Werner Enterprises Inc., one of the five largest truck loading companies in the U.S. was hit with an $89.9 million verdict by a Houston jury after just three days of deliberation. The victims of the accident involving a Werner truck driver were Jennifer Blake and her three children. Jennifer and her son Nathan both suffered extensive brain damage, but that wasn’t the worst of it. Her 7-year-old son Zack died in the accident and her 12-year-old daughter, Brianna, left paralyzed and in need of 24-hour care for the rest of her life.
The accident happened on an icy day in 2014 when the family was passengers in a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction of the Werner truck. The driver of the family’s vehicle lost control on the icy road, veered into traffic on the opposite side, and ultimately collided with the Werner truck.
Who was really at fault for this accident?
At first glance, this doesn’t sound like a case where the Werner driver would be at fault. After all, the driver of the vehicle that the Blakes were riding in swerved onto the wrong side of the road. And Werner argued this point for the next four years until it finally went to court. At the end of the six-week trial, the jury awarded the family with the nearly $90 million.
They determined the responsibility for the accident as 70 percent Werner’s fault, 14 percent the driver’s fault, and 16 percent the fault of the plaintiff’s vehicle.
So, why would a jury decide to award the Blakes in this case? Fortunately, the Blake family had a knowledgeable lawyer on their side who knew that there was much more to this case than meets the eye.
As it turns out, the driver of the Werner truck was a student driver – he was new to driving a truck and lacked the skills and knowledge to handle the icy road conditions. The Texas Commercial Driver’s License manual requires truck drivers to slow to crawl and exit the highway in conditions like those that day. However, the new student driver, Shiraz Ali, did not pull over. Not only was he still traveling, he was driving at speeds up to 60 miles per hour despite the dangerous icy weather.
The Blake family’s lawyer pointed out that had Werner properly trained their student driver, he would not have been on the road at the time and this tragic accident could have been avoided. The jury agreed.
Why are there undertrained student truck drivers on the road?
Werner, of course, disagreed with the verdict. But this case brings attention to the fact that there is a shortage of experienced truck drivers on the road and more trucking companies are turning to these inexperienced, student drivers. A study from the American Trucking Association reveals that the number of qualified truck drivers in the U.S. is shrinking. It was short by 50,000 drivers in 2017 and the association predicts a shortage of 174,000 drivers by 2026.
This shortage of experienced drivers could lead to dangerous road conditions as a result of inexperienced and overworked drivers on the road.
What to do if you’ve been involved in an accident with a company truck.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident with a large truck or company vehicle, seek the advice of an experienced attorney. Even if you aren’t sure who’s fault the accident was, there could be underlying factors such as these in the Blake vs. Werner case.
Had Jennifer Blake not sought out legal help in this situation, how could she have moved on with her life and taken care of all the medical needs of her and her two living children?
Injury attorney Jason DeSouza has aggressively fought back against the trucking companies in and outside the courts. He will fight for every dollar that you deserve at no cost unless you win. To schedule a consultation, give him a call at 833-JASON-WINS.