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When Trucking Companies Do Not Carry out Background Checks, and Hire Incompetent Drivers, the Consequences Can Be Devastating.

In April of 2006 Shawn Merriman, 32 at the time of the accident, was repairing potholes on the highway. As is the custom of Caltrans, several lanes had been closed down to shield the workers while they carried out their duties. A Caltrans truck was also stopped with lights flashing in the lane. While they worked, no other cars seem to have any difficulty noting work alongside the road and merging out of the affected lane.

Luis Vasquez, driving a four car carrier truck, employed by Ponzini Community Garage never changed lanes running over cones and markers. Mr. Vazquez struck the Caltrans truck which in turn crushed Mr. Merriman.

Vazquez was not arrested and tested for drugs and alcohol at the scene. A later urine test that day however demonstrated the presence of methamphetamines, a drug typically used by drivers to keep them up during long haul. The trucking company argued, despite the obvious presence of Caltrans, that the driver was not impaired and it was Caltrans that had not properly marked the area and protected the workers. Truck companies never “rollover” in a case, and it takes aggressive lawyering from a California truck attorney to win these cases.

The attorney for Merriman's parents also learned through a background check that Mr. Vazquez had been convicted numerous times for drug possession and trafficking. The employer was apparently unaware of this history. It was also confirmed that this driver's background was never checked by the employer.

Background checks for drivers of commercial vehicles are a required custom and practice of trucking companies and they must adopt and implement procedures in order to protect us on highways and roadways.. A simple background check in this case would deny this individual the opportunity to drive a legal weapon.

Fortunately with good lawyering, the family was properly compensated. Unfortunately, another accident occurred without any reasonable effort at prevention. I am often asked about the cost of automobile, truck and medical insurance as a justification for limiting rights of victims. I would like to ask this question of all of those people! Is the cost of a background check on every driver you hire less than the $2 million the insurance company paid for this accident in wrongful death?

I bet this trucking company will pay a higher premium and as a result will finally implement those standards that are required when you operate a trucking company in the state of California. If you have been the victim of a truck accident, call us at (888) 752-7474.

by James E. Ballidis

James Ballidis is the managing attorney for Allen Flatt Ballidis & Leslie and has been practicing personal injury law for over 35 years.

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