A big rig jackknifes on the freeway, causing a vehicle pileup, hours of delay, and perhaps a spill of leaking soda bottles onto the asphalt. It’s a sight most of us have seen some variant of at least once, if not in person, then certainly on the news. Most people simply accept these scenes of vehicular carnage as a fact of modern life, calling ahead to let their bosses know they’ll be late, maybe stealing a moment of guilty gratitude that they’re only stuck in the traffic jam and not the wreck itself.
Sadly, about 4,000 people per year aren’t so lucky, and those are just the people who don’t make it out of large truck crashes at all. Over 100,000 more survive these kinds of wrecks with injuries — often life-changing ones.
If no one you know has ever been involved in a commercial truck accident, you probably haven’t given much thought to what causes these wrecks, what can be done to prevent them, or what’s to be done after a crash has already occurred. If, on the other hand, you’ve been unfortunate enough to have your life touched by an accident with a Pepsi truck or other large commercial vehicle, you probably have a lot of questions about what comes next.
The Stoddard Firm is always available to consult with you on your rights and options, and we have extensive experience holding powerful entities like Pepsi responsible for their actions and policies. When a corporation fails in its duties to the public and causes death, injury, and destruction, we’re here to see to it that the victims are duly compensated, and to make sure life-endangering business practices turn out as unprofitable as possible for those who employ them.
Big Rigs Have More Destructive Power than Personal Vehicles
Statistically, commercial truckers tend to be safer-than-average drivers. In fact, a 2009 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that, in collisions between personal cars and large trucks, the driver of the car was at fault 81% of the time. That’s not to say that truck drivers never make mistakes or behave recklessly, however, and when they do, they have the potential to cause far more damage than an ordinary commuter, simply because of the massive size of their vehicles.
In 2017, large trucks accounted for 11% of all crash fatalities on U.S roads, and it was the occupants of other vehicles, not the truckers themselves, who bore the brunt of these tragedies. In cases where a large truck collided fatally with a smaller vehicle, the fatality occurred in the smaller vehicle 97% of the time.
The problem also seems to be getting worse. Between 2016 and 2017, fatalities involving large trucks rose by 16%, even as overall roadway fatalities fell by 2%.
Accidents Involving Pepsi Trucks Are All Too Common
Large trucks carrying Pepsi products have shown up in the news cycle more than a few times in recent years — and not so recent years — involved in accidents that have cost lives, caused serious injuries, and often shut down roadways with the scale of their wreckage.
This February in New York State, a Pepsi truck struck a pickup truck, severely injuring the pickup truck driver and trapping him inside his vehicle. The next month in Indiana, another Pepsi truck became wedged under a low bridge. While locals say other commercial vehicles have made the same misjudgment, local officials also note that the low bridge is clearly marked. Come September, a Pepsi truck in Ohio collided with another commercial vehicle, shutting down a major freeway.
Last year wasn’t much better, with a pileup involving a Pepsi truck closing off another freeway in Indiana. That incident ended in one death and at least three serious injuries.
Pepsi is no stranger to lawsuits surrounding their drivers’ accidents, either. After a collision between a Pepsi truck and a train in Mississippi in 2017, an injured train passenger trying to cover his medical expenses brought suits against both Pepsi and the railroad for policy violations. This came just a few years after a similar suit in Texas, after a collision between a Pepsi truck and a passenger vehicle.
The Way Drivers Are Treated Directly Affects Safety
Of course, given the size of Pepsi’s commercial fleet, it’s only fair to wonder how many of the Pepsi-involved accidents we see can be explained by rule of odds. Certainly not every accident involving a Pepsi truck is the Pepsi driver’s fault. Even when the driver is at fault, and Pepsi’s insurance is responsible for covering the damages, there might or might not have been a way for Pepsi to predict that their driver would end up making a costly mistake.
However, a historical glance at Pepsi’s policies regarding its commercial drivers suggests that the company hasn’t exactly done all it could to prevent death and injury on the road.
Back in 2002, Pepsi’s New Jersey truck drivers sued the company for denying them overtime pay. Their claims included being forced to work 12 hours a day and receiving no overtime pay regardless of the number of hours worked. Pepsi ultimately settled the case for $17.36 million, which included an average of $23,000 in back pay for each individual driver involved in the suit, but the company doesn’t appear to have learned much from the experience.
Just last year, a group of Pepsi truck drivers in California sued for another labor law violation. They claimed Pepsi forced them to work through their legally mandated break periods. Pepsi settled again, this time for $5 million.
While workers’ rights violations may seem unrelated to road safety, the reality is that exhaustion behind the wheel causes an estimated average of 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths in the U.S each year. Pushing workers too hard and denying them adequate rest absolutely has the potential to make them inattentive drivers, putting them and everyone on the road around them in mortal danger.
Employers Like Pepsi Are Responsible for Errors Their Drivers Make on the Road
When two drivers get into an accident on their own time, in their own cars, liability generally remains between those two drivers and their respective insurance companies. A percentage of fault is assigned to each driver — sometimes it’s fairly one-sided, sometimes fairly even — and those percentages determine whose insurance must pay for what portion of the damages.
Sometimes there are additional complications, like a mechanical defect in one of the vehicles, or a third driver who contributed to the accident but was not actually involved in the collision, but the two main drivers’ personal insurance companies will still likely need to be involved.
If one of the drivers is driving on behalf of an employer like Pepsi, however, the situation changes. In that case, it would be Pepsi, or Pepsi’s insurance, that would be required to pay for whatever damage the Pepsi driver caused. This is partly because employers wield significant power over their employees’ actions, which makes them responsible for the consequences of those actions. Forcing drivers to drive for excessive periods of time without rest is just one example of how an employer might abuse this power and lead to an accident. Other ways might include requiring drivers to answer calls while on the road, or hiring unscreened drivers with inadequate licenses or a record of unsafe driving.
Even if an employer did nothing discernably wrong in the selection, training, or instruction of a driver, however, that employer is still liable in case of an accident. This rule is based on the idea that, because the employer is the one who benefits from the employee’s actions when things go well, the employer should also be financially responsible for those actions when things go badly. For the sake of the accident victim, it also makes more sense to seek compensation from the company than from the employee, as the company will likely have a more comprehensive insurance policy and greater means to pay for the damages.
It’s important to note that employer liability usually only applies if the employee is following orders from their boss, or performing standard job functions for their company, at the time of the accident. If an accident happened while a Pepsi driver was using a company truck to run a personal errand, on the other hand, liability would typically fall on the driver.
There are exceptions even to this exception, however, if the company’s negligence clearly led to the accident or made it worse. For example, if Pepsi were to hire someone who had previously been convicted of vehicular homicide, and that driver went on to kill someone else with a Pepsi truck, even on the driver’s personal time, Pepsi might still be found liable for putting such a dangerously large vehicle in the hands of an unsafe driver.
What to Do After an Accident with a Pepsi Truck or Other Commercial Vehicle
The first steps to follow after a commercial vehicle accident are much like the steps following any traffic collision:
- Pull over to the side of the road if possible.
- Call for emergency medical services if necessary.
- Exchange insurance and contact information, making sure to get details of the commercial driver’s professional, rather than personal, insurance.
- Do not make any spur-of-the-moment statements admitting or implying fault.
- Do not accept any fast payoffs. These are usually intended to trap you into settling for an unfairly small sum, before you’ve had the chance to assess your full losses and injuries.
- Use a phone or camera, if available, to document the damage.
- If you do not require an ambulance, schedule a medical examination as soon as possible, to check for internal injuries that may take time to manifest symptoms.
- Get in touch with a qualified lawyer, like those at the Stoddard Firm.
There’s one thing major corporations and insurance companies tend to excel at, and that’s holding on to money. In the first days following a serious accident with a commercial vehicle, it can be hard to know whom to trust, or even how large a settlement it’s fair to expect, but it’s very unlikely that you’ll be offered the full amount you need or deserve without professional representation. The experts at The Stoddard Firm have the experience you’ll need on your side to navigate the legal process and win the compensation you need to rebuild your life and move forward after a serious accident.
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one to an accident with a Pepsi truck or other commercial vehicle, give us a call at 678-RESULT, or reach out through our online chat function for a completely free consultation.