September 23rd, 2016

Educating Juries on Heavy Truck Collisions

Large trucks account for four percent of all registered vehicles, but are involved in eight percent of all fatal crashes. The average stopping distance of a heavy truck traveling 55 miles per hour is 451 feet. The risk of death in an automobile that collides with a large truck (exceeding gross vehicle weight of 26,000 pounds) is one-third greater than a collision with another automobile.

A lawsuit to recover damages for wrongful death or personal injury against a trucking company and its driver is complicated; more complicated than a collision not involving a heavy truck. Most folks who serve on juries are familiar with the operation of automobiles and the standards of care contained in the motor vehicle regulations enacted by their state of residence. However, many jurors are not familiar with the performance characteristics of heavy trucks, nor the rules of the road applicable to trucks.

The care and vigilance of a driver is extremely important to the safe operation of a heavy truck. Heavy truck drivers must obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) which imposes on a driver and a driver’s employer training requirements, testing, background investigations, continuing trainings, supervision, and oversight of the driver by the employer. A failure by the driver or the employer to follow these safeguards can quickly lead to a disaster. A lawyer handling a heavy truck case must investigate compliance and understand the regulatory standards for both the driver and the employer.

A lawsuit to prosecute an action against a CDL driver and his/her employer requires an expert witness to describe the “standard of care” for the CDL driver given the prevailing road and traffic conditions. The jury must understand the duties imposed on the CDL driver and his/her employer for the safe operation of heavy trucks. The regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) detail the duties of the CDL driver and his/her employer. The discovery of information to identify violations of the regulatory process is long and painstaking. A significant commitment of time, energy, and costs to develop a successful heavy truck case is always the duty of the law firm accepting a heavy truck case.

The lawyers at Gross McGinley are familiar with this process, having prosecuted death and serious injury cases involving heavy trucks. Recently, Victor F. Cavacini and Christopher W. Gittinger obtained a significant recovery for a seriously injured motorist struck by two heavy trucks.