Law firm issues apology for 'Serial Killer' ad

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Friday, June 06, 2014

A Texas law firm has claims it wasn’t trying to offend truckers with a magazine ad that depicted semi tractors as a "serial killer."

San Antonio-based law firm Villareal & Begum issued an apology via email on Thursday, after the company’s ad in the June issue of Maxim magazine drew loud condemnation from trucking groups like Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations, and other industry groups. Truckers and their families and friends took to social media and other avenues to express outrage, and major truck stop chains like Pilot Flying J and TA/Petro pulled the magazine from their shelves.

Both the magazine and a San Antonio personal injury law firm drew fire from truckers and truck stops for an ad that depicted a photoshopped Kenworth tractor and the phrase “serial killer” above the windshield.

Describing the ad as “in-artfully (sic) created” the law firm’s statement said the intent was to reach out to “those individuals who have been involved in catastrophic accidents as a result of irresponsible drivers.”

“We recognize the service that truck drivers provide to this nation and acknowledge that most truck drivers are safe and responsible drivers,” the statement reads. “There are, however, few drivers that do not always live up to the standards promulgated by state and federal agencies and end up hurting innocent people who, in turn, deserve adequate representation.

“It is the victims of catastrophic trucking accidents that we intended to reach and not our intent to offend law abiding citizens that drive tractor-trailers for a living,” the statement continued. “We apologize that the wording of our ad has offended you and your family.”

In response to the outpouring of objections, the law firm said they will not use the ad in the future.

A spokeswoman for OOIDA said the problems with the ad are bigger than just one law firm or magazine.

“We have read the response but we are still concerned about similar types of marketing strategies employed by many law firms across the United States,” OOIDA media spokeswoman Norita Taylor said. “Truckers still have a target on their backs for raising insurance minimums for the purpose of enriching personal injury lawyers.”

Bowing to pressure from truckers and the trucking industry, Maxim issued its own apology on Thursday afternoon, sending out an apology to the industry and removing the ad from the digital version of its magazine. The company said it will also provide space for a full-page ad in the July/August issue for the trucking industry.

In addition, the men’s magazine with a circulation of more than 2 million issues has said it will pull the rest of the June issues and do a reprint.

Both the OOIDA and ATA issued statements condemning the ad, which depicted truckers as the primary source of highway fatalities. The ad claims that there were 33,561 fatalities on U.S. highways last year, and another 2.36 million injuries, implying the bulk of these incidents involved truckers and commercial motor carriers.

In fact, the 33,561 figure is the total number of all highway fatalities in the U.S. in 2012, the most recent year in which figures are available, according to a report from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. That number includes every single highway fatality, including those in which no tractor trailers or commercial vehicles were involved.

In actuality, there were 3,802 large trucks involved in crashes in 2012. Studies show that 80 percent -- in the case of 2012 that would be 3,041 -- were not the fault of the truck driver.

Here is the full text of the apology statement issued by Villarreal & Begum Law Firm of San Antonio:

“Please be assured that it was never the intent of the Villarreal & Begum Law Firm to disparage the hard working Americans that drive tractor-trailers for a living. Our intent was to reach out to those individuals who have been involved in catastrophic accidents as a result of irresponsible drivers. The ad was in-artfully (sic) created and we could see how it may have caused our message to be misconstrued. We recognize the service that truck drivers provide to this nation and acknowledge that most truck drivers are safe and responsible drivers. There are, however, few drivers that do not always live up to the standards promulgated by state and federal agencies and end up hurting innocent people who, in turn, deserve adequate representation. It is the victims of catastrophic trucking accidents that we intended to reach and not our intent to offend law abiding citizens that drive tractor-trailers for a living. We apologize that the wording of our ad has offended you and your family. In response to your and others’ objections, we have instructed our marketing department not to use that ad in the future.”

Copyright © OOIDA

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