The accident unfolded in seconds, but the fallout ended five lives and forever shattered others.
John Wayne Johnson was driving his truck on Interstate 16 in Bryan County, near Savannah, when he slammed into the back of a Toyota Corolla. State troopers said the impact of the crash was so powerful it sent Johnson’s truck over the top of the sedan and into the back of a Ford Escape in front of the car.
The crash killed five young nursing students. Two others were injured. Families across Georgia are still mourning. Their lives will never be the same again after the April 22 wreck.
Fried Rogers Goldberg are representing some of these affected families. We’ve already filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the parents of Morgan Bass, who was killed in the Ford Escape along with Abbie Deloach.
The victims in the Corolla were Emily Clark, Caitlyn Baggett and McKay Pittman. Brittney McDaniel, who was in the SUV, was injured as well. Our office has filed a personal injury claim on her behalf. In all, seven lawsuits have been filed as a result of the horrific crash.
As the nation’s premier truck accident attorneys, we have filed claims in dozens of truck crashes. In all of our years on the job, this case is one of the most tragic we’ve seen. As attorneys, we can’t take away the pain these victims and their families are feeling, but we can seek the compensation they deserve to help get their lives back to as normal as can be.
Driver Had a History of Falling Asleep at the Wheel
The nursing students in both vehicles were attending Georgia Southern and were stopped on I-16 when Johnson’s truck struck them. They were headed back to a hospital in Savannah. There, they were to complete the last days of nursing clinical rotations.
An unrelated crash had slowed traffic, but Johnson’s tractor-trailer slammed into the SUV and car. Johnson’s truck only stopped when it collided with the back of a tanker truck. Emily Clark’s Corolla burst into flames after it was crushed by Johnson’s truck.
These young, vibrant people were taken away from us far too soon. This devastating accident could have been prevented.
In a press release last month, attorney Joseph Fried revealed that Johnson was fired from a previous truck driving job in 2011 for falling asleep while driving and causing an accident. Total Transportation of Mississippi decided to hire Johnson and put him back on the road. This is inexcusable.
“Total Transportation of Mississippi knew about this history but the records we have seen to date reflect no efforts by them or parent company U.S. Express to make sure this driver did not have untreated obstructive sleep apnea or some other sleep disorder before allowing him to drive a loaded tractor trailer,” Fried said in the news release. “This certainly raises the question about whether the driver fell asleep at the wheel in this case.”
While an official cause of the crash has yet to be determined, the case underscores in grim detail the importance of background checks when hiring new drivers.
Background Checks Are Critical
While we don’t know what caused the wreck, we do know that letting a driver with a history of falling asleep behind the wheel get back on the road puts drivers like yourself at risk.
Background checks should be critical to the hiring process. Any driver with a history of unsafe driving, drinking and driving, falling asleep at the wheel or any other number of safety violations is more likely to be involved in a serious or fatal crash.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has regulations in place requiring motor carriers to obtain driver histories on every driver they hire. This means that Total Transportation of Mississippi most likely knew about Johnson’s previous firing for falling asleep while driving, but decided to hire him anyway.
Such actions are inexcusable. When trucking companies fail to properly vet incoming drivers, they fail to perform basic safety standards.
This case also highlights the issue of falling asleep at the wheel and fatigued driving. The FMCSA estimates that more than 750 people die each year and another 20,000 are injured due to fatigued commercial truck drivers. Truck driver fatigue is estimated to be a factor in 30 to 40 percent of all truck crashes.
Long-haul truck drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash. Federal data shows that between the eighth and tenth hours of driving, the risk of crash effectively doubles. That risk then doubles again from the tenth hour to the eleventh. Fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
This crash has made national news and touched families across the Atlanta area and around Georgia. We will not rest until we have uncovered every angle and every detail of this case.
This is how we tackle every case at Fried Rogers Goldberg.