New Mexico Jury Awards $40 Million Verdict in Student Truck Driver Accident
Although many of us don’t realize it, Interstate “Big Rig” trucking plays a vital part in our everyday lives. As an example, practically everything that you buy in your local supermarket was at some point transported by a commercial truck. The same holds true for the car you drove to the shopping center to buy your child’s back-to-school clothes: both your car and your child’s clothing were transported by truck. But did you know that some drivers of those big trucks may actually be student drivers with only days of driving experience?
In a verdict handed down last week by a jury in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a commercial trucking company and its company-owned truck driving school were ordered to pay $40 million to the family of Kathleen Armijo, who was killed when a truck driven by a student driver crossed four lanes of traffic and collided with a concrete traffic barrier before crashing into Armijo’s 2012 Honda Pilot. Accident investigators testified that Armijo died at the scene of the February 2018 accident on Interstate 10 west of Las Cruces.
During the two-week trial, evidence was presented that Felipe “Jose” Johnson, who had been driving for Werner Enterprises for only eight days as a student of the company-owned Roadmasters Drivers School, was at the wheel when the accident occurred. Testimony and other evidence established that “… through its own inadequate operations and training programs for its student drivers via Roadmasters Drivers School, had a systematic disregard for basic safety policies and training of new drivers.” Specifically, the “supervising” or “training” driver was asleep in the truck’s “sleeper” compartment at the time of the accident. It was also shown that the training driver had failed to adequately supervise and train Johnson, who had driven for 64% of all miles driven during his eight days with the company.
The multi-million dollar verdict is the second such award within the previous two years made to a plaintiff involving Werner Enterprises and Roadmasters Driving School.
In May of 2018 a Harris County (Houston),Texas jury awarded Jennifer Blake almost $90 million in damages after her 7-year-old son was killed in an accident involving a Werner/Roadmasters student driver that also left her 12-year-old daughter a quadriplegic. Kathleen Blake and her other son suffered severe injuries in that crash which happened near Odessa, Texas. In that accident, Blake and her children were passengers in a vehicle that lost control on an icy highway before colliding with a truck being driven by a Werner student driver. Blake’s attorney was able to show that the supervising driver should have taken the truck out of service due to road conditions caused by an ice storm that struck the area.
For the past several years interstate trucking companies have been plagued by a shortage of qualified truck drivers. In response, many companies have resorted to training their drivers “from the ground up” by contracting with truck driving schools or, as is the case with Werner, by forming their own driving schools. Regardless of how they obtain their drivers, trucking companies are required by law to test each driver’s road skills and to insure that every student driver receives proper training and supervised driving experience before they are hired as full-time drivers. If a company fails to properly supervise its drivers, particularly a student driver, the trucking company and/or driving school can be held liable for the consequences of an accident.
At The Doan Law Firm, we always conduct our own investigation into each trucking accident involving our clients. These investigations include:
If you or a family member have been injured in a trucking accident, we invite you to contact The Doan Law Firm, a national commercial trucking accident law firm, to arrange a review of the facts in your case and a review of the legal options that may be available to you.
When you contact our firm, your first consultation with our commercial trucking accident lawyer is always free of charge and doesn’t obligate you to hire us as your legal counsel. Should you decide to file a lawsuit, at The Doan Law Firm we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.
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