A woman was on her way to give a motivational speech at a work conference when a semi-truck appeared seemingly out of nowhere. It was dark out, and the truck didn’t have any side reflectors or bright colors. The woman never even braked until just seconds before impact.
When her small passenger vehicle collided with the 80,000-pound truck, which was pulling out of a driveway into an intersection,the impact shattered the front windshield and tore off her roof as she skidded underneath the trailer.
She suffered severe brain damage. In fact, she never awoke from her coma. She died in a hospital four months later, leaving behind a husband and a daughter, pregnant with her first grandchild.
Now, her husband has filed a wrongful death truck accident lawsuit against the manufacturer of that truck. In Dodgen v. PJ Trailers Manufacturing Inc., filed in the 165th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas, plaintiffs allege defendant knew or should have known the risk of serious head trauma and decapitation that accompanies failure to install side underride guards.
Side underride guards are panels that run along the side of large trucks that can significantly reduce the risk of serious injury or death when a passenger vehicle collides with the side of a large truck. These features aren’t mandated by law, but it’s been long known within the traffic safety industry that these devices can save lives. The National Transportation Safety Board has been urging action to make them mandatory on new trucks since 1968 – most recently again in April 2014, just two months before this crash.
The fact that federal regulators haven’t taken action doesn’t mean truck manufacturers can’t or shouldn’t, particularly when they know the kinds of catastrophic injuries that can result by failure to do so.
A 2012 study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention revealed the presence of side guards could have reduced the risk of serious injury or death in three-fourths of the more than 200 truck crashes analyzed.
This vehicle was a 2014 model. Not only did it lack side guards, the family asserted, but it had no conspicuous markings on the side of the truck, rendering it virtually impossible to see in the dark.
This case is noteworthy for the fact that while it doesn’t highlight any clear violation of law, it shines a spotlight on the commercial truck industry’s failure to implement relatively cheap safety features that are known to save lives. Federal safety officials have repeatedly made these recommendations, but because no one is forcing manufacturers to take action, they aren’t. Thus, everyone who shares the road with them risks paying the price.
The lawsuit asserts claims for negligence, gross negligence and product liability. Plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement for medical expenses, funeral expenses, past pain and future suffering, loss of inheritance and loss of consortium.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against a Trailer Manufacturer After Deadly Crash, Aug. 27, 2015, By Meagan Flynn, Houston Press
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