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Legal Analysis of Another St. Louis Truck Crash Involving Swift

Post Date: June 17th, 2013

Swift truck driver Lawrence Coleman kills Matthew Barton in St. Louis AccidentAs a St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyer specializing in tractor-trailer accidents, I was saddened to see another catastrophic truck crash involving Swift.  The initial reports are that the crash happened around 3:00am in South City St. Louis near S. Broadway and River City Casino Boulevard.  The Swift truck was driven by 59-year-old Lawrence Coleman of Arnold, Mo.  He collided with 29-year-old Matthew Barton of Cedar Hill who was in an SUV.  Sadly, both were killed in the collision.  It breaks my heart to see such a tragic accident and know that there are families out there mourning the loss of both these individuals.  In my business of representing those injured in St. Louis tractor-trailer accidents, it is something that I see all too often.  Yet, it also gets me extremely upset to see another crash involving Swift.

Swift is one of the largest trucking companies in the United States with over 14,000 truck drivers.  What many people do not realize is that truck drivers are supposed to be professional drivers who have to follow a very complex set of safety rules known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.  What many lawyers do not even realize is that these safety regulations also apply to the companies that employ these truck drivers and the safety regulations govern virtually every aspect of the truck business.  This includes requiring background investigations of its potential drivers, certain testing of new hires, training of its drivers, ongoing evaluations, etc.  In all my years of handling truck cases, hardly ever have I investigated a truck crash and not determined that the crash was the result of a systematic breakdown in the safety culture of the truck company violation of multiple Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.  Obviously there are no reports as to any federal safety violations at this point.  However, the problem is that the police officers do not ever investigate into the company’s compliance with the safety regulations which could have caused or contributed to causing a crash.

As for this crash, the initial reports are that one of the drivers ran a red light.  It is not reported which driver ran the red light.  But it seems pretty obvious to me.  The truck driver is reported as having continued going after the crash, hit two power poles, a fence, and a boat.  Now I know the streets of South St. Louis well and I don’t believe that a tractor-trailer cannot go through all of that excessively speeding.  Of course, the way we often determine this for sure is to obtain the traffic cameras if there were such at the intersection.

Beyond that, a little known fact is that truck tractors are equipped with what’s known as a EDM, also known as a “black box”.  This is the same type of device that are in planes and are recovered from crashes.  Unfortunately, this is again evidence that is often not retrieved by the investigating police officers as it takes special expertise and equipment.  Trucking lawyers such as myself employ electronic data retrieval experts to get this information.  Much like in the instance of a plane crash, this information can tell us how fast the truck was going in the short time before the crash and whether the driver ever even hit the brakes.  Getting this information is crucial as many times it is the only evidence available as to how the crash occurred.  In fact, I am getting ready to provide a seminar in July to other lawyers teaching them how to properly handle trucking cases and a big area that we cover is how to get this information from the EDM.

Beyond that, I can’t help but wondering what this truck driver was doing on the streets at 3am!?!?!  Why is Swift having him haul loads at that time.  Fatigue driving is a huge issue in trucking litigation and this could be another very clear example of why it is not safe to put drivers on the road at such early hours.

In the end, there is no doubt in my mind that this was a tragic crash that could have and should have been prevented.  I do not believe there is such a thing as an unavoidable “accident” when it comes to tractor-trailers.  Rather it is quite simple.  If a trucking company just follows the safety regulations and hires safe drivers and requires them to abide by the safety regulations, there is no need for these type of tragedies.

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Joshua Myers

Owner and Attorney at Myers Injury Law, LLC
Joshua Myers is a St. Louis Injury Attorney with his office headquarters in St. Louis. Recently named by Missouri Lawyer's Weekly as Missouri's Winningest Trial Attorney, Joshua represents individuals across all of Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas who have been seriously injured due to the negligence of another. Contact Joshua for a free case consultation at 888-956-2487.

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By Joshua Myers

2 Responses to “Legal Analysis of Another St. Louis Truck Crash Involving Swift”

  1. Eric says:

    It is very sad to see that these guys lost their lives. But the comments asking what someone is doing driving at 3am and why Swift is having him haul loads at this time are just absurd. There are TONS of drivers that prefer to drive overnight instead of daytime hours, and me, previously being one of them! I’ve never been fatigued, drowsy, nor had a single accident while doing so. And it’s the customers that setup delivery times, not Swift, so the driver can choose to take the load or not, nepending on their schedule. Again, NOT the company’s decision. so if he/ she wants to drive at night, so be it!

    • Sure there are plenty of drivers that prefer to drive overnight. And with anything in life, there are those that are perfectly fine to do so. However, we must also acknowledge that there are many truck drivers who are unfit and unhealthy and suffering from sleep apnea (which is a huge problem in the trucking industry) and therefore not getting the required sleep and rest. And while it may be the customer who schedules the delivery times, companies like Swift still agree to the timelines. Why do they do it – there’s no reason other than profit. That’s not wrong in and of itself. Money and profits are the sole reason that businesses exist – but when companies are going to gamble with putting profits over safety, then they should be required to pay every last cent to make up for the harm they cause.

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