Truck Accident Case
We took more than 60 depositions in five different states. Because of Stephenson’s tireless advocacy, shortly before the trial was to commence, the defendants settled the case for $48.5 million.
Indiana Delivery Truck Accidents
You may have noticed an increase in delivery trucks in your neighborhood compared to past years. Like it or not, our lives are different than they were only 20 years ago.
Amazon was just getting started, and at that point was selling only books. Now they sell just about anything you can imagine. Along with Walmart, whose internet business is trying to give Amazon a run for its money, these companies serve as modern-day general stores. Add in all the other businesses on the internet along with local deliveries (pizza, meals, and flowers), and the number of delivery vehicles on the road, especially between Thanksgiving and Christmas, can be astonishing.
Cyber stores now rack up millions of dollars in sales and have UPS and FedEx trucks rolling through our communities in record numbers. Drivers are pressured to meet deadlines by having a package delivered overnight or this afternoon or, in the case of meals, ASAP. No one wants a cold dinner, even in the age of easy reheating using microwave ovens.
Being a delivery truck driver isn’t easy. The hours are long, the traffic is frustrating, and the time pressures can be intense. Most drivers do their very best, and that is usually quite good. Yet, drivers rush, trucks aren’t properly loaded or maintained, and accidents happen.
Drivers Under Duress
When you are in a hurry, cutting corners becomes attractive. For example, you might creep through a stop sign when you can see that no one is coming. But delivery drivers under pressure might stop abruptly and even back up with no warning if they miss their turnoff. They might try to beat a light, especially when making a left turn. They might not properly re-secure their cargo after a delivery. Drivers might even forget to close cargo doors or set their brakes when they hop out to take parcels to someone’s door. It wouldn’t be the first time that a truck rolled on its own, striking parked cars and causing many kinds of mayhem.
With so-called light trucks (the kinds used by UPS, FedEx, and the white boxy trucks you often see), truck accidents and fatalities are on the rise. Statistics compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) indicate that in Indiana during 2013, there were 3,752 crashes involving trucks of all kinds, with 113 fatalities and 1,854 injuries. During 2014, those numbers rose to 4,833 crashes, 132 fatalities, and 2,169 injuries. Nationally, these numbers showed similar increases.
Other issues exist when it comes to the reasons delivery trucks can be dangerous:
- Drivers often can’t see you because of the truck’s size and boxiness.
- GPS or cell phone distraction. This problem is becoming more widespread, with scary implications.
- Bad weather creates control issues, especially with a truck that is poorly loaded.
- Work compensation systems that cause drivers to hurry and cut corners.
- Unrealistic workload expectations by employers when it comes to the hours and physical labor expected of a driver.
- The sheer weight of delivery trucks, which can run up to 26,000 pounds, versus the average passenger vehicle’s weight of 2,000 to 3,000 pounds. The laws of physics tend to dictate accident outcomes in such cases.
With all of these risk factors, are you surprised that accidents and injuries are the result?
It’s Not Just Trucks You Have to Worry About
More and more, deliveries are being handled by people who drive their own car. They get paid a token amount (often below minimum wage) but get to keep any tips they make. Add on any requirement to deliver items within a certain amount of time, and tragedy is bound to ensue.
Domino’s pizza was hit with a judgment of $78 million over 20 years ago (1993) because a delivery driver left a woman with head and spinal injuries. Since then, pizza corporations have gotten rid of any delivery promises involving time. But the accidents keep happening. In Beaumont, TX, in 2012, a 65-year-old woman was killed, and her 70-year-old husband was left severely brain-damaged because of a Domino’s pizza delivery driver.
While pizza delivery is still the industry most likely to hire drivers who use their own cars, some larger urban areas have other delivery systems that hire drivers who use their own cars. Deliveries so far are mostly restricted to food and meals, but in some areas pharmacies and other enterprises hire local drivers who use their own cars to deliver various time-sensitive items.
You can’t count on such drivers to have sufficient commercial insurance, and as independent contractors, they are the ones responsible. Some insurance companies prohibit pizza and other delivery jobs from being covered on personal car insurance policies because of the risk. Personal insurance almost never covers commercial usage; special riders are required.
Be careful out there when you see one of those logo identifiers on the top of a car.
Whose Fault Is It?
Ultimately, determining fault can be complicated. Drivers and their trucks (or their pizza delivery vehicles, as mentioned above) are often not direct employees. Chasing down those responsible can require a multi-pronged approach. Liability can be due to:
- The driver. Many accidents are caused by driver error, which can involve drugs of all kinds, including legal ones like cold medicine that cause sleepiness, as well as alcohol, distraction from electronic devices, or plain old tiredness. Sometimes a driver’s record shows a history of problems.
- The truck or car. If proper maintenance has not been performed, the owner can be held liable. But it doesn’t end there. If the party paid to do the maintenance did not do the job correctly, they may be held liable.
- The loading process. Trucks that aren’t loaded carefully can be unbalanced, causing a loss of control on the part of the driver, with the risk of tip-overs and other accidents.
- The truck’s manufacturer. Occasionally, the truck itself may have a manufacturing defect that causes an accident.
The holidays are upon us, and it should be a time of cheer and joy. Watch out for delivery drivers and take extra care around them, for the protection of both you and your loved ones.