Why Victims of Crashes Involving PAM Transport Should Be Ready for A Fight
The worst events in our lives often take us by surprise, and being involved in a commercial truck crash is no exception. But the bigger surprise for victims is often the struggle they have to go through just to get fair compensation for their losses from the trucking company involved. The legal process required to accomplish this goal is complex and challenging, even when a company is operating under ideal conditions.
For those harmed by PAM Transport vehicles, this process could be even more difficult, as potential costs from the company's other legal battles may lead them to be more aggressive in attempting to reduce payouts from civil suits related to crashes. Dallas truck accident attorney Michael Grossman explains.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What is PAM Transport?
- How many crashes involving injury or death has the company been involved in?
- How could the potential costs of other ongoing litigation affect your claim?
What is PAM Transport?
Based in Tontitown, Arkansas, PAM Transport was founded in 1980 and has grown to become the 71st-largest trucking company in the U.S., with revenues of just under $450 million and net income of around $40 million in 2017. It's roughly 1,700 trucks and 2,500 drivers traveled around 160 million miles in the same period.
Over the last two years, federal government data indicates the company's drivers have been involved in 199 crashes, of which 58 resulted in injuries and 7 led to fatalities. While this data doesn't make clear who was at fault for any collision, its highly likely that at least some number were caused by a PAM driver's carelessness.
It's also worth considering the implications of a class action lawsuit filed against PAM Transport by thousands of their drivers alleging underpayment for hours worked. While the suit remains unresolved, the amounts at stake are substantial enough that they may affect the company's approach to litigation connected to crashes as well.
How Could Ongoing Litigation Against the Company Affect Your Case?
Most of us don't give too much thought to when we are or aren't "on the clock," because there are clear mechanisms in place to distinguish the two states. We either punch in and out or are paid a fixed salary per work period.
In the case of truck drivers, however, things aren't quite that simple. While there's still a division between on-duty time, which is logged and compensated by the hour, and off-duty time, which isn't, exactly where that line should be drawn has been the subject of a raft of legal controversies in the industry, one of which has involved PAM Transport.
Understanding this dispute requires a brief look at how drivers are currently compensated. In general, any time spent driving, working on their truck, unloading, or otherwise engaged in the business of transportation is considered "on duty," and drivers must be paid at least the federal minimum wage for every hour that they're engaged in it.
However, as you might expect, trucking companies are hesitant to compensate drivers for time not spent advancing their interests. That's why companies like PAM don't pay truckers for any time spent in their 18-wheeler's sleeper berth, regardless of whether they're sleeping, eating, or just waiting for work.
The underlying legal question is far from open-and-shut, however. The suit's plaintiffs, Browne et al v. PAM, claim they should be paid for time spent in the sleeper berth that extends beyond 8 hours in a 24-hour period, citing a Department of Labor regulation. PAM, for its part, cites Hours of Service regulations from the Department of Transportation, which exclude time in the sleeper berth from "on-duty" time.
While the case remains in litigation and its outcome is uncertain, several court decisions in related cases, such as Petrone v. Werner Enterprises, where drivers argued they should be paid for time spent as a trainee driver, suggest the plaintiffs' position may have some merit. One such ruling against C.R. England, one of the 25 largest trucking companies, which involved violations of California's rules on rest break pay, led to a judgment against the company of more than $2 million.
As the victim of a wreck involving one of PAM Transport's vehicles, you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with you. The answer is that PAM, like any public company, has an obligation to its shareholders to minimize its costs, whether that means arguing for favorable interpretations of wage regulations or aggressively combating civil suits involving crashes caused by their drivers.
While no company will simply hand over a substantial award to victims without a fight, the more additional costs they face from other legal proceedings, the more resistance they're likely to put up. Even if the amounts PAM Transport might have to pay drivers are only theoretical for now, a prudent executive has to make their fiscal plans as if the case will be lost. And that means playing hardball to reduce the amount the company owes victims of crashes caused by their drivers as much as possible.
At our firm, we have enough experience litigating crashes involving tractor-trailers to be well aware what "playing hardball" can mean for a trucking company. It could include telling their driver to present an account of what happened that gets them off the hook, pressuring witnesses to corroborate that story, and even tampering with evidence from the scene, by repairing mechanical issues or damage to the 18-wheeler, for example.
It's entirely possible to overcome these tactics and force companies like PAM Transport to do the right thing, but not without help from an attorney with the legal know-how to do so. The most important first step to take is preserving and obtaining the evidence needed to prove your case. This includes the engine control module ("black box") of the 18-wheeler, which records such information as the driver's hours worked at the time of the crash, which could suggest they were operating under dangerous levels of fatigue.
There are two related steps involved in this process, each requiring a lawyer able to draft legal documents that a judge will approve. First, he'll be able to send a letter of spoliation to the trucking company, compelling them to preserve evidence relevant to the case under penalty of sanctions that put them at a disadvantage in trial. Next, they'll have a judge issue a subpoena compelling the company to hand that evidence over for your attorney's use. Without these steps, the documentation needed to prove your claim could vanish altogether, or just remain out of your reach. Either way, not being able to present it before a jury could be devastating for your ability to prevail at trial.
Grossman Law Offices Can Help You Level The Playing Field Against PAM Transport
If this article accomplishes nothing else, hopefully it's made clear that litigation arising from commercial truck crashes can be exceedingly complex, involving a vast array of factors that would never occur to the average person. If you've been involved in a collision involving a tractor-trailer, you're probably dealing with more than your share of new problems already, and adding the complications of a civil suit against a trucking company to the list is the last thing you need.
Part of what makes these claims so much more difficult for the plaintiff than a standard car crash is also the significant imbalance, in both financial and legal resources, between the two sides involved. Without the help of a firm with experience handling these cases, victims could find a legitimate claim is compromised by their inability, from a simple lack of legal training and experience, to pursue it effectively.
At Grossman Law Offices, we've been successfully litigating injury and wrongful death cases involving commercial vehicles for almost 30 years, which means we know exactly how to give yours the best possible chance of success. With experienced investigators to gather evidence and litigators who can present it before a jury in compelling fashion, we're fully prepared to hold companies like PAM Transport accountable.
If you've been injured or lost a loved one in a crash involving a PAM Transport vehicle, call 855-326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to hear your story.
Related Articles for Further Reading:
- Overview of Hours of Service Rules for Commercial Drivers
- How Trucking Companies Damage Your Claim Through Character Attacks
- The Role of Spoliation of Evidence Letters in Truck Accident Litigation