Trucking Accident Litigation Essentials For Plaintiffs Attorneys
If you are considering whether or not to represent clients injured from accidents involving commercial trucks there are several things that are essential to do and understand prior to taking on such cases.
To begin with, trucking cases are a completely different animal than run-of-the-mill auto accident cases. The differ in many ways especially in the amount of resources it will take to successful represent the client as well as a the regulations and complexity of the case.
Heavy commercial trucks and interstate trucking are governed by Federal regulations that must be thoroughly understood to develop a plan for proving negligence or culpability by the trucking company and driver.
I cannot over state this enough; the lawyers for the trucking company will be experienced and formidable adversaries so having the evidence to build the story leading up to the accident and prove the chain of events at every point is crucial to winning. You must be able to prove how the driver or company violated the regulations or became negligent by having very detailed evidence. This will include communications, plotting the trucks location via cell phone towers, doctors reports, police reports and understanding data from the trucks black box. Without sufficient evidence winning a trucking case is not the likely outcome.
Tucking Litigation Essentials:
Assemble Your Crash Team
your crash team will be the key to a successful case. You will need to have a variety of skilled professionals to call on when building evidence for your case including, interviews with law enforcement, videographers, accident reconstructionists and a towing company that can store the vehicles involved in the crash. Purchasing the vehicles involved is highly recommended.
Getting detailed records for the trucking company will be extremely difficult without legal arm-twisting. Filing a Spoliation letter as early as possible will be needed to preserve the evidence that may be in the trucking companies records. More often than not, they will not be cooperative and preserving and obtaining evidence will become a battle of it's own. Getting the evidence from the trucking company may require filing a suite to gain a motion to preserve all evidence.
Analyzing The Evidence With An Expert
Once you have obtained the evidence from the trucking company is will likely be comprised of an unorganized heap of documents as well as electronic records such as the black box. However further evidence will be essential in building the case especially all communication records, and doctors reports. Often the trucking company will send the report from the doctor that authorized the driver's health condition, usually the driver may have personal doctors in several states that will have more useful information.
A qualified expert should be used to comb through the available data gathered from the trucking company evidence, cell phone records, on-board communications equipment to create a thourogh travel and rest log.
Create A Verifiable and Accurate Travel and Rest Log
Every stage of the travel and rest log will need to be proven so it is essential to get the cell tower data and other information that can verify your travel and rest log for time and location of the truck to prove when the truck was actually driving or stationary. Get an expert for this task as it will be far too involved for any attorney to do. APITLA can be a valuable resource for locating qualified experts and other resources need to pursue trucking litigation.
After the evidence is acquired and the travel and rest logs have been created, inconsistencies with the defendants statements will almost always become apparent. Additionally the activities of the driver and trucking company can now be compared against federal and state transportation regulations.
Proper preparation by developing the accurate chain of events that led to the accident can be an involved and length process that is also financially taxing. Understanding what you are in for and before getting involved in a trucking case will be valuable information when deciding on whether to accept the case or not.
Bernard F. Walsh is a board member of The National Advisory Board of APITLA. APITLA is the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America and is a national association of committed lawyers who have joined together to help eliminate unsafe and illegal interstate trucking practices.