SOURCE: Kelley/Uustal


March 20, 2015 16:06 ET

Kelley/Uustal Law Firm: How Trucking Companies Escape Liability After Deadly Events Like the U.S. 27 Crash in South Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL--(Marketwired - March 20, 2015) - On Tuesday in Palm Beach County, a trailer came loose on U.S. 27 and caused a fatal trucking crash. A 2008 Ford Focus struck the trailer, killing the driver, Carolina Ortiz. Sadly, three children in the car, Luis Varona, Alejandro Varona and Melissa Varona, were also killed.

"This is an incomprehensible loss, but it is unlikely that this is what the trucking company is focused on. How soon before the trucking company gets investigators and lawyers out to the scene? In cases I have been involved with, trucking companies have people at the scene before the police even finished clearing it," says Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney John Uustal.

The evidence that is gathered or destroyed in the first days after the crash can be critical to proving what actually happened. By getting their people to the scene immediately, trucking companies can alter the course of the investigation. In addition, unlike a damaged car that can sit in an impound yard for months, commercial trucks can be put back on the road quickly even after a fatal crash. According to Attorney Uustal, "Important evidence is often destroyed by trucking personnel. In fact, key evidence can be erased by the trucking company in the name of getting the vehicle back to work right away. All this can happen while the family is still in mourning for their sudden and overwhelming loss"

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, large trucks were more likely to be involved in fatal multiple-vehicle crashes. In 2012 alone, an astonishing 81% of fatal crashes involving large trucks were multiple-vehicle crashes. "Trucking crashes can be horrific," says Attorney Uustal. "When I look back over the course of my career, some of the most disturbing and catastrophic cases I handled were trucking crashes."

When asked what types of trucking accidents were particularly catastrophic, Attorney Uustal responded emphatically. "A trucking crash involving a trailer detachment is particularly scary -- trailer detachments are so rare that drivers generally have no experience dealing with them. Sometimes the injuries are so disturbing that the doctors and medical personnel require therapy after treating the victims."

Because of the grave dangers large trucks present to passenger cars, truck drivers and trucking companies are subject to numerous federal and state laws meant to keep our roadways safe. Unfortunately, these rules and regulations are not always followed. As a result, thousands of people nationwide are killed or hurt in trucking accidents every single year. In 2012 alone, 3,921 people were killed in trucking accidents across the United States and an additional 104,000 were injured, according to statistics from the NHTSA.

The regulatory framework that governs commercial trucking requires compliance with hours of service constraints, licensing conditions, and maintenance standards. These complicated regulations are but one reason trucking crashes are different and more complicated than collisions between passenger vehicles. 

What makes trucking accidents unique, however, creates distinct obstacles for victims and their families who attempt to hold trucking companies accountable. "Trucking companies are generally well funded, and represented by lawyers who know how to use the intricacies in the trucking laws to shield their clients from liability. Victims and their families need the same expertise on their side," says Attorney John Uustal. Holding those at fault for causing a trucking accident responsible requires the involvement of attorneys who know how to navigate those complicated trucking laws, and who know where to find and how to gather the crucial and time-sensitive evidence unique to trucking crash cases. 

In the critical moments that follow a trucking accident, the trucking company can move immediately to alter the legal landscape in its favor. Physical evidence such as tire marks and pieces of the vehicles will still be at the scene and may later prove critical to reconstructing the crash. This evidence disappears fast. "In cases like this, I would get out to the scene as soon as possible to preserve and document evidence on behalf of the family," says Attorney Uustal, "Trucking companies often blame the other driver. Whenever the other driver is killed (which is not uncommon in serious trucking crashes), that driver cannot defend herself. Only the physical evidence can speak for the driver in this crash."

John Uustal can be reached at or 954-522-6601.

About Kelley/Uustal
With law offices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and the Florida Keys, the law firm of Kelley/Uustal is a leading personal injury practice and trial law practice serving clients throughout the state of Florida. The firm has earned significant jury verdicts and legal settlements in the areas of tobacco litigation, automobile accident, workplace injuries, product liability and health-related cases. For more information, visit or call 954-522-6601.


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