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How Victims Can Prepare for Litigation Against Dayton Freight Lines

After enduring a painful event like a collision with a commercial vehicle, it's natural to want the aftermath to be resolved as quickly and easily as possible. While victims may believe that all they have to do is file the proper paperwork with the trucking company's insurance provider to receive fair compensation for their losses, things usually aren't that simple.

This is because, as with those accused of crimes, our civil justice system grants individuals and companies accused of negligence the presumption of innocence, meaning it's up to you as the injured party to prove the trucking company was at fault by the standards of the law, overcoming any defenses it presents. In the case of Dayton Freight Lines in particular, the limited geographic area in which the company operates may make one of those defenses more likely. Dallas truck accident attorney Michael Grossman explains why.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What is Dayton Freight Lines?
  • How many crashes involving injury or death has the company been involved in?
  • How could severe weather conditions open up a possible defense for the company?

Crash statistics courtesy the Federal Motor Carrier Transport Administration

What is Dayton Freight Lines?

Founded in 1981, Dayton Freight Lines owns semi-trucks that currently transport less-than-truckload freight throughout a 13-state region, primarily clustered in the East North Central area of the Midwest. Its 2017 revenues of roughly $550 million make it the 59th-largest commercial transport company in the U.S.

The company's roughly 2,000 trucks and drivers traveled a bit over 130 million miles in 2017. Over the last two years, federal government data indicates they've been involved in 103 crashes, with 24 leading to injuries and 4 resulting in fatalities.

It's important to note that these statistics only indicate the number of crashes in which a Dayton Freight semi-truck was involved and their consequences, not who was at fault. However, it's likely that at least some percentage were the result of negligence on the part of a Dayton Freight driver.

How the Act of God Defense Could Affect Your Case Against Dayton Freight Lines

As I write this post, it's a bit on the chilly side in Texas at around thirty degrees some mornings. But that's nothing compared to the winter temperatures in Dayton Freight's primary area of operations, the Midwest, which regularly dip into the teens and single digits. Along with that frigid weather comes snowy and icy road conditions, winter storms, and other issues that can make driving a much more dangerous business, especially when vehicles the size and weight of semi-trucks are involved.

These severe weather conditions create an opening for trucking companies like Dayton Freight to avoid liability for wrecks caused by vehicles in their fleet using what's known as an Act of God defense. This refers to an argument that unforeseeable weather conditions or other natural phenomena were what actually led to the harms suffered by a plaintiff, and that those conditions made it impossible for the commercial driver to avoid the collision.

The simple fact that roads were wet or icy at the time of a crash, for example, doesn't mean a collision is unavoidable.

To be sure, there are legitimate, if fairly improbable, circumstances under which this defense may be entirely appropriate. For example, if a truck driver is traveling through an area being hit by a tornado, which lifts his tractor-trailer into the air and blows it into the path of another vehicle, there may be some case to be made for an Act of God defense.

Generally, however, this argument is made in circumstances where it's much less applicable. The simple fact that roads were wet or icy at the time of a crash, for example, doesn't mean a collision is unavoidable, only that a driver needs to drive more slowly or cautiously than normal to compensate for the conditions. If he fails to do so and a crash results, he can be held responsible for any injuries or deaths that follow.

Another issue limiting how applicable Act of God arguments can be is that it's rare for severe weather to be genuinely unforeseeable. A reasonably prudent, professional driver, who's held to a higher standard than you or I would be, can be expected to maintain some awareness of (and correct for) the weather along his route, either taking an alternate route to avoid the dangerous situation or reducing speed and modifying his schedule accordingly.

Trucking company defense attorneys aren't stupid. Their job is to defend their client's interests, and they'll attempt to do so using whatever strategies are available to them, whether those strategies actually fit the facts at hand or not. The Act of God defense is essentially a free roll of the dice available to a defense team whenever a commercial truck crash occurs on roads where heavy rain, ice, or snow reduces traction and stopping time. While this argument's validity is certainly questionable in the vast majority of cases, a company like Dayton Freight can successfully use it to avoid liability if you don't have qualified legal help to push back on your behalf.

However, disproving Act of God defenses isn't just a matter of arguing that the weather conditions were foreseeable. You also need to prove that the tractor-trailer's driver acted carelessly given the circumstances they faced, and that that negligent behavior led directly to the collision. The only way to effectively demonstrate that under the law is with hard evidence such the truck's engine control module (ECM) data which records data like the vehicle's speed and braking behavior, witness testimony, internal trucking company dispatch communication. What do most of these have in common? The trucking company doesn't have to provide the evidence, absent a court order.

Grossman Law Offices Can Help You Even The Odds Against Dayton Freight Lines

The potential defenses that inclement weather allows trucking companies to raise are just one of the many that a trucking company can use to attempt to avoid responsibility for a crash. Without the most effective legal help available, even the strongest claims may not be able to overcome them.

While it's important for victims of these wrecks to have legal help in order to give their claims the best chance of success, it's equally important that the attorneys they choose know as much as possible about the finer points of commercial truck accident lawsuits. With more than 25 years of experience, Grossman Law Offices is familiar with just about everything relevant to litigating these complex claims, and we're ready to put that knowledge to work for you.

If you've suffered injuries or lost a family member in a crash involving a Dayton Freight Lines tractor-trailer, we encourage you to call us today at 855-326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help you. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to hear your story.

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