What Victims Should Know About Challenger Group
After suffering the consequences of a commercial vehicle crash, you've most likely got a host of problems on your mind, but one of them probably isn't the potential legal complications of trying to sue a trucking company based in Canada, like the Challenger Group.
Unless you have the help of an attorney with experience litigating these complex wrecks, it's entirely possible that you could wind up receiving far less than your claim is worth, simply because of it being litigated in another country. Dallas 18-wheeler accident attorney Michael Grossman explains how victims can protect their interests.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What is the Challenger Group?
- How many crashes involving injury or death has the company been involved in?
- How do venue issues affect litigation against Challenger?
What is the Challenger Group?
Founded in 1975, the Ontario-based Challenger Group is now the 96th-largest trucking company operating in the U.S. Its multiple divisions, including Challenger Motor Freight and solid waste unit Challenger Special Commodities, generated just over $250 million in revenue in 2017.
The company's fleet of about 1,000 semi-trucks and 1,100 drivers traveled a bit under 90 million miles in the most recent year on record, or roughly the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
Federal government data indicates that Challenger's vehicles have been involved in 43 crashes while operating in the U.S. over the last two years. Of those collisions, 10 have led to injury and 2 have resulted in fatalities.
In the interest of fairness, these numbers make no indication of who was responsible for these incidents. But it's pretty likely that at least some of the 12 crashes in which someone was injured or killed were the result of a Challenger driver's negligence.
Challenger's base of operations in Canada means the company may attempt to force claims against them to be litigated there. Given the many ways that personal injury law in that country works to the disadvantage of victims, it's definitely in your interest to get help from an attorney able to take the legal measures required to prevent this from happening.
How Venue Issues Could Affect Your Case Against Challenger Group
While every case is different, there are still some issues that usually enter into every case in which someone is injured or killed by a commercial vehicle. Securing and requesting evidence, trying to predict and counter the defenses of the trucking company, and making accurate documentation of damages are all standard aspects.
When a company is based in another country, however, the legal situation can become even more complicated than it would be in a typical semi-truck crash. This is because of a legal question known as venue, or the geographic area where a case should be decided. Venue is initially determined based on where a suit is initially filed, although both the plaintiff and defendant have the opportunity to challenge this decision by moving to have the case transferred elsewhere.
Claims involving tractor-trailer crashes usually don't involve much of a controversy around venue, because U.S. law generally considers injured parties to have the right to sue in the forum most convenient to them, usually the state where they reside. This is because that forum is also likely to be located where their treating physicians are, where they wouldn't be unduly inconvenienced by traveling to court, and so on.
However, things become a bit more complicated when the trucking company involved is based in Canada. For one thing, it has the opportunity to file suit in Canadian courts as a plaintiff, alleging that you as the defendant were responsible for the crash that damaged their property. Because Canadian courts tend to base venue decisions on the location where the plaintiff's damages occurred, that filing, if successful, could lead to the case being litigated in Canada.
The best way to counter this strategy is to retain an attorney as soon as possible after the wreck, so that they can file a suit in American courts, arguing that the case against the company should be litigated in a U.S. court, based on the legal theory of minimum contacts, or the idea that a business conducts enough business in the U.S. to be subject to its laws. If they're established enough, your lawyer should also have enough contacts there to get any attempted Canadian suit tossed out.
While the determination of whether or not a company actually maintained minimum contacts in an area is a question of law, which only a judge can decide one way or the other, there's a pretty good chance that transporting freight for commercial qualifies.
At this point, you may be wondering why attempting to maintain venue in the U.S. should be an important priority for your case. Leaving aside the personal inconvenience of travel and the inherent advantage for Challenger of litigating a case under the rules of a system with which they're already familiar, there are some significant differences between the Canadian and American civil justice systems that could present a major issue if your case is moved there.
One important difference involves a section of litigation known as discovery, in which both sides submit requests for information from the other side that's relevant to proving their cases. In the U.S., this process proceeds through the submission of legal documents called requests for production, which can compel evidence to be handed over once a judge approves them. This allows for a wide variety of evidence to be obtained, even from a defendant who's reluctant to provide it.
By contrast, Canadian law doesn't allow for compelling the production of evidence. Instead, both parties get to determine for themselves what evidence they believe is relevant and provide it. In a semi-truck accident case, this would mean the trucking company gets to decide what they have to surrender, which is not the ideal situation for determining what actually happened. While it's possible to bring a motion requesting additional documents, this requires that you present evidence that the company actually possesses them, a significant Catch-22.
This situation is made even worse by the fact that Canada's civil justice system also has what's informally known as a "loser pays" rule, meaning that the loser of a motion or judgement is required to pay the legal fees of the other side for responding to the motion or litigating the case. This means any motion for discovery that gets shot down winds up being charged to your attorney, which in turn eats into any award you receive.
Finally, where the U.S. guarantees the opportunity for a trial by jury in every case, the Canadian system generally only allows them in relatively simple matters, which a commercial truck accident case definitely is not. Any claim with a modicum of complexity is typically decided by a judge alone. Because much of the damages in any civil case are based on how much a jury is convinced your injuries are worth, your case's being adjudicated without one could greatly reduce the compensation available to you.
Ultimately, while there are strong arguments for a crash that occurs inside the U.S. being litigated here, they won't help your case unless presented under the rules of our justice system. That means attempting to handle your case on your own, or hiring an attorney with little understanding of cases against foreign defendants, could lead to a ruling on venue that makes it impossible to hold a company like Challenger properly accountable.
How Grossman Law Offices Gives Your Case the Best Chance of Success
Trying to maintain favorable venue for a suit against a foreign company can be pretty complex, and it's just one of the many difficult legal issues likely to arise in the course of litigating your claim after a semi-truck crash. That's why it's so important to make a careful decision about which firm to retain.
At Grossman Law Offices, our attorneys have almost thirty years of experience successfully litigating commercial vehicle personal injury and wrongful death claims. There are very few obstacles or complications we haven't seen and overcome on behalf of our clients, and we're prepared to break through whatever barriers a company like Challenger throws in our way.
If you've been injured or lost a loved one in a crash involving a Challenger Group vehicle, 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 answer your questions.
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