As a trucking accident trial attorney in Atlanta, I often see that the trucking companies involved in bad crashes have had terrible safety evaluations for a long time.
Twice in the past few weeks I found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration safety audits that the companies were cited and fined scores of times for the same rule violations that were involved in the crashes we are addressing.
Now folks in the insurance industry are expressing concern that increased safety monitoring under the FMCSA’s Comprehensive Safety Analysis initiative will result in more warnings and citations about deficient safety practices, which we will in turn use to show the willfulness of unsafe practices.
In some instances, jurors may find that persistence in bad conduct sufficient to award punitive damages or attorney fees in addition to punitive damages. That may be a good thing for promoting safety on the highways, as trucking companies with unsatisfactory safety ratings will face pressure from their insurance companies. Those truckers who don’t care much about safety may care about being able to keep the insurance that is required to operate, and about their paying higher insurance premiums. Thus, the economic impact will give a competitive advantage to safer companies and a competitive disadvantage to unsafe companies.
And trucking trial lawyers like me who know where to obtain those records and how to use them will contribute to a “virtuous cycle” whereby pursuit of our clients’ interests also serves to promote safety for everyone on the highways.
Ken Shigley, author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation & Practice, is a board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group, a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers . He practices law at the Atlanta law firm of Chambers, Aholt & Rickard, and has broad experience in catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. He is also president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia. This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.