October 2011 Archives

Wrongful Death Award in Cab Case

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A North Carolina jury awarded $1.5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a pedestrian hit by a cab.  Before his death, the man suffered brain damage that ultimately killed him eight months after the accident.   The pedestrian victim was blind - thankfully, there were witnesses to the accident which helped avoid a miscarriage of justice. 

One big problem with cab accident lawsuits in Maryland is the taxi cabs are typically insured for only $20,000 in coverage, an amount below the minimum limits.  How do cab companies get away with having less than the minimum insurance?  They use MAIF which is a Maryland state government operated insurance company that slipped by the legislature when they increased the minimum limits.  Hopefully, this gets fixed in the next legislative session.  

Verdicts and Settlements for Rear End Truck Accidents

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A Jury Verdict Research study found that the median award in rear-end truck accident cases is $93,909. Remarkably, plaintiffs recover damages in only 63 percent of truck accident cases that go to verdict. That study is based on verdicts rendered throughout the United States from 1997 to 2007.  While these statistics are a little bit dated, I think they fairly reflect the median value.  

This is the median not the average truck accident verdict. Clearly, the average big rig crash verdict would be substantially higher because a full twelve percent of the verdicts in rear end truck accident cases are over $1 million. 

Spoliation in Truck Accident: Most Commonly Cited Case

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I have written and read a good bit about spoliation in truck accident cases.  A common case cited nationally in these cases is J.B. Hunt Transp. Inc. v. Bentley, 207 Ga. App. 250, 427 S.E.2d 499 (1992).  In this truck accident case, the defendant trucking company did what many trucking companies do after an accident: destroy the logbook.  There was no conspiracy: this was a destruction in the normal course of business.  Plaintiff' filed a lawsuit alleging that the accident was caused because of driver fatigue.    bigtruck.jpg

Plaintiff's lawyers screamed that the defendant should have - given the notice of a potential claim - preserved the trucking logs.  The trial court agreed, telling the jury that they should presume that the trucking logbook would have shown that the driver did not have sufficient rest. 

The court relied I'm sure in no small part on the fact that the trucking company was clearly a bad seed.  It was a "habitual violator" of the hours-in-service requirements of the Georgia Public Service Commission for its vehicles.   One-third of the company's logbook violations which were penalized were because of driver excessive driving.  Incredibly, and this is over-the-top even for poorly run trucking companies, it operated a "forced dispatch" system, under which drivers could be terminated for not driving a load upon demand. 

That said, destruction of trucking logs after an accident is common, even when the company knows that a potential claim may follow.  Good truck accident lawyers use this lack of evidence to their advantage and seek an instruction that the destroyed evidence would have helped plaintiff's case.