Making Pigs Fly
When it comes to truck accident litigation, Morgan Adams takes the cases others pass by
Published in 2019 Mid-South Super Lawyers magazine
on November 7, 2019
Updated on November 18, 2019
On a shelf behind Morgan Adams’ desk, next to the tall can of Whoop Ass energy drink, sits a cobalt blue ceramic pig with wings he bought on the Arizona-Mexico border while researching a case involving a trucking accident. His client was a young woman whose family had been told she would never be compensated for her injuries, which included catastrophic brain injury.
“That’s one of the things I’m proudest of,” says the Chattanooga attorney, pointing to the small, stout-bodied sculpture. “Throughout my career, on a regular basis, I’ve had defense lawyers and insurance adjustors tell me that my case has no merit and that ‘only when pigs fly’ will they ever pay me a penny. I’ve learned to make pigs fly.”
As founder of Truck Wreck Justice and its West Coast counterpart, Seattle Truck Law, Adams has secured a number of multimillion-dollar recoveries for clients seriously injured in accidents with tractor trailers, buses and other large commercial vehicles. He’s represented plaintiffs in trucking cases in 42 states, and in 2018 alone he flew 147 times for work. He’s on track to match that this year.
The soft-spoken, one-time Marine Corps officer initially focused on medical malpractice, insurance defense and custody work, and his first trucking case in the late ’90s didn’t go as planned. After his client, a Russian truck driver, testified he had sustained no previous injuries, the defense lawyer presented evidence of the client’s half-million-dollar resolution from a previous case. “That’s when I learned to do a better job vetting my clients,” Adams says.
Nevertheless, trucking law was a niche he felt he could own, and he set out to learn as much as possible. “I like being the person who has the answer,” Adams says. “I have specialized libraries and research tools that allow me to get to the information immediately, as opposed to other fields of law where I may have to call people and look things up. Trucking is almost reflexive at this point.”
In one of his most significant cases, Adams represented a family hit by a drunk driver, which killed his passenger and left Adams’ clients stranded on the darkened roadway. Then a tractor-trailer driver, using only his low headlight beams, crashed into them, causing the boy in the back seat to suffer a permanent spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia.
Four other firms turned down a lawsuit against the trucking company by the time it reached Adams. Shortly before trial, he reached a settlement of $6.7 million. “That’s one that I feel really good about,” he says.
Trucking cases, Adams points out, are vastly different from other personal injury matters. “First, you have an articulating, 80,000-pound tractor-trailer that’s approximately 80 feet long and it has different braking systems, different handling characteristics because it’s higher and turns over much easier than a car. Additionally, the tractor can be owned separately from the trailer. … In many cases, you’ll find that the shipper or the broker, instead of hiring the safest trucking company, hired the cheapest, which is also the most unsafe trucking company, without bothering to look at the safety issues.”
Because of his work, many assume Adams dislikes truck drivers, but that’s far from the truth; he still views the majority as “white knights,” just like he did as a child, gesturing for a honk from the wayback of the family station wagon.
“The only thing that takes a good truck driver off the road is a bad truck driver,” he says. “Maybe 25% of my practice is representing good truck drivers that were hit by bad.”
Adams takes great pride in helping his injured clients improve their quality of life. “To the extent that money can make any of those [dreams] come true, whether it’s education for children, paying a house off for a parent, or any of the things that they wanted for their spouses, we try to make those things happen,” he says. “Additionally, we try to make sure that everyone else on the roads is safer by trying to get systematic changes at the company so that whatever the harm was, it doesn’t happen again to others.”