A Texas law firm’s recent ad in a national magazine has the trucking industry in an outrage.
The ad calls truck drivers “serial killers,” and urges individuals that have been involved in wrecks with big rigs to contact Villarreal & Begum Law Firm in San Antonio to file lawsuits against truckers and trucking companies.
Running in the men’s magazine Maxim in June, the ad shows a red 18-wheeler with the tagline “Serial Killer” above it and states “3,561 people died on America’s highways last year. Another 2.36 million were injured. You need a law firm you can Trust. You need Experience. You need Strength. You need Villarreal & Begum. …”
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas chair Jill Shackelford called the ad “tasteless.”
“Even in a state known for embracing legal reform, lawyers will continue to troll for lawsuits,” Shackelford said in a statement.
In addition to legal reformers, the ad drew the ire of trucking industry groups.
A spokesman for the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association said the ad “defames" an occupation that performs a critical service to the country, and called it “one of the most offensive injury attorney advertisements we’ve ever seen.”
An industry forum, The Trucker, picked up on the ad and it went viral, eventually causing major truck stop chains to remove the magazine from their shelves.
After receiving complaints, Maxim said it is “aware of and appreciates the wide readership of truckers,” and is taking “aggressive action” to remove the advertisement.
“In the June 2014 issue of Maxim, a legal firm ran an advertisement about truckers that was offensive,” wrote the magazine staff in a statement. “The ad in Maxim does not reflect the beliefs or opinions of the people at this magazine …”
The magazine also said it had recently begun operating under new ownership, and that new procedures are being implemented “so that no such negative advertisement or editorial content will ever run in Maxim magazine.”
After the negative reaction to the ad, Villareal & Begum posted an apology on the firm’s website, admitting the ad was “in-artfully created” and the firm "could see how it may have caused our message to be misconstrued.”
The attorneys said it was never their intent 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 site states.
“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.”
Despite the apology, truck stop chains Travel Centers of America/Petros and Pilot Flying J pulled the Maxim edition from their stores.
In a statement, Pilot Flying J said the company “does not believe (the ad) accurately depicts professional drivers.”
The American Trucking Association, in a letter to Maxim, called the ad and the magazine’s decision to run it “absolutely appalling and outrageous.”
The association suggested that Maxim offer the industry complimentary advertising space in its next issue to run a “truthful advertisement” about the safety of the trucking business.