This month’s TRIAL Magazine discusses a tragic eighteen wheeler crash. What happened in that crash? Around 1:30 am, a large commercial truck slammed into the rear of a pickup truck on a rural stretch of western Interstate. The crash killed a young mother and one of her children. Another child was left severely injured. The evidence at trial in that case revealed the commercial truck never slowed or took any evasive action before slamming into the pickup truck.
That case raised significant questions involving issues of independent contractors as drivers, control over drivers and company safety programs. If you need a lawyer in a trucking injury case, you should find one who understands these issues. Why were these issues in that case? The company (a worldwide distribution company) hired drivers it called “contractors” or “independent contractors.” Yet, the company did not treat these drivers as independent contractors. Instead, the company controlled every detail of driver operations down to the details of how to park the truck. As many lawyers know, it’s not what the company calls its people, but rather, the realities of control. While the company controlled all aspects of driver operations, it had NO driver safety training requirements or programs. That’s a classic case of profits over people. If you put drivers on the highway and control their actions for your profit, you should also exercise some safety responsibility for them.
We drive alongside big trucks everyday on our highways. Many trucking companies and truckers care deeply about safety. But, not all of them do. Next time you see a company name or logo on the side of a large truck, ask yourself: Does that company have a REAL safety program to prevent needless injury?
By real safety program, I mean something beyond a binder gathering dust on the top of a filing cabinet at the dispatch office. An unused (or even unread) written procedure, is no real procedure at all. An unused plan is a useless plan. A couple years ago, I settled a trucking case in northern Alabama where the company had a great written safety program. A program that was written and then forgotten. In my Alabama case, the truck driver had caused a series of smaller accidents before the tragic one with my clients. Each one of the earlier and smaller crashes raised series issues of driver attention. After each accident, the company put the driver right back on the highway with NO additional training, NO additional counseling and NO additional safety precautions of any type. That company had a safety program gathering dust while its driver put all of us at risk.
Does the trucking company have a REAL safety program to prevent tragic injuries and deaths on our roadways? Safety should be priority number one for trucking companies. For some, it is not a priority at all.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we represent people across Alabama who have suffered serious injuries in a car crash or commercial truck collision. We believe in case preparation. Outside of the courtroom, we continue to advocate for safer highways. You can read some of our prior articles advocating for commercial truck safety on this blog. If you have questions, give us a call. Consultations are always free and confidential. We are happy to answer questions about our work.