Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 31, 2010

Locally based truck accident lawyer helps nationwide

Truck wreck lawyer Morgan Adams represents victims of commercial motor vehicle accidents nationwide. He says one of the interesting things about an accident involving a tractor-trailer and a car is that the truck driver can perceive the wreck as a mild bump, while the driver of the car can perceive it as a catastrophic collision. “Both parties are telling the truth,” he says. - Photo provided
If there’s one thing attorney Morgan Adams doesn’t need, it’s more work. As a nationally recognized trucking litigation expert who represents victims of accidents involving large commercial vehicles, he has more than enough cases to keep him busy. So he spends a lot of time trying to prevent accidents from happening.
“People think it’s funny that I give out tips to help them avoid being hit by a tractor trailer, but I don’t need more work. There are enough trucking cases, and there will continue to be plenty of them, even if everyone does everything as close to right as humanly possible,” he says.
Some of the tips Adams doles out might seem unconventional, but make sense, including a tidbit that could save lives in rush hour traffic.
“One of the top causes of truck accidents is fatigued drivers. You might think having your foot on your brakes will tell everyone behind you you’re stopped, but when a truck driver has been on the road too long, a solid light doesn’t register as well as blinking lights, so if you’re going less than the minimum speed on the interstate, turn on your emergency lights until at least five cars behind you have slowed down or stopped. Blinking lights help to alert a fatigued truck driver that there’s a problem up ahead,” he says.
Adams hopes his advice has the same effect on those who hear it.
“I consult on hundreds of cases a year, and none of my clients woke up that morning and said, ‘Hot diggity dang, I’m going to be in a car wreck today!’ They had lives with focus and direction, and a truck wreck decimated their plans,” he says.
Case in point: a young Smith County, Tenn., woman whose life was changed when the van in which she was a passenger collided with a commercial vehicle and she suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. Adams helped her to secure the largest recovery for a living plaintiff to date in the county.
“We had experts from around the country diagnose and explain how she hit her head when the wreck occurred, and that as a result, her future changed dramatically in an instant. So one of the things she’s going to be able to do, since she can’t work full time, is provide medical care for herself for the rest of her life,” he says.
Adams’ work has also impacted how certain laws are interpreted. For example, he argued the first reported case in federal court in Tennessee that found that a violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations is negligence per se.
“I’m pretty proud of that legal victory and of the fact that it was deemed important enough to report,” he says.
Adams decided to focus on trucking accidents when he was involved in a case in which a cement mixer rolled over a family in a minivan. A baby suffered brain damage from the wreck and was in intensive care for several days.
“The mixer driver, who was a caring man with children of his own, had never been told by his company that a loaded cement mixer could roll over at 12 mph on a turn. Had the company properly trained the driver, I believe he would have followed his training and the wreck never would have happened,” he says, adding that the company now has a training program for new drivers.
Adams has not always fought on behalf of victims. When he started focusing on truck accident litigation ten years ago, he was on the opposite side of the battle. He says his work for major insurance companies cost him a lot of sleep.
“I’d gotten distressed that a great verdict for my clients meant I’d robbed people who deserved recovery, whether that was because they hadn’t dotted all of their I’s and crossed all of their T’s or some other reason. I knew I’d represented my client well, but I didn’t feel good about what I was doing to individuals,” he says.
The turning point for Adams came when he was asked to formalize a settlement and hand a $5,000 check to a father and the sole supporter of a family. Adams asked the man how he was doing, and the man described symptoms that made it clear he had a bulging disc and would likely need surgery. Since Adams was not the man’s representative, he couldn’t tell the man he was settling for much less than his case was worth.
“I knew he was crazy to settle for $5,000, and the insurance company knew it, but didn’t care. I stopped doing insurance defense work shortly thereafter. And I’d never slept better,” he says.
Adams needed the rest, as he would devote thousands of hours to learning the ins and outs of commercial vehicle accident litigation. His work in the area became his passion, and as he represented more and more victims of catastrophic accidents, he developed a national reputation. Today, he has offices in Nashville and Chattanooga, and is known across the country as “The Truck Accident Lawyer.”
In addition to representing his own clients, Adams helps attorneys across the U.S. understand the liability and damage issues in their trucking cases. His current workload includes cases in California, Nebraska and other states, many of which he handles in person due to their complex nature. Adams also lectures across the country on how to properly handle tractor-trailer cases. Over the next four months, he’s slated to teach CLE courses in New York, Rhode Island, Louisiana and Idaho.
In addition to his lecture work, Adams has written a chapter titled “Trucking Accident Litigation” for the 2010-2011 edition of “Handling Motor Vehicle Accident Cases.” For lawyers who wish to digest similar material in smaller chunks, Adams publishes a blog, accessible at www.truckinjurylawyerblog.com.
While Adams is happy to share his expertise, keeping up with the latest developments in his field requires a significant investment of time.
“It’s an incredibly technical field. To be equipped to handle a trucking case, you have to be constantly involved in the changing safety regulations and dealing with the physics and dynamics and experts involved. It requires a lot of time and effort to stay on top of what’s happening,” he says.
Adams became a lawyer while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Following Desert Storm in the early ’90s, he returned to the private sector and took a job with Luther Anderson in Chattanooga. Two years later, he moved over to what was then Hatfield, VanCleave & Akers.
When Akers left to become Hamilton County’s clerk and master, Adams struck out on his own. For a time, he concentrated on family law, and specifically father’s custody. Adams was the first lawyer to convince a Hamilton County judge to allow a father to have his child on Christmas morning.
There’s a touch of irony in Adams’ history with family law, because if there’s one thing he needs more of, it’s time with his wife and three sons. He says he tries to “get home as many nights a year” as he can, but that his work is demanding.
“My wife would not be shy in saying I work too much. But I’m passionate about representing the people who have entrusted this once-in-a-lifetime event to my care,” he says, adding that his wife is “not the better half, but the better nine-tenths,” and that his boys are “smarter than he is, even if they’re not old enough to read [this article] in print.”
When discussing his life and career, Adams seems honest and forthright. But he’s concerned people have the wrong idea about his work: He’s not anti-trucking, he says, but anti-negligence.
“There are a lot of good truck drivers out there, and a lot of good trucking companies. But some trucking companies abuse their drivers, and some truck drivers choose to skirt safety regulations. When they do that, I tend to get involved and try to hold the companies and the drivers accountable.”
That’s bad news for negligent truck drivers and trucking companies, because if there’s one thing they need, besides a willingness to follow the rules, it’s less of Morgan Adams.