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How the threat of truck accident lawsuits force companies to care

June 15, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

truck accident lawsuits push for truck company safety

I read an article in the New York Times, How Healthcare is Learning from Litigation.

It refutes the common belief that it is the injury lawyers filing tort lawsuits that drive up costs. While the article mainly focuses on medical malpractice cases, it applies even more strongly to the attorneys like myself who litigate truck accident and bus accident cases.

The article points out that, contrary to the popular perception that the insurance companies like to portray of lawyers, it is skilled accident lawyers and the threat of lawsuits that lawyers will file that provides an enormous benefit to society.

This is an economic benefit. It is also a safety benefit. It saves countless people from injury or even death.

It turns out that it is the threat of lawsuits that cause many of these bus companies and trucking companies that clearly would never care otherwise, to pay attention and to follow mandatory safety rules.  It is not the regulators.  Regulators can only inspect a small fraction of the buses and trucks on our roads. It is not the police, who are almost always more likely to do a comprehensive safety inspection of a commercial vehicle only after someone has already been killed or catastrophically injured.

It is the lawyers. It is the lawyers who save countless lives in the bus crashes and truck wrecks that will never occur, because of the threat they represent to these companies.  Not, mind you, because these companies do the right thing for the right reasons. But because these bus operators and trucking companies are more concerned with the legal costs of what will happen to them if they don’t comply with safety rules, and then someone gets killed.

Experienced lawyers make commercial transportation and our roadways safer for us all.  And in a world where the federal regulators are often a step behind – or more often miles  behind –  it is often only the lawyers and the threat of lawsuits that stop these companies from going ahead and intentionally choosing to make the decisions that end up killing  innocent people. I discussed a real life example of this in a recent blog: Update: FMCSA was aware of  bus company Scapadas Magicas deficiencies yet gave them highest safety rating – before the bus accident that left 8 people dead.

Whether it is a driver they know has too many prior accidents and tickets, or who they know has a drinking problem, or putting a bus on the road that they know has bad brakes, it is only the lawyers that stop these motor carriers from knowingly endangering the public to maximize their short-term profits.

And it is this threat of holding these bus companies and trucking companies accountable, and the safety directors and CEOs who would choose to lie and violate mandatory safety rules to pursue profits at the expense of the public’s safety that, the New York Times article shows, provides an enormous albeit indirect economic benefit to us all.

Safety is hard to add up and calculate on a financial spreadsheet.

But it provides an enormous economic benefit to society all the same.

The reason there are so many tragic trucking and bus accident cases today?  It is because so few lawyers who litigate these cases know how to uncover these violations or where to look in legal discovery.  And until the legal profession gets better, which is why an important mission of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable is education, crashes such as the horrible bus crash from earlier this year in San Bernardino, CA, will continue to happen.

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