Three years after a fatal accident occurred on Highway 80 in Alabama, the wrongful death trial of Judy Madere has begun. The plaintiffs allege that the truck driver was 100 percent at fault for the accident that caused Mrs. Madere’s death. All five passengers in the SUV that carried Judy Madere died as a result of the collision with the tractor-trailer.
The truck driver works for Schnitzer Steel Industries which is based in Columbus, Georgia. Plaintiffs contend that he fell asleep at the wheel.
An Accident Reconstruction Specialist Explains the Accident
The plaintiffs had an accident reconstruction specialist explain how the accident occurred. Accident reconstruction specialists can be very useful when describing accidents to a jury. They can make determinations as to the cause of the accident and the primary fault of the defendant. In this case, the accident reconstruction expert testified that the driver never seemed to react to the SUV that he struck. In that manner, the specialist concluded that the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel or otherwise lacked any awareness of what was happening on the road.
The Importance of Accident Reconstruction Specialists in Traffic Liability Lawsuits
Generally, when a lawsuit such as this goes to trial, the defense will always attempt to mitigate their own liability by blaming the plaintiff. If they can lay some of the blame at the plaintiff’s feet, they will be able to reduce their own liability. In cases such as this, a determination is made as to how much of the blame each party has. If the plaintiff has more than 50 percent of the blame, this can be a bar for recovering any money from the accident. If the plaintiff’s blame is less than 50 percent, they can still recover damages, but their damages are reduced by their percentage of blame.
While accident reconstruction specialists may not be able to make definitive statements in every situation, they can certainly rule out certain scenarios posited by the defense. This can be extremely helpful when a defendant attempts to pin the blame on the other driver as it provides a scientific explanation for how the accident occurred.
How Accident Reconstruction Works
Accident reconstruction specialists consider all available data. This includes skid marks of each vehicle, damage to both vehicles, and witness testimony. After they have all the data, they then use computer modeling software to create (or recreate) an animation of what they believe happened given all the available data. The animations accurately model the physics of the collision and give a jury a visual aid to understand the testimony presented by the plaintiffs. Additionally, the sophisticated accident reconstruction software can be used to show the actual trauma caused by the accident. This can have a profound emotional impact on the jury.
Accident reconstruction begins at the scene of an accident. Forensic teams map the scene of the accident, creating video evidence of the aftermath. This is then mapped to 3D software which recreates both vehicles and “rewinds” the accident to before it occurred and while it was happening.
The Types of Conclusions Accident Reconstruction Experts Can Draw
In the case mentioned above, the accident reconstruction expert testified that the driver of the tractor-trailer was not attentive to the road when his truck struck the SUV. This led the accident reconstruction specialist to conclude that the truck driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. How?
According to the accident reconstruction specialist, the truck driver made no attempt to swerve away from the SUV as would be normal in an accident like this.
Truck Drivers Who Fall Asleep at the Wheel
Today, federal regulations prohibit truck drivers from driving extensive hours over a given time. This includes 30-minute rest breaks every eight hours. Additionally, the following rules apply to truck drivers:
- Each duty period begins after 10 hours off duty;
- Drivers may be on duty for 14 hours after a 10-hour rest, but can only drive for 11 of those hours; and
- Drivers are required to take a 30-minute rest after their first eight hours of coming on duty.
Drivers operate on a 168-hour workweek (7 x 24). Drivers cannot work more than 60 hours on-duty during this period.
While these regulations are meant to reduce the amount of accidents caused by tired truck drivers on the road, there are some exceptions. In other cases, trucking companies push their drivers to make deliveries within a certain window. Truck drivers themselves don’t necessarily think the 30-minute rest periods after eight hours help them at all. Some believe that they’re better off simply trucking through the full 14 hours without taking the break, which they claim adds to their fatigue.
Nonetheless, companies found in violation of any of the aforementioned policies can be held liable for the actions of their driver. This includes when their driver falls asleep at the wheel and ends up colliding with an SUV killing everyone inside.
Trucking companies carry commercial policies that cover all their drivers while they’re on delivery. These are the policies that cover damages in the event of an accident. However, in some cases, a plaintiff’s attorney may sue the trucking company directly for gross negligence. In that case, the insurance company may cover part of the verdict or settlement, but the company would have to pay for the difference out of pocket.
Vicarious liability simply means that the trucking company is responsible for the conduct of their employees while they’re on the road. This means ensuring that they’re in compliance with federal law, taking rest breaks when required, and not working over the legal limit.
Car Accident Attorney Acworth
If you’ve been injured in a serious trucking accident or lost a loved one to a trucking company that didn’t follow federal guidelines, you are entitled to recover damages for your losses. The attorneys at the Roger Ghai Law Offices have helped numerous plaintiffs recover fair settlements and jury verdicts from negligent companies. Talk to us today to set up a free consultation.