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What Victims Should Expect from Litigation Against Ben E. Keith After A Crash

After being harmed by a collision involving a tractor-trailer, the last thing on your mind is probably the challenge of holding the company accountable. After all, you know who was responsible for your injuries and you have plenty of evidence demonstrating how they've impacted your life. Unfortunately, given the massive resources that any large company has to push back against claims, the proverbial "slam-dunk case" simply doesn't exist.

In the case of crashes involving the Ben E. Keith Company, the safety practices of its drivers, as evaluated by federal regulators, make it that much more important to obtain help from an attorney who can investigate driver's backgrounds for a past history of careless behavior. Acclaimed Dallas 18-wheeler accident attorney Michael Grossman explains.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What is the Ben E. Keith Company?
  • How many crashes involving injury or death has the company been involved in?
  • Why does the FMCSA's evaluation of the company's safety record matter for your case?

Crash statistics courtesy the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

What is the Ben E. Keith Company?

Founded in 1931, Fort Worth-based beer and food service products distributor Ben E. Keith controls the 32nd largest private trucking fleet in the U.S. Its total of roughly 1,200 vehicles, operated by around 1,500 drivers, traveled more than 50 million miles in 2018, with the company generating $3.5 billion in total revenue that year.

Over the past two years, federal government data indicates the company's tractor-trailers have been involved in 68 crashes, of which 20 have led to injuries and 2 have resulted in fatalities. While this information doesn't allow us to draw any conclusions about who was responsible for these incidents, it's a pretty safe bet that at least some of them were the result of a company driver's negligence.

One additional piece of evidence that reflects somewhat poorly on the company's operations is its evaluation on a key metric used by federal regulators to evaluate trucking fleets. Although this evidence doesn't indicate wrongdoing in any specific wreck, it does underscore the importance of a thorough investigation into the record of the commercial driver responsible after a collision involving a Ben E. Keith 18-wheeler.

How Does Ben E. Keith's Safety Record Affect Litigation?

As you would probably expect, successful companies aren't in the habit of drawing attention to unfavorable aspects of their operations. But for companies engaged in commercial transportation, there's some information they can't do much to conceal, as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issues public data evaluating them on a variety of metrics, from "Driver Fitness" to "Vehicle Maintenance."

In the case of Ben E. Keith, it's their performance on one of these metrics that's of particular cause for concern: "Unsafe Driving." This is pretty much what it sounds like: whenever a police officer observes a commercial vehicle exceeding the speed limit or otherwise driving recklessly, they can pull them over, just as they would you or me. In addition to the citations that we would potentially get, the officer also reports any infractions observed to the FMCSA, which incorporates them into their employer's ranking on "Unsafe Driving." Based on the extent of these behaviors reported over a two-year period, the agency than ranks the company on a scale of 0 to 1, where 0 is most and 1 is least safe.

According to federal records, the company's score on this metric fluctuated between a .69 and .74 between May and October of 2019. Examining the violations in detail, we find a few recurring patterns, including speeding, texting while driving, , and improper passing. While it's impossible to say whether any of these dangerous behaviors led directly to collisions, the fact that Ben E. Keith drivers are seemingly engaging in them at a rate this high suggests that only good luck or the skill of passenger car drivers is preventing their number of wrecks from being much higher.

While many companies have official policies that drivers will be fired after a certain number of documented safety violations, the current shortage of qualified drivers may well lead them to retain drivers with a history of careless behavior.

While one hopes that this data would be of concern to the company's driver safety and training personnel, it may not be obvious why it matters to you. After all, the only dangerous behavior that might seem relevant to your case is that of the driver responsible for your crash. However, this data suggests that there's a pattern of carelessness among the company's drivers, which means there's a decent chance that the driver who struck your vehicle displayed similar behavior in the past, and his luck is only now finally running out.

If you can establish that the employee responsible for the crash had a history of unsafe behaviors, it accomplishes two important objectives: making your account of what happened more plausible to a jury and making the company's contribution more obvious. While many have official policies that drivers will be fired after a certain number of documented safety violations, the current shortage of qualified drivers could well lead a company like Ben E. Keith to retain drivers with a history of careless behavior. If a negligently retained driver turns out to have been responsible, it makes a jury that much more inclined to throw the book at the company in terms of damages.

The catch is that any documentation establishing such prior bad behavior is the legal property of the defendant, and there's no reason to expect them to hand over something that could cost them large sums of money unless you force them to. Your only effective means of doing so is a properly drafted subpoena, essentially outlining everything needed to prove your case, which, with a judge's signature, can compel them to surrender it. To ensure that this document meets with a judge's approval and contains all of the evidence required, it's important to have qualified legal help to draft it.

Grossman Law Offices Has The Experience to Litigate Your Claim Against Ben E. Keith

Properly investigating the backgrounds and safety records of the commercial driver is just one of the hundreds of complex tasks that must be completed to successfully resolve your commercial vehicle accident case. Unless you have experienced legal representation able to deal with all of the issues that your claim may involve, you're likely to find yourself receiving far less than you deserve in compensation, regardless of the underlying merits of your case.

At Grossman Law Offices, our nearly 30 years of experience litigating cases against commercial transportation companies gives us a level of familiarity with both relevant aspects of the law and the industry's practices that few firms can match. From a thorough initial investigation to determined advocacy at trial, we're prepared for every aspect of your claim. And we're always happy to keep you informed about the progress of your case in plain English.

If you've been injured or lost a loved one in a collision involving a Ben E. Keith tractor-trailer, please call (855) 326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help you. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to advise you of your options.

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