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Trucking Company’s Failure to Perform Routine Maintenance Leads to $2,800,000 Verdict

Published February 23, 2018 by Bruce Millar

It’s time to get your oil checked. Eye roll. Perhaps your muffler is rattling. Yeah, no thank you. These little car maintenance checks always seem to creep up at the most inconvenient time: during vacation, the kids’ game or perhaps during your “me-time.” So what do you do?

Procrastinate.

We all push boundaries when it comes to our cars, but what if the issue were our brakes?

In Dekalb County, one driver’s failure to maintain their brake system led to a rear-end collision and cost $2.8 million dollars! A number like that makes a $300 fix seem trivial.

A married couple in their late 40’s was driving a Chevy pickup truck on I-85 when they were suddenly struck from behind by a tractor-trailer. The tractor-trailer was owned by the driver’s employer and the accident occurred when the brake system allegedly failed.

Not only did the tractor-trailer rear-end the married couple, but it sideswiped another vehicle before hitting a pedestrian. The pedestrian who was hit was an employee of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and was clearing a tire from the lanes of traffic.

The couple suffered the greatest. Together, they had cervical and lumbar disc herniations and a sacroiliac joint injury. Not sure what those are? You aren’t alone. Let’s just say we don’t wish any of these spinal injuries upon anyone.

The couple sought emergency treatment immediately, followed by routine visits to the chiropractor. The male needed a four-level cervical fusion two years after the accident…and future cervical and lumbar fusions were anticipated. His wife underwent an S1-joint fusion in her pelvis two and a half years after the accident.

The couple sued the driver and his employer for negligence. They stated that the defendants failed to properly maintain the truck. The DOT inspection of the truck at the accident scene found several DOT violations. Six out of the ten brakes were out of adjustment.

There were two passengers in the other vehicle that were struck, and they pursued claims against the same defendants. Let’s not forget the pedestrian who was hit. These victims settled their claims with the defendants for confidential amounts.

The defendants stated that the brakes failed due to a crack in a valve resulting in the truck losing all air pressure in the brake lines.

A crack, eh?

Car accidents of this magnitude not only cause immediate pain and suffering, but the long terms effects are unimaginable—and unknown. The plaintiffs claimed a total of $750,000 in medical charges, plus damages and pain and suffering.

The defendants argued that the couple had already been seeing a chiropractor and the accident wasn’t the main cause of their conditions and asked the jury to give just $55,000 for the verdict.

I don’t know about you, but the difference between $750,000 and $55,000 seems quite large.

What did the jury decide?

After a three day trial, and a twelve hour deliberation, there was an unanimous decision and the jury returned a general verdict of $2.8 million. The Judge then made an award of another $400,000 for additional legal fees based on a legal principal known as bad faith.

The jury was hung on one issue—the plaintiffs’ claim for punitive damages—and the plaintiffs withdrew that claim. The jury was deadlocked 11-1 on awarding $1 million in punitive damages.

Will every “crack” in a valve inevitably cost $2.8 million? No. But why take that risk? Don’t skimp out on those seemingly inconsequential car tune-ups for your safety, and the safety of others.

Not all of us are lucky enough to say we’ve lived a life accident-free. If you or someone you know are a victim of a rear-end collision, or any type of vehicular accident, The Millar Law Firm can help.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The above article is a factually-accurate case history of an actual previously litigated or settled Georgia case. The case was reported on in local media and/or legal reporting services and it was not handled by The Millar Law Firm. However, we think our current and prospective clients may find this information interesting and informative as the case is factually similar to cases our office routinely handles. Please be advised that The Millar Law Firm makes no guarantees your case will have a similar outcome, as past results of our firm or of other lawyers and law firms.

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