Tag Archives: law enforcement

Ralph Nader Conference Highlights Tort Law Benefits & Tort Reform’s Assault on Right to Day In Court

I just got back from a Ralph Nader Conference (Breaking Through Power) in DC on Tort Law (September 29). I was privileged to participate as a “Tort Victim” on a panel moderated by Harvey Rosenfield (Consumer Watchdog). Other panel members were Susan Vento, Todd Anderson, and Laura Gipe-Christian.

dc-september-2016-004

Tort Law or Torts, I learned, is the law of compensation for wrongful inflicted injuries and was in existence long  before it was ever practiced here in our country. And tort law has three purposes:

  1. Compensation
  2. Disclosure
  3. Deterrence (therefore making us safer)

I also found out about the assault on tort law or “tort reform” which has convinced the American public that a system of law had somehow broken and needed to be fixed. This battle for the mind has fostered an attitude of cynicism and skepticism in jurors with the subtle messages about (fill in the blank, answers at the bottom of the post):

  1. Frivolous ________________
  2. Runaway ________________ and
  3. Greedy (or ambulance-chasing) __________________

But actually, the result has been that those who have been wrongfully injured find themselves less compensated and all of us are less safe because it diminishes accountability.

In fact, once a person becomes a victim, tort reform makes them a victim all over again–this time of a system that was meant to help the victim but has been sabotaged to leave them even more vulnerable. And I can give you two examples of this:

  1. During the lunch break, I had the opportunity to speak with a member of the audience who was there because, as a nurse midwife, she was interested in what would be said about medical malpractice. She said that what was being presented made a lot of sense. But she then told me about what she sees as victims of the focus on medical malpractice: pregnant women who are too often forced into C-sections (or other medical procedures not of their choosing) due to fear on the part of doctors of being sued. Yet, this is a case, perhaps, of the kind of PR which was mentioned; we have been led to believe that frivolous lawsuits in this area have skyrocketed and resulted in things getting out of control. Is this so?
  2. The second example is out of my own experience. One of the presenters mentioned that too often victims cannot find trial lawyers who are willing to take their case — on a contingency basis — due to the risk of not being able to recover their costs and the concern about whether the case will be successful or be limited by caps on compensation. We have tried multiple times to get someone to take our case without success. By this time, statutes of limitations pose an additional barrier. The end result is just like I was told this week: compensation to victims is barred; disclosure is prevented; and deterrence of future actions is limited. In our case, tort reform, thereby, could have contributed to a situation which allows ongoing opposition and resistance by the industry and regulators to doing whatever it would take to end Preventable Death by Truck Underride. On May 4, 2013, I hit Double Jeopardy! A victim twice over. What will it take to break through this travesty?

Folks, this is a problem. Could it be that tort reform is just one more of the culprits that bear the responsibility for the circumstances that led to my daughters’ deaths in a truck underride crash? If the many layers of leadership in the trucking industry, government regulation, and law enforcement had been held more accountable and liable in the past, might there have been a greater likelihood that AnnaLeah and Mary would still be alive today?

I’ll probably never know for sure. But I can venture a calculated guess. And I can do whatever is within my power to make sure that things get better for someone else.

Here’s to the realization of my dream of a nationwide network of mobilized traffic safety community advocacy groups to educate and empower citizens to take back their right to a day in court as one more strategy to help us realize the vision of moving toward zero preventable deaths and serious injuries from vehicle violence.

 

(And just in case you need the answers to the quiz: lawsuits, verdicts, and lawyers.)

 

 

CBA Victim Cost Benefit Analysis Victim

2 crash deathsCar Safety Wars

If only

Instead of like this:

IMG_4465Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 033 Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 032

Truck Underride Timeline by IIHS at the Underride Roundtable, May 5, 2016

As always, I am after the truth of the matter and I hope that you are, as well.

marys-vbs-photo-craft

VBS craft by Mary in Michigan, Summer of 2007

Distracted & Drowsy Driving; A Matter of Personal AND Social Responsibility–NOT Either/Or

I have been thinking about this for some time now. Having lost my two youngest daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), two years ago due to a truck crash, I have thought a lot about things like drowsy driving and distracted driving. What it has gotten me to also do is think a lot about the answer to these problems.

http://annaleahmary.com/driver-fatigue/

http://annaleahmary.com/2014/07/our-crash-was-not-an-accident/

Actually, I don’t think that there is just one answer to decreasing these behaviors that are all-too-often resulting in people dying. I think that the answer lies in a combination of personal and social responsibility.

Yes, people need to wake up and realize that they could be the next one responsible for someone dying. Not that they would have ever meant to. Not intentionally. But a behavior that could have been avoided is reckless when it leads to a death that could have been prevented.

Unfortunately, the law is not so easily changed to reflect that and so, all-too-often, there is not a legal deterrent with teeth to change behavior–in time to make a difference for someone’s loved one. Distracted driving and drowsy driving are not usually defined as RECKLESS and therefore do not receive a stiff penalty. (After all, it could be me or someone I know that could end up in jail.) I wrote about this in great detail here:  http://annaleahmary.com/2014/08/law-enforcement-with-justice-for-all-balancing-truth-love/

Yet, I have also given much thought to the fact that it is foolish to put all of our eggs in one basket and depend on the individual to always do the right thing. This is why it is also important to address this as a social issue with multiple solutions, including changing laws, law enforcement, safety technology, and holding the manufacturers of products accountable for doing their part to make us all safer on the road.

I have not actually delved into the possibilities very thoroughly. But I want to throw out this question: Should the producers of electronic communication devices bear some responsibility for innovatively contributing to making them less easily abused when it comes to matters of life and death?

Safety is not a priority

Safety Is Not A Priority

Could Electronic Traffic Message Signs Have Saved My Daughters From Tragic Death?

IMG_4491

We think that our crash might have been prevented if there had been road signs indicating traffic delay due to the previous accident two miles ahead.

http://annaleahmary.com/2014/07/our-crash-was-not-an-accident/

In our travels to and from our meetings in Georgia to meet with the District Attorney, Georgia State Patrol, and for the plea bargain hearing of the truck driver, we noticed electronic road signs above or on the side of the highway in other areas of Georgia–although none anywhere near our crash site.

Recently, I noticed portable signs by the roadside on I-64 in North Carolina which were marked with the website http://www.arrowboards.com/. So I went to that website today and was referred to this website for traffic safety and law enforcement Variable Message Signs: http://www.wanco.com/products/categories.php?type_id=1.

Could one of these signs have been utilized on I-20 to alert drivers to the accident which had happened two hours earlier two miles ahead of our crash site? Might the truck driver have been better prepared for the traffic slowdown and not crashed into our car sending AnnaLeah and Mary to their tragic deaths?

What will it take for states to make it a priority to protect travelers on the road in this way?

Before & After PhotosIMG_20140508_114515_341

Law Enforcement: With Justice For All…Balancing Truth & Love

IMG_4458IMG_4475

 This could be one of the harder things which I have written—putting in a nutshell the depth of our frustration with the circumstances surrounding the investigation of two senseless deaths.

This morning I read once more about what Mary said to Jesus after her brother Lazarus had died, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Later, we find out that, “Jesus wept.” And I was reading this in the context of verses about prayer: “And everything you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive,” said Jesus.

The reality is that (until Jesus comes back again) we humans will all die a physical death. Robin Williams has died recently, as has Lauren Bacall. Due to a great variety of reasons, we will all die. And, despite nothing being impossible for God, most of us are not likely to be raised from the dead until The Last Day.

I know that. I accept that. But, what is excruciatingly hard for me to understand and accept is the fact that there are so many factors that are involved in the potentially-preventable deaths of AnnaLeah and Mary—so many, in fact, that it is all too easy for no one to bear the responsibility.

I have written a post entitled, “Our Crash Was Not An Accident,” in which I spell out many of those factors: http://annaleahmary.com/2014/07/our-crash-was-not-an-accident/

In addition to the many “truck safety” issues which I have written about before—including underride guards, driver fatigue, and minimum liability insurance (which, of course, is not about safety but about adequately providing for the needs of crash victims after the fact)—I want to address two other issues.

They are law enforcement and CDLs. Both of them are huge topics, so I will concentrate on law enforcement now and leave CDLs for another time.

Not being sure that enforcement was the best choice of words, I looked up the definition and found that it indeed provides an apt description of that activity about which I wish to speak:

Law enforcement broadly refers to any system by which some members of society act in an organized manner to enforce the law by discovering, deterring, rehabilitating persons who violate the rules and norms governing that society. Although the term may encompass entities such as courts and prisons, it is most frequently applied to those who directly engage in patrols or surveillance to dissuade and discover criminal activity, and those who investigate crimes and apprehend offenders.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_enforcement

Basically, on top of the loss of Mary and AnnaLeah, we have had our pain amplified by what has seemed to be a superficial handling of the circumstances of their deaths by law enforcement officials—in effect, making too light of it. Sure, we could have a distorted perception which might appear bitter;  I admit that my anger might sometimes sway my analysis. But our reaction has been confirmed by others who have viewed it from a more objective position.

Let me try to summarize it here—a very difficult task:

  • The Crash Reconstruction Report, which we received seven months after the crash, was, according to our attorney, very disappointing and inadequate. Questions About Justice in the State of Georgia
  • Although the case is still pending, from what we have been told, the truck driver is likely to get by with a relatively light sentence based upon two counts of Homicide by Vehicle, Second Degree (a misdemeanor).  Re-examine the Definition of Reckless Driving 2  According to the DA’s office, he is not likely to get jail time.
  • Despite any improvement in trucking regulations such as Hours of Service (to combat the problem of driver fatigue) and Medical Cards, these regulations are worthless if the investigating officers do not get to the bottom of these issues in a particular crash.  Questions About Justice in the State of Georgia
  • Not all truck crashes are primarily caused by the truck driver (although what testimony do we hear from the dead car driver?), but when they are, and the investigation does not thoroughly uncover what led to the crash, what kind of a deterrent will a light sentence provide to that driver or other drivers?
  • Particularly in the case of driver fatigue. . . Re-examine the Definition of Reckless Driving 2
  • Calling it an Accident removes Accountability.

So who is taking responsibility for this crash  and its investigation (and thousands more like it every year)? How will this ever be addressed adequately to end this senseless slaughter of innocent victims in potentially preventable crashes?

When will everyone stop looking the other way–“doing the GM nod” of inertia and incompetence–letting someone else (i.e., nobody) shoulder the blame?

And this is only one “small” part of a huge mess of truck safety issues. When will we figure out that the widespread problem of truck safety (i.e., deaths and horrific injuries caused in crashes with trucks) is multifaceted and that a fragmented attack/approach to solving this disaster is never going to be very effective when everyone involved can point the finger of blame at someone else. . .and, sometimes, the scapegoat of a truck driver will get a slap on their wrist?

Over the course of the year following the crash, we have made many phone calls and sent many emails and letters. We have gotten very little in the way of answers to satisfy our need to understand what happened and to convince us that justice will be carried out.

And what is justice—morally right and fair—in this case? Does it mean looking the other way because he “didn’t mean to do it”? Does it mean showing him mercy and forgetting about it to the extent of meting out little or no consequences? Does it mean giving him a slap on the wrist because “there but for the grace of God go I”? These are hard questions.

We want to know the truth. Love for our daughters and for all travelers on the road—and for the truck drivers as well—drives our quest. The truth is said to set us free. Will the truth enable us, as a country, to free ourselves from injustice and from foolishly ignoring the problems? Unless we face the truth, we will continue to allow senseless, potentially-preventable crashes to rob us of loved ones.

With a potential trial date coming up the week of September 8,  I again attempted to get some answers and, earlier this week, wrote to the new Commanding Officer of the Georgia State Patrol. This was my closing plea:

“If this crash had killed your two children, Taylor and Logan, I wonder whether you would be satisfied with an investigation like the one which we have experienced with our crash.”

Please pray that our relentless demand for answers will ultimately lead to meaningful and enduring change.

gertie 2947

May 8, 2014 from Kathryn