A Tennessee man is facing charges of manslaughter following a Maine truck accident that resulted in two fatalities in March. Now, the Bangor Daily News has revealed the driver had a safety record that was much worse than the national average.
This matters, particularly for his civil case, because it could be grounds to assert direct liability – and not just vicarious liability – against the trucking company that employed him. It may also be grounds to seek punitive damages, which could greatly increase the damage award for plaintiffs.
The newspaper reported that the 54-year-old trucker was hired by a carrier based in Tennessee. The company’s owner told a reporter he had no idea the driver’s license had been suspended in Louisiana and revoked in Virginia. At that point, he directed questions about the crash to his attorney, though he failed to provide the contact information for that individual.
The truck driver was recently arrested recently in Virginia on a Knox County, ME warrant alleging two counts of manslaughter and two counts of aggravated driving under the influence. The truck accident reportedly happened in Washington, ME on March 18.
Authorities say the trucker was traveling 81 mph on Route 17 when the crash occurred. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 55 mph. Witnesses said the tractor-trailer, loaded with lumber, swerved into the oncoming lane just before the crash. He struck a 2009 Chevrolet Colorado, and then a 1998 Chrysler van. The van spun into a nearby field and burst into flames. The truck then struck a 2015 Nissan, which rolled over before striking a 2015 Kia.
Two people – a 45-year-old woman who was driving the Chrysler van and a 74-year-old man who was driving the the Chevrolet Colorado – were killed. The truck driver was transported by helicopter to a hospital. Others were treated for a range of injuries, from mild to serious.
Emergency crews at the scene drew blood from the truck driver, and it was later revealed his blood-alcohol level was 0.09 BAC – exceeding the legal limit of 0.08 that is held for most drivers and far exceeding the 0.04 BAC that is considered impaired for commercial drivers. When his blood-alcohol level was again tested at the hospital an hour after the crash, it was at 0.073.
Anytime police detect alcohol on a commercial driver in the course of a stop, that motorist is immediately pulled out of service for a minimum of one day (24 hours). Commercial drivers aren’t allowed to have alcohol inside their trucks unless it is part of their cargo and they are transporting it.
The driver did not admit to being drunk, but did tell authorities at the hospital he had taken a drug that contains hydrocodone because he had not been feeling well.
But not only did this particular driver have a spotty driving record, so too did the carrier. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that in the last two years, an average of about 20 percent of commercial vehicles nationally are taken out-of-service following law enforcement inspections, this carrier’s percentage was more than double – 43 percent – during the same time frame. Further, it’s drivers were ordered out-of-service nearly 16 percent of the time, versus the 5.5 percent national average.
The FMCSA violations discovered over the course of 13 inspections in two years showed issues with:
- Cracked Frame
- Malfunctioning Turn Signals
- Malfunctioning Headlights
The carrier has six drivers and six trucks.
If you have been injured in a Maine trucking accident, we can help you fight to recover damages.
If you are the victim of a Bangor traffic accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Trucking firm whose driver was charged with manslaughter has troubling safety record, May 12, 2016, By Stephen Betts, Bangor Daily News
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Maine Distracted Driving Crash Losses Reverberate for Years, May 16, 2016, Bangor Truck Accident Lawyer