By now, you have probably seen images of the terrible collision between a bus and a semi-truck on a New Mexico highway last week.
A Greyhound bus carrying almost 50 people was headed west along I-40. A semi-truck headed east on I-40 swerved across the median and slammed into the bus.
The crash was severe. Many bus passengers were injured, and at least eight have died from their injuries.
In the aftermath of the collision, police said the semi-truck lost the tread on its left front tire, which caused it to swerve into the oncoming lane.
A lawsuit was filed the next day.
I can’t speak for the attorney representing two of the deceased bus passengers, and I have no affiliation with the case. However, I have more than three decades of experience in truck crash lawsuits.
Here’s why I think they filed a lawsuit within hours of the deadly Greyhound-semi-truck crash.
Preservation of Evidence
By filing a lawsuit immediately, the attorneys for the families of the deceased crash victims can get a court order requiring the trucking company to preserve evidence.
While the court can’t force a defendant to preserve evidence from a fatal crash, they can be punished for not doing so. This is important: some companies could act quickly to destroy any evidence that they are liable for the crash, or simply fail to properly preserve evidence.
In this case, it will be crucial for the plaintiffs’ attorneys to be able to inspect the records of service and maintenance on the truck tires, as well as the tires themselves.
They will also need to access the Electronic Logging Data (ELD) for the truck driver, and the “black box” for information about what happened before the collision.
The truck driver told CBS News that the tire “… just locked up.”
Other witnesses, including another commercial truck driver, told reporters that they saw the front tire blow out.
There were dozens of people on the bus, and many motorists who stopped to help. These folks are all potential witnesses, with a different and important perspective.
Protecting their rights
While the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the collision, that can take anywhere from two months to two years. The NTSB report will be valuable, but it may come too late to be of assistance to the injured.
And the investigation isn’t meant to protect the rights of the injured. The NTSB will examine details, analyze data, and make safety recommendations.
Unfortunately, the fact is that the motor carrier, trucking company, and/or truck driver are unlikely to have enough insurance. The purpose of insurance is to cover all of the damages, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, disabilities—and compensate for the families of the deceased.
The minimum amount of insurance for a commercial truck in 1980: $750,000.
The minimum amount of insurance for a commercial truck in 2018: $750,000.
Even with better-than-minimum insurance, odds are good that the trucking company won’t be able to pay for the needs of all the seriously injured people. The attorneys may be able to determine others were at fault.
I have, in the past handled a case involving a blown tire that caused the death of a driver. We were able to determine that a “retread” was at fault.
While “retreads” are not allowed on the first wheels of school buses, nothing prevents their use on the front wheels of semi-trucks. Many trucking companies use “retreads” to save money.
As stated above my law firm has no affiliation with the attorneys who filed a lawsuit on behalf of New Mexico bus crash victims. The above opinions are based on available information and are not legal advice.
– Attorney Kevin Coluccio, Coluccio Law, Seattle.