Having litigated 18-wheeler & commercial truck accidents for well over two decades, I’ve seen several instances which could have been prevented (or the outcome of an injury claim positively affected) with very basic upgrades. Namely, there are two upgrades to commercial trucks that I would like to see made mandatory: dash cameras and lane-departure devices.
Let’s begin with lane departure devices. This is a basic system which sends vibrations, either through the steering wheel or seat, and an audible alert when a truck begins to deviate from its lane. The system sends these alerts when an equipped truck begins to deviate from its lane while not employing turn signals. So not only is falling asleep at the wheel reduced by this system, the annoyance of an alert will force truckers to always use their turn signals. This is a simple fix with huge ramifications. If the social benefit of preventing accidents is not enough for manufacturers to implement this upgrade, imagine the reduction in litigation fees trucking companies would experience following a drop in accidents.
The next implementation I would like to see, dash cameras in rigs, also has two-fold benefits. First, as anyone who owns and uses a dash camera knows, a driver simply drives differently when they know they are being filmed. We would all like to think of ourselves as excellent drivers, but when a leering eye is present, we simply drive better. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, actual footage of an accident is enormously beneficial when seeking compensation through a claim or lawsuit. The benefit to a plaintiff is obvious, if a truck negligently struck your vehicle, causing injuries, here’s your ironclad evidence. But there’s also an advantage to defendants. Of course the evidence could help refute an injury claim, but on the other hand, attorneys for a trucking company would know where they stand immediately. In theory, this would help with the rising costs of litigation, particularly in the area of discovery, and perhaps even inch parties closer to out-of-court settlements. Though adversaries, quick resolution of a case is a goal shared by both plaintiffs and defendants.
What I’m proposing in this ‘call to arms’ are rather minor additions to the security features of a commercial truck. However, these additions could have significant influences on the remedies available to accident victims, and potentially quell the rising costs of personal injury litigation.