Important Information for Victims of Crashes Involving ADM Trucking
Those harmed in crashes involving commercial vehicles may assume that trucking companies have money set aside to pay out on claims for accidents caused by their drivers. However, companies actually view these suits as just another cost on their balance sheet, and one to be minimized as much as possible. That means aggressive representation is likely the only way for victims to ensure their interests are protected.
When pursuing a claim against a trucking company, securing experienced legal help is the only effective way to ensure the preservation and availability of the evidence needed to prove what happened. The behavior of ADM Trucking in prior litigation illustrates why having help to accomplish this goal is so important. Acclaimed 18-wheeler accident attorney Michael Grossman explains.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What is ADM Trucking?
- How many crashes involving injury or death has the company been involved in?
- What does the company's behavior in the O'Berry case mean for victims?
What is ADM Trucking?
ADM Trucking is the trucking division of agricultural conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland, which generated around $60 billion in revenues in 2018. Its fleet is the 74th largest in the U.S., with roughly 600 vehicles and about the same number of drivers. The parent company earned total revenues of more than $60 billion in 2018.
Over the last two years, federal government data indicates the company's vehicles have been involved in 31 crashes, of which 17 have resulted in injuries and 1 has lead to at least one fatality. It's important to note that these numbers can't tell us who bears the fault for any of these collisions, only that they involved a driver for ADM Trucking.
While we may not have detailed information about all of these wrecks, there's at least one about which public information gives reason for concern about the company's approach to claims against them. In a case where one of their drivers injured another motorist, a federal judge in Georgia ultimately sanctioned ADM Trucking for failing to preserve evidence, but only because the plaintiffs' attorney was able to prove their misconduct.
What Are the Lessons of the O'Berry Case for Victims?
We've learned a lot in our nearly 30 years of litigating cases against trucking companies, and if we could sum it all up, we'd say that most trucking companies will go to almost any lengths to avoid being held accountable for their negligence. Because evidence is the key to success in any personal injury or wrongful death case, keeping us from obtaining it is one of the more common ways to do so.
The more time has elapsed between the wreck and the start of our work on the case, the more likely evidence is to disappear, which is one of the reasons we advise those harmed in tractor-trailer crashes to contact us as soon as possible after the incident. This disappearance is rarely the complete accident it's often presented as, whether it happens through the obviously deliberate actions of the trucking company, like the erasure of a truck's ECM data, or the convenient "loss" of incriminating evidence at some point between the crash and the filing of litigation.
Fortunately, as one case involving ADM Trucking illustrates, our courts have no problem punishing trucking companies if they fail to preserve evidence needed for your case. O'Berry v. Turner stemmed from a 2013 crash in which an ADM semi-truck struck James O'Berry's car, which sent it off the road and into a light pole, injuring Mr. O'Berry and his passenger. (Important disclaimers: the information on the case included here comes entirely from public information, and we weren't involved in any aspect of the litigation.)
Roughly two months after the crash, Mr. O'Berry's attorney, Jack Helms, sent a letter of spoliation to ADM Trucking's management, compelling them to preserve any evidence relevant to his claim. The company's counsel claimed they would take "all measures necessary" to do so. But almost three years later, Mr. Helms still had not received the truck driver's logs indicating how long the trucker involved had been driving or the electronic data from its engine control module (ECM) showing the truck's behavior just before and after the crash, crucial information for Mr. O'Berry's case. ADM eventually told him that the logs and other requested electronic data had been "inadvertently destroyed."
As a result, Mr. Helms filed for judicial sanctions on ADM for their failure to preserve the requested evidence. The employee responsible for that preservation alleged that the single copy he printed out had been lost when the company moved his office to a different building, while the electronic backups had been deleted by the outside company maintaining it, in accordance with their document retention policy.
The court concluded that ADM's steps to preserve the documents requested by the plaintiff were so inadequate that they suggested the company had likely intentionally deprived him of the evidence. As a result, the judge issued an adverse inference instruction to the jury, requiring them to assume the lost information was unfavorable to the company, a significant benefit for the plaintiff's case.
While this story paints a less than flattering picture of ADM's behavior, it's important to note that this is just one incident and took place several years ago. It's entirely possible that the company reacted to the ruling against them by taking action to ensure a more responsible document retention policy. But counting on that could be a risky move to make when it's your family's financial well-being on the line.
This case provides a couple of important lessons for those harmed by the negligence of an ADM driver. First, given the amounts of money at stake for them, you should never expect a trucking company to play fair. Whether it's "losing" evidence or trying to challenge the extent of your injuries, they'll do whatever they can to undermine your claim.
The second takeaway is the importance of experienced legal help to effectively defend your interests. The right representation is critical to accomplishing all of the tasks required for your claim to succeed, including obtaining evidence, admitting it into court, and getting a judge to impose appropriate sanctions against the trucking company if they fail to preserve it.
Grossman Law Offices Is Ready to Hold ADM Trucking Accountable
Ensuring proper preservation of the evidence needed for your case is just one of the many tasks that need to be completed for your semi-truck accident claim to succeed. Just as you probably wouldn't try to pull your own wisdom teeth, you shouldn't try to handle something as complex and difficult as a legal case against a trucking company without the right help.
At Grossman Law Offices, we've been successfully litigating commercial vehicle injury and wrongful death claims for almost thirty years. We have both the resources and the expertise to determine what actually happened in your case, create a compelling, evidence-based account of the crash for a jury, and counter whatever defenses companies like ADM Trucking can come up with.
If you've been injured or lost a loved one in a crash involving an ADM vehicle, please call (855) 326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help you. We're available whenever you are to take your call.
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