In July of 2009, Michigan was listed among the top 12 most sanctioned states in the nation that
allow truck drivers with serious medical problems, including seizure disorders, to drive large
tractor-trailers on the roads and that fail to require truck drivers to carry valid medical
We have received much feedback from my 2008 blog, Michigan Man Killed by
Epileptic Trucker Driving Out-of-Service Gravel Truck.
The blog outlined the case of my
client, who was killed in a truck accident when a fully-loaded 150,000-pound gravel hauler lost
control on I-75 in Detroit and pinned his car against the highway retainer wall, where it burst
The truck driver admitted he had received no formal training or supervision from
his employer. He also said he failed to inspect the truck’s tires and brakes. Furthermore, he
had a seizure disorder and was on powerful epilepsy medication that causes drowsiness and delayed
Readers are asking: How could such an unfit and irresponsible trucker be
allowed to drive on Michigan roads?
The answer is because in Michigan, injury lawyers cannot legally
recover punitive damages from trucking companies that knowingly hire unqualified, careless truck
drivers who commit myriad safety violations and accidents.
Where damages are monies ordered by
a court to be paid to a person as compensation for loss or injury, punitive damages are additional
monies awarded when the defendant acted with recklessness, malice or deceit.
Michigan law does
not allow for even the request of punitive damages, thanks to tort reform removing them from the
Punitive Damages Put Safety Over Profit
Seemingly outrageous punitive damages have
a bad reputation and people may wonder why they are necessary.
Specifically, punitive damages
are a way of penalizing the most egregious conduct and making an example to others — to deter
corporate executives from putting their bottom line before human lives.
Punitive damages are
Jurors determine punitive damages and assign them only when the behavior was so reckless
that business owners undoubtedly need a solid reason not to commit the same offense again. Without
such penalties, they might find it more cost-effective to continue their misconduct and risk paying
limited compensation to those they have harmed, rather than make safety the primary issue.
state is a sad example of that. Because Michigan accident lawyers cannot sue a trucking company
for punitive damages, the worst truck drivers who can’t find jobs in states with tougher laws
come to Michigan. In turn, many of them cause more truck accidents, injuries and deaths on Michigan
My case puts a face on the reason punitive damages are essential.
If Michigan did
not have the worse car accident law and public policy in the entire country, maybe my
client’s family would have received punitive damages for their tragic loss. My client was a
young engineer, a loving husband and father of two little girls. Maybe the possibility of paying
punitive damages would have made the trucking company that hired the unfit truck driver who killed
my client think twice before putting a ticking time bomb on the road.
In this case, the time
bomb exploded, and my client paid the price. Meanwhile, the trucking company is conducting business
Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles Michigan car, truck and motorcycle accident
cases throughout the entire state. To talk to an auto accident lawyer contact us at
Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top
experts in serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation.