Federal and state laws, like hours of service truck driver laws, closely regulate long-distance deliveries. But these laws usually do not apply to short-haul or last-mile deliveries. The accident statistics reflect this fact. Long-haul delivery accidents are somewhat rare, but last-mile accidents are somewhat common.
Walmart, Rumpke, Kroger, and FedEx delivery truck accidents cause serious injuries that are usually permanent. The resulting medical bills and other economic losses in a catastrophic (life-threatening) injury claim often exceed $100,000. Generally, group health insurance policies do not cover injury-related costs. Therefore, last-mile accident victims could be financially responsible for these charges. Furthermore, the $100k figure is often the tip of the iceberg. These injuries cause almost unbelievable emotional distress.
A Hamilton personal injury lawyer gives these victims a lifeline that is unavailable anywhere else. This lifeline includes compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages are often available in these matters as well.
In general, driver error causes most truck crashes and other vehicle collisions. Specific kinds of driver errors in delivery truck crash claims are listed below.
Many companies, like Kroger, did not offer delivery services five years ago. Today, they have large last-mile delivery fleets. These companies often took shortcuts during the rush to put trucks on the road. More on that below. These companies also took shortcuts to put drivers behind the wheel.
Frequently, due to high demand, companies like Walmart, Rumpke, Kroger, and FedEx hire almost anyone who has a commercial license and a relatively clean driving record. Screening standards were higher a few years ago. Today, a person who received a commercial license on Monday can probably get an interview on Tuesday. Additionally, the lookback period for traffic tickets keeps growing. Furthermore, many delivery companies, as well as many other people, view at-fault collisions as “accidents.”
Lookback periods are longer. Many employers do not consider a five-year-old at-fault collision during the hiring process. Training programs are shorter. Most companies assume that all new drivers, even those with little experience, know how to drive delivery trucks while juggling other responsibilities. That false assumption often causes serious injury collisions.
This point is closely related to the previous one. For the most part, delivery truck drivers are in a high-pressure and low-paying position. Many drivers do not last more than a few weeks or months. They leave just when they are getting to know their jobs. So, their last delivery is usually their best one. Then, the cycle of poor screening, hiring, and training begins again.
Many companies replace inadequate screening, hiring, and training programs with close employee supervision. This strategy sounds like a bad idea, and it is a bad idea.
Intense supervision makes employees resentful. It does not make them better drivers. Furthermore, device use combines all three forms of distracted driving, which are:
Hands-free devices are not risk-free devices. In fact, using a hands-free device while driving is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
On a similar note, many companies do not pay drivers much, as mentioned above. So, the company offers performance bonuses. This approach, unlike the close supervision approach, often works. But in this situation, the performance bonuses are usually speedy delivery bonuses. The more deliveries drivers make, the more money they make.
Excessive speed is a factor in about a third of the fatal vehicle collisions in Ohio. Velocity increases the risk of a crash and the force in a collision.
Speeding drivers cannot react as quickly to sudden hazards. At 30mph, after the driver applies the brakes, most vehicles continue moving forward six car lengths. Certain factors, mostly vehicle size, and weight, increase stopping distance. So, if a speeding driver sees a hazard ahead, like a child walking across the street or a stopped-short car, a collision is inevitable.
Many speeding drivers overcompensate as they try to make up for their mistakes. They slam on the brakes or swerve suddenly. These emergency maneuvers often cause them to lose control of their vehicles.
Additionally, velocity multiplies the force in a collision. There is an old story that a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building kills a pedestrian on the street. This story is false, but not because of the increased velocity. Pennies flutter instead of falling straight. Speeding vehicles, unlike speeding pennies, do not flutter. Instead, they hurtle straight at injury victims.
We mentioned that many safety rules do not apply to last-mile delivery vehicles. But these deliveries are not completely unregulated. Unsafe parking is a good example.
In most cities, delivery truck drivers cannot park their vehicles in the street, turn on their hazard lights, or go inside a home or business. Unsafe parking often leads to rear-end collisions. The rear-end driver isn’t always totally responsible for these wrecks.
Assume Sam was speeding when he hit an illegally-parked delivery truck. Because the truck driver broke the law, a court could easily divide responsibility between the two drivers, such as 50-50 or 60-40. If that happened, Sam might be entitled to some compensation, even though an emergency responder or insurance investigator probably ruled that he was at fault for the collision.
These wrecks are usually low-speed wrecks. But they often cause serious injuries. Whiplash is a good example. Violent motion, like the motion of a car crash, causes the neck to snap backward and forward. Neck muscles are so delicate that it does not take much motion to injure nerves in the cervical spine.
Whiplash is a soft tissue injury. Many standard diagnostic tests do not detect it. Furthermore, many of these victims tell their doctors their necks are sore, but they otherwise feel fine. Mild neck pain is a standard accident shock symptom. Therefore, many of these victims leave the doctor’s office with a serious head/neck injury.
Such injuries are degenerative. Delayed treatment is the equivalent of no treatment. Without proper treatment, whiplash could cause paralysis.
We mentioned driver multitasking above. These individuals must safely operate their vehicles while they keep in close contact with their supervisors. People can multitask behind desks. These environments never change. People cannot multitask behind the wheel. These environments change constantly and unexpectedly.
Cargo loading and unloading is another example. Most delivery drivers receive limited driver training. They receive almost no cargo loading training. Loading and unloading errors affect weight distribution. Unbalanced delivery trucks are much harder to control than well-balanced ones.
During deliveries, these drivers start and stop their vehicles almost constantly. This starting and stopping is hard on these vehicles. But in most parts of Ohio, vehicles must only undergo annual inspections. A lot happens in a year.
Furthermore, even if a vehicle is properly maintained, maintenance records often are not available. Normally, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer has the burden of proof in court. But the insurance company basically has the burden of proof in this area. If a maintenance record is unavailable, it is more likely than not that the vehicle was poorly maintained.
More likely than not, or a preponderance of the evidence, is the burden of proof in civil court. Picture two equally-sized stacks of paper. If someone moves one sheet from the right to the left, the stack on the left is higher than the stack on the right. That’s a picture of a preponderance of the evidence. A little proof goes a long way in these cases.
We mentioned one kind of motorist impairment, driver distraction, above. Other kinds of delivery driver impairment include:
The commercial driver’s duty of care is usually a duty of utmost care. Commercial drivers must go the extra mile to avoid accidents.
Deliveries in bad weather are a good example. Noncommercial drivers, who have a duty of reasonable care, must slow down and use more caution during bad weather. Since commercial drivers have a duty of utmost care, they must arguably wait until the weather clears to deliver their packages.
“Waiting” usually is not an option for Walmart, Rumpke, Kroger, FedEx, and other last-mile delivery drivers. These companies push speed above all else. Other people pay the price.
Yes, we know this section does not highlight a driver error. But defective products, mostly defective tires, cause many delivery truck accidents. Frequently, these defects are latent defects. As mentioned, delivery trucks take a pounding. Most vehicle parts are not designed for excessive wear and tear.
Usually, manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries their defective tires or other defective products cause. That defect could be a:
Other defective product claims include a negligent failure to warn customers about known defects and public nuisance claims.
Cause and responsibility determinations lay the groundwork for a successful injury claim. Next, a Hamilton personal injury attorney must steer such claims through the system and resolve them on victim-friendly terms.
This process usually starts with defense-filed procedural motions. If successful, these procedural motions could derail the claim before it gets started. However, if an attorney has laid the proper groundwork, as outlined above, procedural motions almost always fail. Students who do their homework usually do well on tests.
Court trials in movies and TV shows often feature “surprise witnesses” along with other twists and turns. These add-ons, which make trials more dramatic, usually do not exist in the real world. During discovery, both sides must lay all their cards face-up on the table in terms of their claims and defenses. So, when discovery ends, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer clearly establishes a claim’s settlement value.
A claim’s settlement value is like a house’s list price. Both numbers serve as the starting point for price negotiations, or in this case, settlement negotiations. Home-buying negotiations, like injury claim settlement negotiations, usually involve some give and take. Home buyers have realtors to represent them during this process, and a Hamilton personal injury attorney represents victims.
If these settlement negotiations stall or break down, most judges appoint professional mediators. These mediators not only have professional skills. They also enforce a duty to negotiate in good faith. “Take it or leave it” is not a good faith settlement position. Because of this combination, civil mediation in Ohio is about 90% successful.
Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Hamilton, contact Kruger & Hodges, Attorneys at Law, by going online or calling 513-894-3333. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.