A tragic accident that claimed the life of a Rusk County truck driver has resulted in legal action against the man’s employer, against the individuals to blame for the accident and against Mack Trucks Inc. The family of Andrew Mayfield has retained the services of a truck accident attorney; they are seeking $15 million in actual damages and an additional $20 million in punitive damages for negligence on the part of the defendants that contributed to the death of Mayfield. Enough Blame to Go Around Andrew Mayfield’s 18-wheeler was hit head-on by defendants Jose Pereira and Osvaldo Rodriguez on Interstate 20. This initial collision caused the semi to collide with the inside guardrail and subsequently to burst into flames. The 18 wheeler accident attorney representing the family has filed for damages from the two individuals who caused the accident as well as the trucking firm for which Mayfield drove. Mack Trucks Inc. has also been named as a defendant in the suit; the truck accident lawyer for the Mayfield family has cited evidence that negligent design played a role in the truck driver’s death after the collision with Pereira and Rodriguez occurred. Design Issues and Testing Failures The Mayfield family is seeking damages from Mack Trucks for what they claim is the negligent design and inaccurate marketing of the truck involved in the accident. Specifically, Mack Trucks is accused of negligence for locating the battery in close proximity to the fuel tanks of the vehicle, for failing to perform thorough testing on the performance of those fuel tanks and for placing the battery on the exterior of the truck outside the frame rails of the vehicle. The suit also alleges that Mack Truck knew of the risks involved in the co-location of fuel tanks and the battery present on the truck and failed to warn consumers of these risks; instead, Mack marketed the truck as a safe vehicle. A Legacy of Liability The outcome of the Mayfield case is still to be determined. Class action suits and liability claims against truck and auto manufacturers, however, are nothing new. The classic example of poor design leading to legal liability is the Ford Pinto, a subcompact vehicle that was constructed with the fuel tank directly behind the back bumper. This ill-considered design led to several incidents in which serious car fires were caused by relatively minor rear-end collisions. Several deaths resulted from these car fires and led to litigation against Ford Motor Company and multi-million dollar awards to the victims of these accidents and their surviving family members. Holding Companies Responsible In many cases, filing suit against major car and truck manufacturers is the only way to persuade these corporations to make much-needed safety improvements to their vehicles. Cost considerations may play a significant role in the decision to remediate these problems or to ignore them altogether. In the Ford Pinto case, for example, Ford Motor Company openly admitted that it used a risk/benefit analysis strategy in deciding not to fix the dangerous fuel tank position after it was first called to the company’s attention. Ford justified this strategy by citing a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration policy that stated that companies need not correct safety issues if the costs of doing so outweighed the societal benefits achieved by correcting these errors. By suing companies for damages resulting from negligence and failure to correct design errors in their vehicles, accident victims and their family members can provide valuable motivation to make much-needed safety improvements. This can reduce the risks for other drivers and can provide a cautionary example of the financial repercussions possible for companies that fail to take the steps necessary to protect drivers and passengers against death or serious injury due to negligent design or substandard construction techniques.