One frequent theme in my work as a Missouri tractor-trailer accident lawyer has been truck drivers who aren’t paying enough attention. Due to fatigue, distraction substance abuse and other problems, truckers occasionally cause devastating high-speed crashes by failing to slow or stop for traffic ahead. This was the case for several recent high-profile commercial truck accidents, including the June 2009 crash that took 10 lives in Oklahoma and the 2008 crash on Interstate 40 here in Missouri. Now, the Associated Press reports that inattention is responsible for another serious crash in upstate New York. Investigators into an accident near the Finger Lakes last July concluded that a trucker could easily have avoided the rear-end crash that killed him and wounded 52 people on a tour bus.
The bus was taking insurance company employees from Canada to New York City, but had encountered mechanical problems requiring it to pull over. When the bus driver pulled back into traffic, state police investigators believe it was going no more than 25 mph and had its emergency lights flashing. Another truck driver who witnessed the crash said he pulled into the passing lane after noticing the bus pulling into the right lane more than a quarter-mile ahead. But then, he said, trucker Timothy Hume of Michigan sailed by in the right lane, apparently without noticing the slow-moving bus. Hume reportedly failed to brake before plowing into the back of the bus, causing both vehicles to bust into flames. Hume died at the scene and almost all 52 people on the bus were injured, at least two seriously. A passing motorist, a soldier on leave, ran into the burning bus several times to rescue passengers. The state police do not plan any criminal charges.
As a St. Louis semi truck accident attorney, I wonder if those plans would be different if Hume had lived. Failing to brake to avoid a rear-end crash is a classic example of negligent driving. In fact, insurance companies often just assume the driver of the behind vehicle in a rear-end crash is at fault. It’s telling that the truck driver who witnessed the crash told state police he thought Hume might be asleep at the wheel or otherwise incapacitated. Truck drivers are required by law to rest for a certain amount of time per day and per week, and part of the reason why is the risk of accidents from fatigued driving. Other explanations could include a distraction like a cell phone, drug or alcohol abuse or mechanical problems with brakes. Though Hume cannot answer these questions, investigators — or victims interested in filing a legal claim — may want to put them to the trucking company that employed him.
If you’ve been hurt through no fault of your own by a crash with a large truck, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe to discuss how we can help. Our southern Illinois 18-wheeler accident lawyers focus our practice on accidents involving large commercial trucks because we know how catastrophic they can be. The vast difference in size and weight between a passenger vehicle and a big rig means the people in the smaller car are far more likely to be killed or seriously hurt, regardless of who was at fault. To make matters worse, because accidents are just another part of business for trucking companies, those companies know what to do after a crash to minimize their liability at the expense of the victims. That’s why it’s absolutely vital not to sign anything or take any money from a trucking or insurance company until you talk to an experienced lawyer.
Carey, Danis & Lowe offers free, confidential case evaluations to all potential clients, so you can speak to us without any further obligation. To set up a meeting, call today at 1-877-678-3400 or send us a message online.
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