A lawsuit filed in Georgia resulted in what many believe ranks as the largest jury verdict award in history held against a trucking company. The Peach State jury found the company’s driver responsible for the deaths of five individuals. The driver also faced charges of criminal negligent homicide on five separate counts. After deliberating for 45 minutes, the jury awarded the surviving family members $280 million to compensate for their loss, as reported by FreightWaves.

The tractor-trailer driver allegedly fell asleep while operating his rig on a two-lane highway. He crossed the center line and fatally struck an SUV head-on. The motorist, a grandmother, died along with her twin sister, her adult niece and two of her niece’s children. The jury found the tractor-trailer driver negligent based on his falling asleep behind the wheel. He reportedly claimed in his testimony that he swerved to avoid hitting a dog.

Holding companies responsible for hiring negligent drivers

While an award will never replace a loved one, the pursuit of a legal action helps to raise the awareness of the dangers that motorists face on Georgia’s highways. To help promote change, more juries must hold transportation companies liable for negligent hiring and poor management practices.

Forcing truck drivers to cover long hauls with little sleep creates a fertile ground for accidents, injuries and wrongful deaths. Companies must take the necessary actions to prevent drivers from succumbing to road fatigue and overwork. Some overall better management practices may include careful screening of new hires, scheduling shorter hauls and allowing truckers to take more breaks.

Achieving closure and moving forward

Holding tractor-trailer drivers and their employers liable for fatal truck accidents require persistent legal action. Generally, the insurance carriers used by transportation companies attempt to push victims and their families to settle their cases quickly out of court. While this may be one method of obtaining relief, settling may not allow negligent drivers to face their victims’ families and take full responsibility for their actions. To achieve closure and move forward, some victim’s families may require a jury trial.