Every parent knows that losing one child can make you want to crawl up in your bed and not ever get out. What would anyone do if they lost their three children in a freeway truck accident? That pain will likely stay with Chris and Lori Coble of Mission Viejo whose three children — Kyle, 5, Emma, 4, and Katie, 2 – were killed May 4 after a truck loaded with electronic equipment rammed into the family’s minivan on the 5 Freeway.
What do we find out now? According to an investigative news report published by The Orange County Register July 21, federal investigators have found that the trucking company, whose truck was involved in that horrific crash, violated at least 15 safety standards and could be shut down. I think they should be shut down given the serious nature of the violations and the pain they have caused to a dear family and an entire community.
The Register reporter, who obtained this information by filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act, has discovered that the Carson-based K.W. Express allegedly allowed drivers to work before getting results of their pre-employment drug tests; falsified drivers’ hours; failed to come up with a written policy for drug and alcohol abuse; and kept no records for vehicle maintenance or inspection.
Company representatives tell the Register that all deficiencies have been corrected after they had been pointed out and everything’s great! In fact, one spokesman tells the paper that it was an “innocent ignorance of certain requirements.” Innocent ignorance? Are you kidding me? These answers and excuses are and must be completely unacceptable to federal officials. Trucking companies must be made to pay the price for their callous disregard for public safety. Is this the same “innocent ignorance of certain requirements” that contributed to the “innocent ignorance” when one of their trucks crashed into a minivan and killed three children?
The Coble’s attorney will certainly be looking into how these 15 safety standard violations and the “innocent ignorance” may have contributed to the fatal accident that killed their children, right before their eyes. The “violations” and “ignorance” may also be the basis for seeking punitive damages, something that is rarely plead in traffic accident cases.
My sense is, there will be a lot of “law and motion” work on the part of Cobles’ attorneys to force K.W. Express to turn over documentation that will support claims of “willful and wanton disregard” or “highly reprehensible” conduct which would be necessary to support punitive damages claim. The intention behind punitive damages or exemplary damages, is to punish those whose conduct is so reprehensible that it warrants a punishment and an example to others, to not engage in similar conduct.
Federal agencies are equally to blame? What has a safety agency such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration done to prevent these tragedies? Sure, they swoop in after it’s all over, as they did in this case, and announce to the trucking company that they are in violation. Big deal! If they weren’t in violation of safety standards that accident may not have happened and the Cobles would have been playing with their three children in the park instead of visiting them in the cemetery!
Safety inspections and action from these agencies comes too late for families who have already been victimized. If federal agencies won’t take responsibility or initiative, the only way to prevent these tragedies from happening again is to sue these trucking companies – even if it means putting them out of business. No family can ever be compensated for the death of a loved one – let alone three young, innocent children. But the purpose of punitive damages is to penalize an entity for its negligence and disregard for the lives and well-being of others – be it Ford Motor Co. that has a track record of making defective vehicles such as the Explorer, a pharmaceutical company such as Merck that pushes a defective drug such as Vioxx or this trucking company that probably violated every rule in the book.
Putting the fear of “being sued out of existence” may be the most efficient way to keep trucking and many other types of companies toeing the line with safety. Would you rather depend on the government agencies like FEMA, who gave us the Katrina nightmare that is still going on, the Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin., who swoops in after an accident to do its job instead of working to prevent them, NTSHA, who’s automaker vehicle safety standards are thirty years old, or personal injury attorneys who are willing to risk their time and money taking on negligent giant corporations on behalf of the people of this nation? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce points to personal injury attorneys and our judicial system as everything that is wrong with America. Have you ever heard of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce putting its time, talent and resources on the line for an American injured by corporate negligence? If you have, I’d like to know about it.
For those people seriously injured due to corporate negligence, the pursuit of justice begins with a phone call to a personal injury attorney like me. Call me, John Bisnar of Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys at 800-259-6373 for your free and confidential consultation.