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Punitive damages possible in truck crash case

A man who lost his wife in a truck crash involving a UPS driver is suing both the driver and the shipping company in court. The accident occurred when the man's wife was driving along a two-lane road and her car became disabled. She pulled over and when she was getting out to check the vehicle the UPS truck with two attached trailers rear-ended her vehicle, striking and killing the woman and injuring one of her children who was inside the car. 

The man says that the accident was caused by the driver's use of his cellphone just before the crash, which took his eyes off the road long enough to cause him to collide with the disabled vehicle. According to the lawsuit, UPS knew or should have known that the driver was a risk to public safety because of his history of safety violations and noncompliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. 

Commercial drivers, particularly those operating large vehicles such as trucks and trailers, are required to comply with strict federal standards designed to prevent things like distracted or drowsy driving which are common causes of truck accidents.. As a part of this, drivers must keep a detailed log of where they are each day and when they take breaks to ensure that they do not drive for too many consecutive hours.

After reviewing the man's pleading and the shipping company's response, a federal judge said that he would allow an action for punitive damages to go forward in the negligence claim against the shipping company.

Punitive damages are a remedy meant to compensate the victim for the immeasurable harm caused by negligent actions and also to serve as a punishment to the negligent party and a deterrent to future negligent action.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "UPS May Owe Punitive Damages for Fatal Crash," Rose Bouboushian, Sept. 5, 2013. 

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Doug, the founder of Easton & Easton, LLP, has practiced law for more than 42 years.

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