Has FMCSA put the PI Trucking Attorney out of a Job?

As Case Funding prepares to launch its sponsorship of APITLAmerica in St. Louis, MO we decided to dig into FMCSA’s most recent batch of Trucking Accident data to brush up on the scope of the industry on two points:

1.) Is FMCSA going to put an end to dedicated commerical trucking accident PI Law Firms with their truck crash improvements? Now with access to data covering the full lifespan of FMCSA (2000-2010), we wanted to know if their initiatives have been able to put a dent in the bottom line totals of trucking accidents and,

2.) Which attorneys attending the conference have the biggest market for trucking accident plaintiffs, and who might be seeing a dramatic shift in the numbers? With data covering 2008-2012, how have each State’s initiatives contributed or impeded efforts to decrease accidentsr?

A large percentage of clients for Case Funding’s Medical Funding services are plaintiffs sustaining injuries from trucking accidents. The injuries sustained from crashes with commercial trucks are quite extensive and require specialized care for recovery – often long stints of neurological rehabilitation for Traumatic Brain Injury which are secured by Case Funding’s services for 6 months or more. The number of trucking crashes and victims was and is so huge, that many specialized Law Firms are able to work only these case types. After public outcry, the formation of FMCSA was meant to, “Save lives and Reduce Injuries by Preventing and Minimizing the Severity of Truck and Bus Crashes,” accomplished through the implementation of numerous safety measures over the decade. So how has FMCSA performed? Are they poised to significantly change the industry for Trucking Accident attorneys in the near future?

The number of fatal accidents involving large trucks has declined 30 percent between 2000 and 2010 (from 4,881 to 3,484) and injury crashes have declined about 58 percent between 2000 and 2010 (from 96,000 to 56,000). Although the decrease in overall accidents is wonderful and many would project that yes, the commercial trucking lawyer is doomed. However, upon further comparison we found that the probability of fatality in an accident with a large truck has actually grown slightly from 4.84% to 5.88% in the past decade. So while it looks as though FMCSA has had a significant impact, plenty of plaintiffs’ attorneys would argue that they still have a long way to go to improve the rate of fatality in large trucking accidents occurring on our roadways – and put the specialized trucking attorney out of a job.

Looking at statistics in the past decade relating to large trucks in crashes with passenger vehicles by crash type and severity, it was interesting to note that liability in fatal and non-fatal accidents with large trucks seems to be nearly split down the middle between the truck driver and the car driver. Although many lay people assume that accidents involving large trucks or big rigs are slam dunk cases that are easy to prove, the data shows that the reality is that liability can be complicated and costly to prove, especially when coupled with a usually deep pocketed defense   – something personal injury attorneys with specialties in trucking law have always warned. In these situations, many attorneys benefit from utilizing litigation funding services. These services allow them to access the information and experts they need to prove their client’s case in times where cash flow may be an issue, and really level the playing field for the plaintiff team.

And how was performance state by state? Which states are poised to significantly decrease their yearly truck accidents?  After all, FMCSA and State level leadership pledged to work together a decade ago to put crash problems brought to attention under their jurisdiction under the microscope. Case Funding took a look at the total trucking crash data per state from 2008 to 2012, and compared their year over year decrease in accidents from 2011-20122 to their average ability to decrease crashes in previous years. Without wanting to compare apples to oranges, we compared their relative performance z-scores and came up with some surprising results.

States' 2011 Truck Crash reduction performance

Fig. 1 Relative Truck Crash Reduction Performance 2008-2012

California (5 year average crashes: 7,453, 2012 crashes: 5,770), Texas (5 year average: 9,387, 2012 crashes: 7,482), Pennsylvania (5 year average: 4,222, 2012 crashes: 2,550), Ohio (5 year average: 4,008, 2012 crashes: 2,885) and Illinois (5 year average: 5,053, 2012 crashes: 3,521) certainly lead accident totals and reductions by sheer volume, but some states showed surprise performance at accident reduction in 2012.

As shown in Figure 1, when comparing to their relative past performances, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey, and Louisiana were the accident reduction leaders in 2011-2012 and trucking attorneys in those states should certainly keep a close eye on how State initiatives play into reduction performance in 2013. Illinois and Texas showed less than average crash reduction performance compared to their past results, so Case Funding projects that specialized commercial trucking lawyers in those States will continue to see strong business in 2013.

Case Funding will be available to discuss this and other topics related to trucking law in person from 4/25 to 4/27 at the Union Station Hotel in St.Louis at booth #4 in APITLA’s Super Summit II exhibit hall. For attorneys not attending, you can still access our Legal Finance Specialists though our Attorney hotline at 1-888-805-4879.

Case Funding Inc. is a New York based specialty finance company and industry leader in providing litigation funding solutions to attorneys, law firms and personal injury and product liability victims. Case Funding factors and purchases medical liens from doctors, surgery centers and radiology centers. Selling or factoring medical liens allows medical providers to immediately improve their cash flow, reduce overhead and eliminate bad debt risk. Plaintiffs can receive funding for personal and other living expenses while they wait for their case to settle so they aren’t pressured into settling their case for less than its full value. Working capital loans enable attorneys to invest in their cases and to pay for items such as expert witnesses and litigation support costs, operating expenses, business development and marketing campaigns and better manage cash flow overall.

1U.S. Department of Transportation: Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2010

Vehicles Table 9. Large Trucks in Crashes with Passenger Vehicles by Crash Type and Severity.

2DOT Crash Query Tool