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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Faulty Brakes Which Caused Husband’s Death - Company or Driver's Fault?

overdriveonline.com
Tragic article thanks to thetruckerreport.com Also see the well written comment that follows. A link to their site is provided below:

Every driver worth his salt knows to do a proper pre-trip inspection before setting out. But what does that driver do when the problem is due to an old truck, a previously documented problem, or an issue that can’t be seen?
A woman in Lock Haven, PA has filed a lawsuit against the company that her husband drove for and its subsidiaries and subcontractors, alleging that the brakes on his tanker failed, resulting in his death.
George “Bart” Garlick III, of Lock Haven, PA, drove for Trans Tech Logistics Inc. of Toledo, OH, was pronounced dead at the scene on May 16 when he “experienced brake failure and lost directional control of the truck, which left the road, and rolled down the mountainside, killing him,” according to court documents.
Garlick’s widow, Maria, filed a suit against Trans Tech, QC Energy Resources, and two other QC Energy contractors as part of the Marcellus Shale natural gas project. The complaint states that the company was negligent in performing their routine equipment checks and performing proper maintenance. It goes on to complain that they failed to provide Garlick with a truck that was fit for service and failed to properly train him how to drive safely.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that Trans Tech was not responsible since it was argued that all claims against it were covered by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. QC Energy and its subsidiaries however are still on the hook.
The company defended themselves saying that the driver was driving too fast for conditions, lost control of his vehicle, and did not apply the brakes with sufficient time to stop him from going over an the embankment.
Is Mrs. Garlick right that it is the sole responsibility of the company to perform routine checks and properly train its drivers? Should the company be held responsible for a driver that missed a problem in his pre-trip inspection and was driving in an unsafe way? How can we prevent tragedies like this from happening?

comment:
camedicinewoman October 7, 2012 at 5:00 am
Unfortunately for the plaintiff in this case, the court is correct, the only recourse is with the state’s Workman’s Compensation system. Unless the co-defendants who are not the actual employer have a direct role in her spouse’s death, suing them will be a waste of time. I know this because I am into my 19th month of a legal battle with my now former employer and their insurance carrier, which thus far has refused to pay anything (except for an Independent Medical Exam and associated mileage expenses, which didn’t come close to what it actually cost to prepare me medically to travel to the IME), despite a willful and deliberate act that has resulted in my now being unable to work at all, in any profession of capacity, ever. My life is now a hell of poverty, pain, doctors, and pills, and it will only get worse (there’s no way to fix my leg, I’ve even begged for the docs to cut it off to stop this nightmare I live in now).
The problem universally lies with the so-called Workman’s Compensation system. Originally intended to protect employers from being bankrupted by a single worker becoming injured or ill during the course of their employment due to workplace accidents through a no-fault premise, the basic idea was medical expenses get covered, the employee’s lost time at work gets covered, until the employee can return to work. In the event the employee can no longer do the work they previously did, job retraining would be covered as well.
Then, a couple of decades back, the insurance carriers for the employers went on an advertising blitz, spending billions across the nation to convince everyone that most injured workers are just faking (often showing the same three or four videos of someone allegedly faking an injury or illness in every state). Wage compensation limits dropped to whatever the maximum is for Unemployment Insurance or two-thirds earnings (whichever is less), I think the maximum at that time was $420 per week. If an employee is forced to hire an attorney (nearly always now), they’ll have a hard time finding an experienced qualified attorney willing to take the case on a contingency (98% of injured workers can’t afford an attorney any other way). Through that same slick billion dollar ad campaign, every state sharply limits what an attorney representing an injured worker can earn on the case.
Today, the system has evolved into one that protects the employer from ANY liability, even in cases of willful and deliberate misconduct by the employer being the cause of the employee’s injury or illness. This includes some criminal acts. The most the plaintiff can hope to collect under the Workman’s Compensation system in her state is a little over $400,000, or two-thirds of her spouse’s earnings at the time of his death multiplied by the maximum benefit for permanent disability (in this case, death) of 500 weeks, whichever is less. She will first have to find an attorney willing to take her case and invest years into trying to win, and that attorney must be willing to accept only 15% (plus or minus a couple of percent, each state is different) of whatever the final settlement or judgment is.
In this case, the claim is regarding faulty brakes. The plaintiff will have to be able to prove that the failure of the braking system was such that it could not be detected by her spouse during the last (and legally required) routine Driver’s Vehicle Inspection Report, or that her spouse in fact reported a problem with the braking system, and that a qualified mechanic for the employer certified that the defect would not result in an accident or vehicle breakdown (no defect found or repairs allegedly made). She needs to get those records fast, employers are only required to keep the DVIR for the same 6 months as our logs. Without them, she loses. She may have a claim against a 3rd party mechanic, if they were the last to claim the brakes were fine, but that’s about it.
This is why you should always, and religiously, do your vehicle inspections, and document everything IN WRITING that you find. If a mechanic says they fixed it, make them sign your DVIR, and keep a copy of the repair ticket for your own records. If your employer refuses to make repairs on the road, have the mechanic document that as well (nearly all will).
As for the suggestion regarding driving to the nearest scale and volunteering for an inspection, I was trying to do that when my brakes failed, after my employer refused to “spend one more dime on a trade truck.” I’m now disabled for life as a result. Most law enforcement agencies will come to you, though you’ll have to ask, and maybe wait a little while until an officer is available. If not, don’t worry. If possible, take pictures (video with audio is way better) of the problem. Refuse to move until the problem is fixed if it has ANY chance of causing injury to you or others. The employer has a choice, fire you in place or make repairs. Yes, they will probably fire you later, but that job isn’t worth it if that is how they operate to begin with.
Unless you’re in the US Armed Forces, getting killed or disabled on the job isn’t what you signed up for. CYA at all times, and get home safe every time. You are of no use to your family if you don’t.

Link to thetruckersreport.com
Original story at landlinemagazine.com
www.landlinemag.com/Story.aspx?StoryID=24235

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