More Deadly Truck Crashes To Come?

February 2, 2022

More deadly truck crashes to come? A Colorado judge recently sentenced a truck driver to 110 years in prison for a crash that killed 4 people.

A Colorado judge recently sentenced a truck driver to 110 years in prison for a crash that killed four people. The sentence ignited controversy. The media focused on the length of the sentence and reforms for mandatory minimums. But there’s another big picture problem here: trucking company negligence. And it appears this problem is only getting worse.  

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos: A Case Study

In April 2019, Mederos was driving a semi-truck in the Colorado mountains. He testified that the truck’s brakes failed, causing him to slam into other vehicles. The violent and fiery crash killed four people. Mederos received a 110-year prison sentence for his role in the crash. The Governor then reduced the sentence to 10 years after public outcry. 

Mederos received punishment. But that’s not the complete picture. His employer reportedly started a new company that has already racked up a startling 23 safety violations. Those violations allegedly include such things as “inoperative brakes.” So, it’s fair to question whether Mederos’s employer is to blame.  

And there are more reasons to question the trucking company’s actions. Mederos learned to drive at a Florida trucking school. He testified that the Florida truck driving school did not teach how to drive in the mountains. But despite his lack of mountain training, he also testified that his employer told him to take the steep, winding mountainous route. And he even testified that he called his boss after having problems with the brakes. The boss allegedly told him not to stop and instead “recommended he stay on the shoulder.”  

Mederos’s trial raises unanswered questions. Why was a driver trained on Florida roads tasked with driving through the mountains? Were the brakes properly maintained? How is the same employer now running a new trucking company that is already racking up safety violations? 

The Big Picture Problem—Trucking Company Negligence—is Getting Worse

In 2019 alone, commercial trucks accounted for 114,000 crashes resulting in physical injury, with another 4,479 crashes resulting in one or more deaths, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These crashes were part of an alarming trend. Between 2009 and 2019, the number of commercial truck crashes resulting in deaths increased by 47 percent. And injury-causing commercial truck crashes increased 62% from 2009 through 2015, and then another 13% from 2016 through 2019. 

The uptick in fatal and injury-causing commercial truck crashes will likely continue. The cause for concern here is a driver shortage that has been plaguing the industry for several years now. The problem predates the pandemic, with an estimated shortage of 61,000 drivers in 2019. Industry observers predict the shortage will grow to 160,000 drivers by 2028. 

Undoubtedly, many companies are continuing to do the right thing during the shortage—observing careful training regimens, providing meaningful oversight, etc. But others appear to be cutting corners to get drivers out on the road cheaper and faster. One of the easiest corners to cut is training, which many short-sighted companies incorrectly perceive to be an avoidable time waste and cost center. This raises a seriously safe concern. Will we see more poorly trained drivers on the road? 

Another alarming issue: a recent push to lower age limits so that teenagers can drive semi-trucks. You thought teenage drivers were scary before? Now imagine them behind the wheel of a fully loaded, 80,000-pound semi-truck speeding down the highway. Unsurprisingly, safety advocates worry this change could put all of us at risk, contending that “younger drivers are more likely to crash.” And that makes perfect sense. Immature drivers plus poor training is a deadly equation.

The Victims’ Rights and Remedies 

To put it bluntly: trucking crashes are often horrific. Big trucks crashing at high speeds cause severe injuries, including paralysis and death. The victims and their families must then pick up the pieces in the aftermath. So, what legal rights and remedies do they have? 

The answer to this question varies case-by-case and state-by-state. Often, the victim and their families can bring a civil lawsuit for negligence. The defendants might include the driver, the company that hired them, and potentially others, such as the company arranging the shipment. Other theories are often available, again, depending on the jurisdiction. 

It’s also not unusual for a case to involve multiple layers of negligence. Take a case like the one involving Mederos. Brake failures can happen for various reasons. Sometimes the brakes were poorly designed or manufactured. Or a service shop may have negligently inspected the brakes. Or all of the above. So, it’s possible that what looks like only a trucking case may expand to include claims against the manufacturer, service shop, or others. That doesn’t necessarily let the trucking company off of the hook, of course. The individual case facts are critical, and most states allow juries to assign responsibility to multiple parties. 

The victims and their families can obtain significant monetary compensation in a trucking crash lawsuit. The available damages often include lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other financial awards to offset the victims’ and their families’ harms and losses. And, where the evidence shows that the defendants recklessly or willfully disregarded the safety of other motorists, the jury might also be able to award punitive damages—meant to send a message that this type of conduct will not be tolerated. 

Conclusion 

These are huge cases: the defense will have great lawyers and a massive war chest. The victims need equally skilled advocates with plentiful resources. We have those exact things at Newsome Melton. Our trial attorneys’ track records, which include multiple million-dollar-plus verdicts, speak for themselves. For instance, we tried a commercial truck case back in 2018, obtaining a $25 million dollar jury verdict for a single wrongful death. That verdict was one of the top 10 largest verdicts obtained in Florida for any injury or wrongful death case in 2018. 

Victims should also make sure the law firm has a broad range of complex injury and wrongful death case experience. As discussed above, trucking cases are often multi-faceted. The lawyer must be able to determine whether manufacturers, service shops, or others may be responsible. Our firm has that exact experience. We sue Big Auto companies and other massive international product manufacturers each day. We know how to spot and successfully pursue these types of claims. 

We are happy to consult with trucking crash victims and their families for free. As always, we will never charge a single fee or litigation cost unless we recover money from the responsible parties.  

x
OVER $500,000,000 recovered
Newsome Melton has recovered over half a billion dollars for their clients.
Product Liability Lawyer - Newsome Melton

    Please do not navigate away from this page until you receive a success notification.

    Product Liability Lawyer - Newsome Melton