3 Major Mistakes Cost Millions in Nuclear Verdicts & Preventable Accidents

3 Major Mistakes Cost Millions in Nuclear Verdicts Preventable Accidents

Preventable Accidents

Connor Dzion was a blooming honor student in his freshman year of college. The 18-year-old was beginning the adult phase of his life when he was killed in a preventable accident. Connor was in his first two weeks of college when his life was taken by two drivers who should not have been on the road.  

On September 4th, 2017, Connor found himself in standstill traffic on I-95 in Florida. He was returning home from visiting his girlfriend. Up ahead, an ADJ Business Services tractor-trailer lay across the highway in a burning wreckage.  

As Connor waited for the cars ahead to move, a fully-loaded semi of Kahkashan Carriers plowed into his vehicle at nearly 70 miles per hour. He was killed, and 13 more were injured.  

Crash Details 

Both AJD Business Services and Kahkashan Carrier, along with their drivers, were at fault for the preventable accident. A jury awarded nearly one billion dollars in damages against the trucking companies for their negligent practices.  

The AJD driver was tired, over hours, and did not have a commercial driver’s license. He was given a job without proper vetting, verification, or background check. The driver also had poor performance history with multiple violations for aggressive driving and speeding.  

Due to his inability to safely operate, he crashed into an RV that had slowed with traffic flow. His trailer flipped and caught on fire. He later told emergency responders that he had been distracted by his phone and was not looking at the road.  

The Kahkashan driver who killed Connor was not qualified to drive commercially either. There was no background check or verification to qualify for his employment. If there had been, Kahkashan Carriers would have realized that Mr. Sangha could not read English. This is an immediate disqualification, according to the DOT and FMCSA.  

He did not understand Hours of Service regulations either, as he was on his 25th hour of operation at the time of the preventable accident. Rear-ending a vehicle can be a career-ender for a truck driver, even if it doesn’t cost a preventable accident or someone’s life.  

Distracted Driving 

Two truck drivers, one cell phone, one dead teenager, and 13 others were injured.  

Cell phones and distracted driving are a major concern in the trucking industry. The FMCSA states truck who text while driving is 23 times more likely to be involved in a safety-critical event than those who do not. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of truck preventable accident fatalities. This preventable accident is a prime example of why truckers should never use hand-held devices while operating.  

What happens if a driver is caught using a hand-held phone or texting while driving? 

The rule imposes sanctions for driver offenses, including civil penalties up to $2,750 and driver disqualification for multiple offenses. Motor carriers are also prohibited from requiring or allowing their drivers to text or use a hand-held mobile phone while driving and may be subject to civil penalties up to $11,000. Violations will impact SMS results. Texting and calling on a hand-held phone carry the maximum violation severity weighting in SMS! [from FMCSA website]  

Disregard for Hours of Service 

When a truck driver begins their shift, they have 14 hours to complete all tasks for that shift. In those 14 hours, they can actively drive a maximum of 11 hours. The rest of the 14 hours is used for fueling, inspections, paperwork, etc. The driver who caused the second preventable accident was on his 25th hour of operation with no break in a complete disregard for federal regulations. 

There is absolutely no excuse for a truck driver to drive for 25 hours continuously. No reputable carrier, shipper, or receiver would advocate for such actions. 

According to the FMCSA’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, 13% of truck crashes were caused by fatigued drivers.  

Research shows that simply being awake for 18 hours can have the same effect as a blood-alcohol level of .08, the legal driving limit for commuter drivers. The symptoms of fatigued driving are inability to focus, impaired decision-making skills, and delayed response time.  

Disqualified Driver 

AJD Trucking knowingly allowed a driver to operate without a proper CDL and failed to complete a background check, as reported by the Florida Times-Union. The qualification process was not complete in the hiring of these incompetent drivers. The reason for the entire recruiting process is to protect the company itself and the motoring public.   

Mr. Sangha, the Kahkashan Carrier operator, should have been disqualified from driving in the recruiting process. Mr. Sangha did not qualify to be a truck driver because he was not able to read English. The DOT and FMCSA require all truck drivers to be able to read and understand English. He cruised past several flashing signs on the Florida highway warning of a crash ahead. If he had understood these warnings, he would have been aware of the crash ahead. This simple piece of information could have saved Connor’s life.  

The Nuclear Verdict 

After only 4 hours of deliberation, a Florida jury awarded the Connors family over $100 million for pain and suffering. AJD Services would pay another $900 million in punitive damages. 

“This is a message to all those bad trucking companies: Play by the rules the good trucking companies play by. Whether or not they will remain in business is another story.” – Plaintiff Attorney, Curry Pajcic 

In recent years, the average verdict amount in the trucking industry has increased 52% annually. The continual upward trend predicts this will be an ongoing challenge. Infinit-I offers several resources to help your company avoid nuclear verdicts and preventable accidents.  

Click the following link to download your free copy of our Avoiding Nuclear Verdicts for Preventable Accidents eBook!