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Articles Tagged with fatalities

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By Kyle Roby, Partner
English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP

Tractor-trailer accidents are the most dangerous and destructive collisions on our country’s roads – and the problem is only getting worse. When trucks collide with a car, more often than not, people die.

That’s because big rigs usually travel at a high rate of speed on interstates, and if they crash into another vehicle, it’s going to be much smaller. Braking time for large, heavy vehicles is substantially more than that of cars, so even if a truck driver can see the potential for an accident, they can’t necessarily avoid it.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are high-tech solutions that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could require trucking companies to install, but so far, they have not.

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_damoiselle_recycling-bins morguefile damoiselleThe Kentucky case Estate of Ferrell v. J & W Recycling, Inc. involved a semi truck and car accident in which both drivers died. The two drivers were killed when an automobile and a tractor-trailer collided in Greenup County, Kentucky, in 2011. The driver of the semi-truck was apparently operating the commercial vehicle during the course of his employment for a recycling company. When the accident occurred, the recycling business carried commercial general liability insurance. Still, the company’s insurer refused to honor the policy and indemnify the business after the fatal accident.

Following the tragic wreck, the wife of the automobile driver filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the recycling business. According to her complaint, the accident resulted in part from improper truck loading by a forklift operator. After nearly two years of litigation, the man’s wife and the recycling company agreed upon a settlement in which the business admitted fault for the deadly collision. As part of the agreement, the decedent’s wife accepted the recycling company’s rights under its liability insurance policy. When she filed a petition with the court to “adjudge the existence of coverage” under the policy the insurer sought to move the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky based upon diversity jurisdiction.

28 U.S.C. § 1332 allows a party to a lawsuit to remove a case from state court where the parties are residents of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. The Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, however, allows a federal court to refuse jurisdiction where appropriate. After examining several factors, the federal court declined to hear the case.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation‘s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just released statistics for 2012 for auto and large truck fatal accidents. There are three reports, which provide a wealth of information about fatal accidents in the U.S.

Links to the reports are available here:

In this blog post, we’ll concentrate on the first report, which analyzes all data from all of the accidents combined.
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It’s no secret that tractor trailer drivers are often on tight deadlines to move freight fast. In some cases, the items they’re carrying are perishable foods and if the cargo isn’t on time, the trucking company risks spoilage. Trucking companies sometimes make unreasonable demands of drivers as well, forcing some of them to drive without the sleep they need to stay alert and drive safely.

The news program 20/20, which is part of ABC News, aired a report recently on the dangers of expecting truck drivers to operate an 80,000 pound vehicle with very little sleep. This eight minute news story exposes the dangers of driving too fast and driving while exhausted. The ABC News crew spent time with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, spotting truck drivers violating the law by helicopter and advising patrol officers on the road to pull truckers over. In one case, a truck driver was going nearly 80 miles an hour and driving far too close behind a passenger car. If the car had stopped suddenly, the accident could have been catastrophic.

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