A recent item in the Kansas City Star caught my eye as a Missouri semi truck accident attorney. That newspaper reported Oct. 21 on the end of a lawsuit by the family of a woman killed when her vehicle was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer. Anita Gibbs was the principal of Askew Elementary School in Kansas City before her death in 2006. She was on her way to a family celebration when a truck driver failed to slow for traffic ahead and plowed into the vehicle in which she was riding, killing all four of the women inside. The trucker was found not guilty of four manslaughter charges in 2008, but the families of the other three women sued, reaching an $18 million settlement with the truck driver and trucking company. The Gibbs family’s suit was the last of the four to go to trial and the only one to reach a jury verdict, which includes $5.25 million in compensation and $30 million in punitive damages.
According to the article, the Gibbs family argued that truck driver George Albright Jr. of Tennessee was too tired to be on the road the day of the crash. The family’s attorney told the newspaper that Albright had falsified his logs, the written record truck drivers keep showing how many hours they had driven. The federal government requires truckers to keep these logs to ensure that they follow restrictions on hours of service, which are designed to keep drivers from getting too tired. Nonetheless, the attorney told the newspaper, cell phone records put Albright in Illinois when his log said he was in Columbia, Mo. The family’s attorneys argued that Albright’s employer, CenTra Trucking Co., negligently ignored violations like this, as well as Albright’s allegedly poor driving record, contributing to the crash.
As a St. Louis 18-wheeler crash lawyer, I was interested in this story because it neatly lays out some of the important issues in any serious accident involving a large truck. The federal government restricts how many hours truckers may be in service, specifically because of concerns about the safety of drivers who have been on the road too long. Unfortunately, truckers and trucking companies have a financial incentive to break the law, because they lose money when they don’t meet delivery deadlines. As a result, industry insiders say the logs — which are still kept on paper — are routinely falsified. Trucking companies are complicit in this because they want to save money — in fact, they sometimes pressure drivers into violating hours of service rules to meet deadlines. As a result, dangerously over-tired truckers are still on the roads, threatening the safety of everyone they pass.
At Carey, Danis & Lowe, we focus our practice on tractor-trailer accidents because they are often very serious accidents involving complicated legal and medical issues. Because a large truck is so much bigger and heavier than an ordinary car or truck — up to 20 times the size of an import economy car — it can kill or severely injure people in situations that might not have been serious if two cars were involved. That means trucking accidents frequently involve permanent, medically complex injuries involving substantial financial costs and permanent, devastating lifestyle changes. To make matters worse, some trucking companies and their insurers take advantage of victims’ emotional devastation to minimize their financial payout by offering far less money than the case is worth. Victims of this type of accident should speak to an experienced southern Illinois tractor-trailer accident attorney before accepting any settlement, to learn more about their rights and the value of their claims.
If your family has been victimized by a crash involving a semi truck, don’t hesitate to call Carey, Danis & Lowe for help. For a free consultation, you can reach us at 1-877-678-3400 or send us a message online.