Archive for March, 2011

Commercial Trucking Industry Seeks Permission to Bury Critical Trucking Accident Evidence

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Trucking accidents are the most dangerous of all traffic accidents because they cause hundreds of thousands of serious accidents per year and result in an average of over five thousand fatalities each year.  The mere size and substantial weight differences between large semi-trucks and other passenger vehicles usually means that the passengers and drivers of the other vehicle involved will likely suffer serious injury or death. A victim of a serious trucking accident, especially if injured, will likely face a significant challenge in establishing the cause of the accident.  Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of serious trucking accidents.  While trucking industry regulations require drivers to maintain logbooks that detail the time a driver is on the road and rest schedules, these logbooks and other supporting documents are routinely altered.

One of the most valuable pieces of evidence regarding the cause of a commercial trucking accident are onboard data recorders often referred to as “event data recorders” (EDRs).  These electronic devices store a wealth of information that is critical to identifying the factors that cause a serious big-rig accident.  However, the trucking industry is now seeking legal sanction to make this information unavailable to victims in big-rig accidents.  This extremely unfair proposal, sponsored by Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ar) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tn), threatens to give legal sanction to a trucking industry practice that is already widespread – specifically the cover up of vital evidence of driver negligence or inadequate vehicle maintenance in trucking accidents.

What is even more astonishing about this proposal, referred to as the Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act, is that the information stored in the EDR would still be available for use in litigation by the trucking company if the data helps them defend trucking accident cases.  Currently, experienced trucking accident attorneys will send spoliation letters to trucking companies warning that this information must be preserved because of possible litigation.  If the trucking company refuses to comply and destroys the information stored in the EDR after receiving a spoliation letter, the trucking company may be liable for sanctions.

The data stored in an EDR currently provides critical evidence regarding factors that may have played a role in a tractor-trailer accident and provides a check against logbooks and other documents relating to driver fatigue that are more easily manipulated.  An EDR may record data relevant to speed history and speed immediately proceeding an accident, sudden braking, rapid acceleration, hours behind the wheel, rest periods and vehicle maintenance issues.  Because driver negligence and mechanical issues related to vehicle maintenance are leading causes of tractor-trailer accidents, this legislation would make trucking accident litigation much more difficult for trucking accident victims.  The potentially chilling effect this proposed legislation could have on commercial trucking accidents is evident when reviewing some leading causes of trucking accidents:

  • Exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for road conditions
  • Driver fatigue relating to violation of hours of service rules (i.e. driving too long without adequate rest periods)
  • Failure to perform scheduled maintenance regarding tires, brakes, etc
  • Truck drivers distracted by mobile phones and other electronic devices

The typical EDR will preserve critical evidence regarding all of these potential trucking accident causes.  This typically allows trucking accident reconstruction experts to carefully identify the factors and causes of a serious trucking accident.  The issue of proving fault in a trucking accident can be complex.  It is essential to work with an experienced Kansas City commercial trucking accident attorney if you are involved in a Kansas City trucking accident.

If you suffer serious injury or a loved one suffers a serious injury or wrongful death in a Kansas City truck accident, Call (816) 472-HOPE (4673) or Contact us by email today to schedule an appointment.

From our offices in Kansas City, a Kansas City trucking accident attorney from our law firm is available to serve clients throughout the Kansas City region, including St. Joseph, Independence, Lees Summit, Columbia, Warrensburg, Overland Park, Olathe, Atchison, Lawrence, Topeka, and many more Kansas and Missouri communities.

Kansas City Car Accident Attorney Discusses The Growing Risk of Texting While Driving in Kansas City

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

The number of distracted driving accidents in Kansas City has been on the rise and has reached almost epidemic proportions.  A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that distracted drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in car accidents or near accidents than undistracted drivers.  Although thousands of people are injured or killed in distracted driving accidents annually, studies have shown that driving while texting is even more dangerous than driving while talking on a cell phone due to the five seconds a driver averages with his or her eyes diverted from the road.

Texting is also the most dangerous of driver distractions because it encompasses all 3 types of distraction.

  • Visual – Taking your eyes off the road.
  • Manual – Taking your hands off the steering wheel.
  • Cognitive – Taking your mind off what you’re doing.

Action was taken in January of 2009 when the National Safety Council urged state and federal lawmakers to ban the use of cell phones and other text-messaging devices while driving.  Thirty states including the District of Columbia have since taken action and banned the practice of texting while driving.  Studies linking serious auto accidents to text messaging have led to lobbying for a federal ban on texting while driving.  When Americans were surveyed and asked if they would support a federal ban, nine out of ten adults indicated that texting was “dangerous and distracting” and would vote in favor of a federal ban.

What does this all mean to the everyday driver on the road? The laws against driving and texting are changing because of the significant risk of fatal auto accidents.  A driver who is engaged in texting while driving and injures another vehicle occupant or pedestrian in an auto accident may be liable for the victim’s injuries.  Many states like Kansas and Missouri are taking a hard line when it comes to prosecuting those who text while driving.  If a driver in Utah is involved in an auto accident while texting and causes injury or death, the driver will face up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.  Not only will the person face criminal liability but the criminal violation can be the basis for imposing liability under a doctrine of “negligence per se.”  The application of the doctrine means that a violation of a safety statute, which is designed to protect others on roadways, is an independent basis for a finding of negligence if it causes injury to another person on the road.

It is unclear at this point how effective criminal penalties and fines will be in preventing auto accidents caused by texting drivers.  Unlike drunk driving, there is no test to prove that someone was texting and driving so some states have had a difficult time prosecuting offenders.  Many times officers cannot tell if a person is texting while driving and a minimal risk of being caught may make anti-texting laws a weak deterrent.  In some of these cases, the judge has prosecuted the offender for reckless driving instead.  Drivers who cause accidents while texting also have been prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter for fatal auto accidents.  A driver who causes a fatal accident typically will also be subject to civil liability for wrongful death by the victim’s family.

In the states of Kansas and Missouri, police officers can pull drivers over for writing or sending texts even if they are not breaking any other laws as this constitutes distracted driving.

It is important to understand your rights and the basis for liability if you are involved in a serious auto accident with a distracted driver who is texting.  Texting drivers create an unreasonable risk of harm to other motorists and pedestrians with whom they share the road.  This dangerous driving practice can result in serious injuries that cause permanent disability and life-changing injuries.  An experienced Kansas City car accident lawyer will ensure that you or your loved one is treated fairly by the insurance company.

If you suffer serious injury or a loved one suffers a serious injury or wrongful death in a Kansas City auto accident with a distracted driver who is texting while driving, Call (816) 472-HOPE (4673) or Contact us by email today to schedule an appointment.

From our offices in Kansas City, a Kansas City car accident attorney from our law firm is available to serve clients throughout the Kansas City region, including St. Joseph, Independence, Lees Summit, Columbia, Warrensburg, Overland Park, Olathe, Atchison, Lawrence, Topeka, and many more Kansas and Missouri communities.