adequately inspect, maintain, and service the vehicle.  The plaintiffs in the lawsuit presented evidence that the U-joint holding the drive shaft in place had melted because of insufficient lubrication, permitting the drive shaft to rip out of its yoke.  The lawsuit alleged that the U-joint component had not been lubricated for at least four to six months before the incident.  The lawsuit also alleged that the company’s fleet manager established an inadequate maintenance policy calling for the U-joint cross piece to be lubricated every 10,000 miles or two months–whichever was longer–even though the U-joint manufacturer recommended a lubrication interval of every 5,000 miles.  At a deposition and at trial, the fleet manager testified that he had no expertise or special qualifications that would have enabled him to determine the proper lubrication interval and that he did no research to determine the manufacturer’s guidelines.  The plaintiff’s contended that the president of the company that owned the truck knew that the fleet manager lacked the necessary qualifications but allowed him to proceed anyway.  The plaintiffs offered evidence that during the year before the incident, a mechanic at the company knew about as many as 20 other U-joints in the fleet’s trucks that had failed because of inadequate lubrication.  The plaintiffs contended that although the mechanic  reported this to his supervisor, and the mechanic’s supervisor confirmed that the lubrication was inadequate, the company failed to conduct a general inspection of the entire fleet or establish an adequate lubrication policy.

The jury awarded $281 million, including $100 million in punitive damages.  The plaintiffs voluntarily requested and received remittitur, also known as a reduction, in the amount of the punitive damages award to $4.5 million, which was the maximum allowed under Texas law, which is where the trial occurred.  It is possible that the defense may ask the court to issue a new trial, or further lower the verdict, or grant judgment in the defendant’s favor. This case shows how something as simple as adequate lubrication of one part on a truck can cause major safety issues if it is not done properly.

At Stark & Stark, we represent people every day who have been injured in truck accidents and car accidents.  We know what it takes to make sure your rights are protected, regardless of whether the defendant who caused the crash is a small local company or a multi-million-dollar corporation.  I only represent injured people.  I do not defend or represent insurance companies or defendants.

A Texas Jury found that a highway guardrail manufacturer, Trinity Industries, deliberately withheld information and defrauded the government and awarded damages in the amount of $175 million dollars, which, under federal law, will triple to $525 million dollars. The dispute centered around a design change Trinity made in 2005. During the discovery phase of the litigation, an internal document was uncovered which showed that a Trinity official estimated that making a modification to the guardrail which reduced a piece of metal from 5 inches to 4 inches would save the company $2 per guardrail. However, experts found that this modification made the guardrails more dangerous to motorists. The guardrail system works by collapsing when hit head-on, absorbing the impact of a vehicle and guiding the railing out of its path. The rail head or end terminal, which is often marked with yellow and black stripes, is supposed to slide along the guardrail itself, pushing it to the side. This modification was to the end terminal, and when struck from the front end, rather than absorb the car’s impact, it would spear straight through the car and its occupants. Even though Trinity was supposed to advise the government that this modification was made, these changes were not disclosed for 7 years. At least 14 other lawsuits blame the guardrails for five deaths and more injuries. Some states have gone so far as to ban further purchase of these guardrails, citing safety concerns.

Unfortunately, this case is an example of the dangers of when companies place profits over safety. If you, or someone you know, has suffered injuries from a defective product, or would simply like more information about product liability, please contact us. Stark & Stark has many experienced attorneys who specialize in products liability matters.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it is considering a rule making that will increase the minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers, including liability coverage for bodily injury and property damage, establishing financial responsibility requirements with passenger carrier brokers and to implement financial responsibility requirements for brokers and freight forwarders, as well as revising existing rules concerning self-insurance and trip insurance.  The FMCSA is seeking public comments on these topics.

The Federal Government has long required motor carriers, brokers and freight forwarders to maintain certain levels of financial responsibility.  Presently, for-hire interstate general freight carriers are required to carry a minimum of $750,000.  This minimum level of financial responsibility was established in 1980 with the passage of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980.  That minimum level has not been increased over the past 34 years.

It is certainly time that companies that engage in interstate transportation be required to be insured for at least $10 million as was recommended by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation and that the minimum level be indexed for inflation and productivity growth in the same manner that DOT indexes its value of statistical life for regulatory purposes.  There is no reason why companies that put tractor trailers on our highways should not be sufficiently insured to pay claims for damages they cause.

Click here for a link to the FMSCA notice.

Personal injury attorneys are advocates for people who have been injured in an accident, whether it is a slip and fall, trip and fall, work related, car, motorcycle or recreational accident.  Our job is to represent the rights of the injured party, not the insurance company.  So, why do personal injury attorneys have such a bad reputation in our society and why are we so often seen as greedy ambulance chasers?  Whether the reason for the negative image is television, commercials or the few bad apples out there, the stereotypes are damaging to our legal system and society. The legal system is what people should turn to in their time of need. It is their last avenue for appeal and redress when private parties and the government will not act responsible for their negligent acts. And truth be told‚ the goal of the vast majority of personal injury lawyers out there is to help people in their time of need.

Injury attorneys not only help people‚ but the most important consequence of their work is a safer environment for all of us, our children, mothers, fathers and friends. Corporations and people have to be concerned about what can happen to them if they do not behave in a reasonable manner.  Safety laws and regulations that are currently in place are largely the result of injury attorneys; enacted in response to negligent behavior‚ and these laws provide a standard which intends to keep the public healthy and safe.

There may be a time in your life when you are faced with a situation that will require you to hire a personal injury attorney. You should be represented and protected and not made to feel like just another file in the filing cabinet. You are an individual with your own worries and hopes about your injury claim and we are here to help you.

This is especially true with us at Stark & Stark. We treat all of our clients with the utmost care and we do everything we can to ensure that your rights are represented. If you or your family are ever injured in an accident‚ please contact us  for a free consultation.