We recently reported on two cases where the faulty brakes of two separate South Florida tractor-trailers caused accidents in which people lost their lives.
Now, the National Transportation Safety Board has released the results of its investigation into another horrible accident that took place in northern Nevada last year, when an eighteen-wheeler with faulty brakes and an inattentive truck driver with a history of speeding violations crashed his commercial truck into an Amtrak train, causing the death of six people.
Driver Fatigue and Poor Maintenance
The NTSB has found that the driver, Larry Valli, 43, (who was killed along with the train’s conductor and four train passengers), didn’t notice the train because he was fatigued due to an irregular sleeping pattern. Additionally, the NTSB found that Mr. Valli was suffering from ankle pain and/or he could have been checking messages on his cellphone…However, there was not enough evidence of any of these findings to include them in the formal probable cause finding issued at a hearing in Washington.
One important finding was spelled out by NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman who said that: “This accident could have easily been prevented if the driver (tractor-trailer) had acted appropriately or the motor carrier had acted responsibly in maintaining the vehicle.”
As the train approached the crossing at U.S. Highway 95 north of Fallon, the engineer noticed that a semi-truck didn’t seem to be slowing for the oncoming train. With the train whistle blaring, the engineer applied the emergency brakes about 450 feet from the crossing, not nearly enough distance in order to stop a train traveling at 77 MPH. On the other hand, skid marks at the scene showed that the trucks brakes engaged 300 feet from the tracks causing the truck to skid nearly the length of a football field into the side of the train. Had the brakes been properly maintained, the truck should have stopped in time to avoid the collision.
Unfortunately, driver fatigue is a common occurrence in eighteen-wheeler accidents. Drivers stay behind the wheel for a longer time than they should, get tired and fall asleep. The law clearly sets forth how many hours a driver may drive and how much and how often he/she must rest and sleep. Logs are required to be kept detailing a driver’s time both behind the wheel and when they are not behind the wheel. We have seen it happen time and again throughout our many years of practice. Very often, jobs that are supposed to be handled by two drivers, are handled by one driver because that driver does not want to split income with someone else. Some driver’s are paid by the mile, some by the load, which entice driver’s to drive more than the legal number of hours allowed in order to earn more money or meet deadlines. The ensuing fatigue causes slower reaction time and even causes drivers to fall asleep behind the wheel causing accidents like the one in question.
Similarly, we have seen how trucking companies neglect to give adequate maintenance to their fleet, in some cases just to save a few dollars, making a decision that would cost the health and lives of innocent victims. Truck tires, brakes, lights, etc must be maintained in order to minimize the possibility of failure. Consequently, the trucking company and it’s officials may face criminal and civil liability if it is shown that logs were “doctored,” maintenance neglected and Federal Rules regarding Interstate Trucking violated.
We Can Help
With more than 100 years of combined professional experience handling truck accident cases, the lawyers of Greenberg Stone and Urbano have seen how greed makes truckers drive for longer hours than they should, falling asleep and causing accidents like the one in question. Similarly, we have seen how trucking companies fail to adequately maintain their fleets, also leading to deadly accidents.
Our firm’s managing partner, Stewart G. Greenberg, has been a member of the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America (APITLA) for many years. Mr. Greenberg is a member of the organization’s advisory board for the State of Florida. Membership on the State Advisory Board of the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America is by invitation only and is currently limited to a select group of no more than 11 lawyer citizens from each state. Mr. Greenberg’s membership in such a select group is a testament to his many years of experience and special training handling this kind of cases and knowing how to leave no stone unturned when representing his clients.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident with a commercial truck, you should immediately contact a law firm experienced in handling these cases. Throughout the years, the Miami Dade County Truck Accidents Law Offices of Greenberg Stone and Urbano have represented many clients involved in traffic fatalities, traumatic brain injuries and serious personal injuries. For more details on the commercial truck accident cases handled by our firm over the years, please visit the Notable Cases section of our website.
Visit our website to learn more about our firm and contact us today for a free consultation.