What Victims and Their Loved Ones Need to Know About Litigation Against Forward Air Corporation
If you've suffered injuries or lost someone close to you in a crash involving a Forward Air Corporation truck, you're likely to have a fight on your hands holding the company accountable, and without help, it may be a difficult one to win.
More often than not, the best way to judge the likely future actions of any person or company is by their prior behavior, as both individuals and corporations tend to continue doing what's worked for them until they're given a strong enough incentive to change. Given how Forward Air's employees have handled at least one crash in the past, there's reason for victims to be concerned about how the company might respond in their case. Experienced truck accident attorney Michael Grossman explains why.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What is Forward Air Corporation?
- How many crashes has Forward Air been involved in?
- Why is the company's prior behavior a potential concern for victims?
What is Forward Air Corporation?
Greenville, TN-based Forward Air Corporation, the 33rd-largest trucking company in the U.S., specializes in transportation of truckload and less-than-truckload air freight from airports to its final destination. Its multiple operating divisions, including FAF Inc., Central States Trucking Company, and Forward Air Solutions, generated a combined total of just over $1 billion in revenue and around $87 million in net income in 2017.
The company has a fleet of 3,098 trucks, and employs or contracts with 3,495 drivers, which together traveled a total of just over 330 million miles in the most recent year on record. That's further than two round trips to Mars and back.
Regrettably, all of that travel hasn't come entirely without adverse incident, as drivers for Forward Air have been involved in a bit more than 300 crashes over the past two years, of which 83 led to some degree of injury and 10 resulted in at least one person's death, according to data from the federal agency responsible for regulating the trucking industry.
In the interest of fairness, these numbers don't speak to who was at fault in any particular crash. While the negligence of a driver for Forward Air was very likely to have been the cause of some proportion of the total number, we can't say exactly how many without more extensive knowledge of what actually took place in each incident, which would require a much more thorough investigation.
This being said, there's at least one crash about which there's sufficient information already in the public record to suggest that a driver for one of the company's subsidiaries, under the instruction of his superiors, conspired to conceal vital evidence in an attempt to evade accountability for their negligent behavior. If you've been the victim of an accident involving a semi-truck operated by a Forward Air driver, the company's actions in this case may serve as a cautionary tale regarding what you should be prepared to potentially deal with.
Why Forward Air's Behavior in the Trujillo Case Matters for Victims
It's a fairly reasonable assumption that when people or companies try to destroy evidence, it's because they assume its exposure will be damaging to their interests. To keep this sort of activity from corrupting the judicial process, the law provides for penalties against those who tamper with or destroy evidence in either civil or criminal matters.
Of course, the fact that these punishments are in place doesn't always deter the behavior, because people and companies still often have a lot more to lose from letting incriminating evidence come to light than they do from charges of tampering or destroying it, particularly if a company can successfully deflect blame onto subordinates.
This brings us to a crash about four years ago involving a driver for Forward Air Solutions. According to information released by investigating authorities, Philip Ken Trujillo's 18-wheeler was traveling north on a highway and making a left turn across that highway's southbound lanes when a passenger vehicle collided with the semi truck, leading to the deaths of all four occupants.
The events of the actual accident obviously reflect poorly on this particular driver, who allowed his vehicle to block the southbound lanes of the highway, but it's what took place just afterwards that I want to focus on here. According to a civil suit filed against Trujillo and his employer, a California Highway Patrol officer overheard Mr. Trujillo receiving instructions over the phone from his employer about how to erase information from his tractor-trailer's "black box."
If you've ever heard news coverage of an airplane crash, you may already have some idea of the significance of this device. Technically known as an "Engine Control Module," or ECM, it records a host of information about a tractor-trailer's behavior, including its speed at the time of a collision, as well as braking and steering data, among other things. If you think all that sounds like information that could potentially be really important in a crash investigation, you're right.
So what exactly was this incriminating evidence that Mr. Trujillo was allegedly instructed to erase from his truck's ECM? Among other things, a subsequent inspection by police revealed that it had a malfunction with its gears and engine problems, for which the CHP had cited the company several months before the fatal collision, and that the mechanical issue in question could have affected its acceleration.
To be clear, I'm not suggesting that the uncorrected mechanical issues with this specific truck were necessarily the direct cause of the crash in question, and it's also entirely possible this was an isolated incident that doesn't reflect on the company's general approach after a crash. But if someone at Forward Air was willing to counsel its employee to break the law in this case in an attempt to eliminate evidence of past wrongdoing, it only makes sense to at least be prepared for the possibility that they might do so again.
So what can be done to prevent this kind of tampering from damaging your claim? Quite a bit, assuming you have help from someone with experience litigating commercial truck accidents. First and foremost, once a case is filed against the trucking company, an attorney can send them what's known as a letter of spoliation, which instructs them to preserve any and all evidence relevant to determining fault for the crash.
If a company fails to preserve this evidence after receiving a letter of spoliation, a judge can impose a host of potential sanctions against them, including ruling the company's supporting evidence inadmissible or, in cases where the tampering is found to be especially outrageous, even issuing an immediate verdict against them (known as a summary judgement) as a sanction. Given the potential damage to their interests, any of these sanctions are a powerful disincentive for any party that might otherwise be tempted to alter or conceal evidence, but none of them can come into play unless the company has received proper notification.
How Grossman Law Offices Can Help You Get The Evidence You Need to Hold Forward Air Accountable
There are measures that can be taken to avoid destruction of evidence in a truck accident case, it's important that they be taken as soon as possible after a crash has occurred, and only an attorney with experience handling such cases will know which evidence it's essential to have preserved.
At Grossman Law Offices, we've successfully shepherded hundreds of truck accident cases through every step of the litigation process. In the course of handling so many cases, we've seen and countered a wide variety of trucking company defense strategies, legal and otherwise, and we're fully prepared to deal with whatever might come up in the course of your claim.
If you've suffered injuries or lost a loved one in an accident involving a Forward Air semi-truck, please call at 855-326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help. We're available 24/7 to answer your questions.
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