Because truck drivers are operating the largest and heaviest vehicles on the road, they have an even greater responsibility than other drivers to pay attention, obey traffic laws, drive defensively and anticipate hazards. Unfortunately, many commercial truck drivers do not take these responsibilities seriously. When they drive carelessly or recklessly, there’s a very good chance they could kill occupants of other vehicles.
That seems to be what happened earlier this summer when two trucks struck a van filled with children, killing eight kids and injuring the driver. The same accident also caused the deaths of a father and daughter traveling in a separate vehicle. The crash occurred on an Alabama highway, but one of the trucks involved is owned by a California-based company.
Earlier this month, the driver of the van sued the two trucking companies for the roles their drivers played in causing the crash and related deaths. The plaintiff alleges that the two drivers were traveling at speeds which were unsafe for road conditions (there was some inclement weather that day), and that both were following too closely and/or distracted behind the wheel.
According to news reports, the van full of children was driving in the left lane of a multi-lane highway. One of the trucks failed to slow or stop with traffic, struck an SUV and then swerved into the van. The van was then hit from behind by the second truck, causing the vehicle to crumple and catch fire.
The woman was pulled from the wreckage by first responders, and she then tried desperately to free the children (including her two children and two nephews). Sadly, none of the children could be reached because of the severity of flames and vehicle damage. The plaintiff survived, but suffered physical injuries that included bruises and burns. She also experienced severe psychological trauma.
The amount of compensation sought in the lawsuit hasn’t been made public. But in light of just how many deaths there were and how many families were affected, this is almost certainly going to be very high-stakes litigation.
One of the reasons why truck drivers may fail to take their safety responsibilities seriously is because they are unlikely to be hurt in a crash. The cabs of commercial trucks are much higher off the ground and are significantly larger than most other vehicles (especially when pulling a trailer). While truck accidents often cause deaths, truck drivers are likely to walk away unscathed. The fact that their own safety isn’t threatened might make some truckers more willing to take risks.
Trucking accident litigation serves at least two important purposes after a devastating crash. First, it helps compensate the victims and their families. Second, it provides much-needed incentive to trucking companies and their drivers to prioritize the safety of others on the road.