Injured in A Collision With A DOT Foods Vehicle? Our Attorneys Can Help
The aftermath of a crash involving a commercial vehicle can be a confusing and overwhelming time. With a plethora of bills to pay and the struggle to recover from your injuries all weighing on your mind, you probably don't have the mental real estate to consider the right legal strategy for taking on the company responsible. Unfortunately, this could leave you vulnerable to the many strategies these businesses have for dodging the costs of accountability.
While we've yet to encounter any trucking company that wasn't willing to go into some gray moral areas, some still stand out for the moral depths to which they're willing to sink. The behavior of DOT Foods' attorneys in one particular case provides a good illustration of what victims and their families can expect, and demonstrates why it's so important for them to have someone in their corner who effectively protect their interests. Semi-truck accident attorney and Million-Dollar Advocates Forum ™ member Michael Grossman explains.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What is DOT Foods?
- How many crashes involving injury or death has the company been involved in?
- What lessons does the company's behavior in the Deatherage case suggest for victims?
What is DOT Foods?
Based in Mount Sterling, IL, food service company DOT Foods currently owns the 22nd-largest private trucking fleet in the U.S., with 1,300 semi-trucks driven by around 1,500 drivers. They traveled around 140 million miles in 2018, while the company generated $2.9 billion in revenue that year.
Over the last two years, federal government data indicates the company's vehicles have been involved in 98 crashes, of which 29 have caused injuries and 2 have resulted in fatalities. While these numbers don't speak to who was at fault for any of these wrecks, it's likely that a DOT Foods driver's carelessness caused some of them.
While we can't speak to the specific events of any of these crashes, there's one incident from the recent past that may give victims of collisions involving the company some idea of what to expect. While it contained no suggestion of legal impropriety, it does show just how far companies like DOT Foods will go to defend their interests.
What A Trucker's Loss of Consciousness Says About His Employer
Our firm is often accused of being "out to get" trucking companies, simply because of how much we talk about the bad behavior of those that fail to look out for the safety of their drivers and the traveling public. But we don't publicize their misdeeds as an attempt to smear the industry as a whole. We do it because those companies and truckers that behave badly deserve whatever shame is heaped upon them, and those who are harmed by their negligence deserve to know who they're going up against. To help accomplish both ends, we now turn to the crash that resulted in the death of state trooper Kyle Deatherage. (Note that our firm was not involved in any aspect of this case.)
This collision occurred a few days after Thanksgiving in 2012, on Interstate 55, near Litchfield, IL. Trooper Deatherage was standing on the side of the highway conducting a traffic stop when DOT Foods driver Johnny Felton's semi-truck struck him, resulting in Deatherage's death on impact.
Further investigation revealed that Mr. Felton had lost consciousness shortly before the crash, due to a medical episode stemming from a pre-existing condition. Following an investigation, the Department of Transportation declared Felton an "imminent hazard" and ordered him to cease work as a commercial driver.
Certainly, most of the blame for this crash would seem to fall on Mr. Felton for not recognizing that his condition was too dangerous for him to continue in his current profession. But there's also some reason to wonder what kind of doctor his employer was sending him to that a condition severe enough to cause sudden loss of consciousness could be overlooked.
Another possibility is that DOT Foods was aware of clear signs that Felton's medical condition warranted termination, but deliberately overlooked it because they didn't want to lose a driver unnecessarily. If that is the case, how many other drivers involved in other collisions might have been receiving the same benefit?
How DOT Foods Attacked A Grieving Widow to Reduce Their Costs
As the subsequent civil suit filed by Trooper Deatherage's widow went to trial, things got nasty. Defense attorneys for the trucking company compelled her to testify about her dating and social life following the loss of her husband, claiming that it was relevant to her damages claim for permanent grief, mental anguish, and depression.
Imagine this: because of the carelessness of a trucking company’s employee, you’ve lost the most important person in the world to you. Despite suffering this staggering misfortune, you try your best to enjoy the company of friends and potential romantic partners. And the very people responsible for your loss do everything they can to paint you as someone who barely valued their deceased spouse and moved on as soon as they had the chance.
I wish I could say that this was an exceptional case, but it’s all too typical. Although it’s less about malice than it is their duty to their shareholders, the executives of a trucking company aren’t that concerned with being decent; they’re more worried about minimizing what your claim ends up costing them. That means that the only limit for their behavior is what they think they can get away with under the law, and there’s enough plenty of room within that boundary for them to seriously endanger your case, regardless of the underlying facts.
In the hundreds of commercial vehicle wrongful death cases our firm has litigated, we’ve seen similar scenarios to this one play out time and time again. In one example that comes to mind, a semi-truck driver ran over and killed an 18-year-old girl, leading her mother to file a wrongful death claim against the trucking company. At the trial, the plaintiff’s ex-husband, who had contacted the trucking company, told them stories attempting to suggest the relationship between the two had been strained before the crash.
Fortunately, we were able to use the far more extensive record of a close bond between mother and daughter to counteract this, showing that the ex-husband was just trying to create drama and the trucking company was using his desire for revenge to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
Even if your family member was only injured and not killed as a result of a crash, this strategy can still reduce the amount you receive in compensation, because certain types of damages are based on the subjective value of activities and emotional support your loved one is no longer able to provide. If a trucking company successfully implies that your relationship was anything less than perfect at the time of your loss, a jury might well be inclined to value this part of your claim less than they otherwise would.
Our firm can counter this by introducing evidence, like text messages or social media posts, that demonstrate the generally close bond between you and your lost family member. With enough of this kind of evidence, we will be able to show that whatever disagreement the trucking company’s investigators may have been able to dig up was just the kind of intense, short-term quarrel that is often the other side of love.
You may think "Couldn't I just introduce that evidence myself?" but that isn’t quite how the law works. There are very particular rules regarding what evidence can be used to prove your case, as well as a specific fashion in which it has to be done, known as admission. Unless you or your attorney are able to successfully perform those tasks, your evidence may as well not even exist, as far as the judge and jury are concerned.
Attorneys also have the opportunity to argue that evidence like private conversations shouldn’t be admitted at all, because they simply aren’t relevant in determining whether the defendant is responsible for your losses. While it’s ultimately up to a judge whether a piece of evidence can be used or not, an experienced truck accident attorney will at least be able to give you a fighting chance of having it excluded, simultaneously protecting your case and preventing any potential embarrassment or discomfort.
All this having been said, the events discussed here occurred some years ago, and I have no way of knowing how DOT Foods might have changed their policies to prevent tragic situations like this from recurring. But whether they have or not, the losses you've suffered are proof that those policy changes weren't entirely effective, and that they deserve to be held accountable for the harms they've caused you.
Grossman Law Offices Is Ready to Protect You From The Trucking Company's Underhanded Tactics
Most people would never think of trying to repair their own air conditioning system or do their own surgery, and litigating cases involving commercial vehicles is equally complicated work. There's no telling what companies like DOT Foods might throw at you in an attempt to avoid responsibility for their actions, and you need experienced legal help to fight back.
At Grossman Law Offices, we've been litigating commercial vehicle injury and wrongful death cases for almost thirty years, so we've seen and countered just about every defense strategy imaginable. With evidence from a thorough investigation and veteran litigators who can shape it into a compelling argument, we can put your case in the strongest possible position to succeed.
If you've been injured or lost a loved one in a crash involving a DOT Foods 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 take your call.
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