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What Victims Need to Know About Cases Involving Black Horse Carriers

Being involved in a collision involving a tractor-trailer is a traumatic event, often leaving victims in a vulnerable condition, where any offer from the trucking company or its insurer may seem like a quick way to put the matter behind them and move on with their lives. Unfortunately, if there's one thing we can attest to from experience, it's that placing your trust in these companies to do the right thing is a gamble likely to leave you in an even worse position.

In the case of Black Horse Carriers, one case in particular shows that there's no fact pattern damning enough for a company to simply own up to their responsibilities and do the right thing for those harmed by their driver's negligence. Dallas truck accident attorney Michael Grossman explains what those involved in crashes involving the company's vehicles should know about its past behavior.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What is Black Horse Carriers?
  • How many crashes involving injury or death has the company been involved in?
  • What does the company's behavior in the Kaderly case suggest about their approach to litigation?

What is Black Horse Carriers?

Founded in the early 1980s, Carol Stream, IL-based Black Horse Carriers is currently the 75th-largest trucking company in the U.S., with 2017 revenues of over $400 million. Its roughly 3,000 employee drivers and and 2,300 semi-trucks traveled more than 180 million miles last year, transporting perishable and nonperishable grocery products, among others.

Over the last two years, federal government data indicates the company's vehicles have been involved in 150 crashes, of which 48 have led to injuries, and 5 have resulted in fatalities. However high these numbers might seem, it's important to note that they don't allow us to determine who was at fault in any of these collisions.

While this data may not give us a great deal of information about many of these wrecks, there's at least one case where information in the public record about a collision involving a Black Horse driver should give victims of the company's negligent behavior significant cause for concern.

The Lessons for Victims of Kaderly v. Black Horse Carriers

The relevant events occurred on March 23, 2013, on Illinois Route 20 near Rockford, with Jeanette Pivot's vehicle stopped in traffic after another driver lost control and struck a guardrail. Mrs. Pivot's vehicle was then struck from behind by Rigoberto Vasquez's semi-truck at around 60 miles per hour, resulting in her death.

In the subsequent civil case, attorneys for the plaintiff, Nikki Kaderly, alleged that Mr. Vasquez had been fatigued to the point of almost falling asleep, and demonstrated negligence by driving too fast for conditions, not allowing enough time to safely stop, and failing to apply his brakes. Video from inside his 18-wheeler appears to support their contention regarding fatigue, with Vasquez's eyes closing seconds before the crash.

To be fair to Mr. Vasquez, if he was exhausted at the time of this collision, it's at least possible, if not likely, that pressure from his employer to deliver his load within an unrealistic time frame, resulting in a lack of adequate sleep, played a role. While that doesn't excuse his negligent decision to continue driving past the point of being dangerously fatigued, it does illustrate why trucking companies are also held responsible when their drivers cause collisions.

You might think that this would be the kind of case a company would simply chalk up to the cost of doing business and attempt to settle, given the seemingly irrefutable video evidence of their driver's carelessness. Instead, Black Horse's counsel retained an expert witness on human factors (how workers interact with their environment) who testified that Mr. Vasquez's body position suggested he was checking his vehicle's gauges at the time of the collision.

A jury ultimately placed 99% of the blame for the crash on Vasquez and his employer, awarding $15 million to the plaintiff.

Interestingly, this explanation doesn't attempt to exonerate Black Horse's driver, since looking at gauges while traveling down a highway at 60 miles per hour would still be textbook negligence, but perhaps the company believed that a driver's being briefly distracted by work-related activities would be viewed less harshly than one almost falling asleep at the wheel.

Whatever their reasoning, the jury hearing the case was unconvinced, with their questions to the judge suggesting that they lacked confidence in the allegations of the company's experts. They ultimately placed 99% of the blame for the crash on Vasquez and his employer, awarding $15 million to the plaintiff.

As I mentioned earlier, there's no public information regarding Black Horse Carriers' actions in other, more recent collisions their drivers were involved in, which means it's entirely possible that this case represents an isolated incident and not their general approach. But is that really a chance you want to stake your family's financial well-being on?

While the attempts of Black Horse Carriers' attorneys to excuse their employees' behavior may seem appalling, our firm has seen enough cases in which defense counsel engaged in similar tactics that it doesn't come as too much of a surprise to us. Phantom vehicles, sun in the drivers' eyes, a passenger vehicle stopping suddenly: there seems to be almost no limit to the creative defenses these attorneys can conjure.

While these defenses often aren't in line with the facts or even very plausible, the lawyers who present them aren't dumb or desperate; they know exactly what they're doing. By offering up these flimsy defenses, they're essentially gambling that a victim won't have the legal firepower to rebut them.

Defeating these arguments requires more then simply arguing that the trucking company's account of events doesn't line up with your firsthand experience: you need to obtain evidence supporting your account (most of it the company's property), and have it properly admitted, in order to prove what actually took place. Accomplishing those objectives will require the help of an attorney familiar with commercial vehicle accident cases.

How Grossman Law Offices Can Protect Your Legal Interests

While every semi-truck accident case involves its own unique challenges, one thing you can count on is that Black Horse Carriers, like most trucking companies, will do everything they can to either reduce how much they owe, or avoid compensating you for your losses altogether.

The best way to ensure that your claim isn't compromised by the strategies of a trucking company's defense team is to retain a firm with extensive experience overcoming them. At Grossman Law Offices, we've successfully litigated cases involving commercial vehicles for more than 25 years, regularly obtaining judgments in the high six figures.

If you've been injured or lost a loved one in a crash involving a Black Horse Carriers vehicle, please call 855-326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help you. We're here to listen and offer advice whenever you need us.

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