Truck attorney tip 5: Stopping the defense from sweeping negligent acts under the rug
Don’t be afraid to ask the public policy questions about truck safety in the state where your wreck occurred
Welcome again to the Truck Accident Attorney Roundtable blog series addressing one of the most common defense tactics that lawyers face: What to do when the lawyer from the trucking company (or the insurance company of the trucking company more accurately) admits negligence as a tactic to exclude damning evidence of the motor carrier company for trial.
Generally, the trucking company will make five arguments that evidence of direct negligence of the company should not be allowed in at trial. Although the trucking company sometimes finds success with this, the reality is that the defense should not be allowed to sweep evidence of negligence under the rug to minimize a jury verdict, for a number of important reasons.
We’ve previously shared several tips:
1. Looking at the law of the jurisdiction (many states allow a direct negligence claim against the company in addition to a negligence cause of action against the truck driver);
Today, here’s the most important reason why defense lawyers should not be allowed to do this:
There is a strong public policy interest in maintaining an independent claim of negligence against the trucking company. To allow defense lawyers to admit negligence to keep this evidence out of trial makes our highways much more dangerous.
Traffic fatalities and the destructive force of preventable semi-truck accidents are huge problems in this country. Thousands of people are killed every year, and many more are seriously hurt. Some states have a higher percentage of unsafe motor carrier operations than others, which you can investigate here.
States like Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, New Mexico and Louisiana are the most dangerous states in the country when it comes to serious semi-truck accidents killing and injuring people on the public roadways.
Nor is this a new idea. States have recognized this for decades, and have also recognized the strong public policy of minimizing carnage and death on our roads and highways. For example, there are numerous decisions in Michigan from the state Supreme Court that explicitly state deaths on the highway are one of [the state’s] most pressing social problems. (See 358 Mich. 398).
Decisions like this from your state jurisdiction can be extremely helpful in reminding a trial court judge why public policy is not a throw-away argument that is added at the end of a motion. But rather that your state has a compelling public policy reason to stop smart defense lawyers from hiding evidence of dangerous trucking companies from juries. The only way to make our roads and truck companies more safe is for these dangerous motor carriers to be held accountable for their negligent acts, not to immunize themselves by admitting negligence on the eve of a jury trial to minimize their accountability as a legal tactic.
If we do not hold bad trucking companies fully accountable for violating state and federal laws and safety regulations that are designed to keep the public safe, then how will the safety culture ever change?
The answer is simple: It won’t.
– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Evil Erin