As a trucking accident trial lawyer in Georgia, I find myself spending a lot of time in conference rooms for the depositions of truck drivers and trucking company owners. Since I sometimes represent truck drivers who are injured by the negligence of other truck drivers, it is not uncommon to spend a very long day with truckers on both sides of the table.
At this point few things surprise me. A few examples from depositions this week in a small town far from the nearest interstate highway:
* An owner of a certified interstate motor carrier for ten years was completely unaware that a motor carrier is responsible for leased trucks, the drivers of which are deemed to be employees of the motor carrier. That has only been the law since 1956. It is amazing how many people in the trucking business — and how many judges — are totally unaware.
* A motor carrier that never did anything to verify driving records or prior employment, never required drug tests, never maintained driver qualification files, never required drivers to agree to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and never audited driver logs.
* A truck driver who thought he was still legal to drive 17 hours and 45 minutes after he reported for duty at 3:30 AM. The federal hours of service regulation limits truckers to driving 11 hours out of 14 hours on duty.
* A plaintiff truck driver who was appalled at the degree of ignorance of the trucking business on the part of the carrier and driver that slammed into him, costing him many months of lost wages and the necessity of surgery.
The defendants don’t seem like bad guys. Just untrained and uninformed. As one of them said, the case was a “wakeup call.” It’s an expensive way to learn.
Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute, is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, and is a frequent national seminar speaker for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he was a faculty member for ten years at the Emory University Law School Trial Techniques Program.