Truck Crash? Here Are 3 Things You Need To Know
1. Beware of the “rapid response team.”
Most trucking companies have a “rapid response team.” This is a team of highly trained investigators and experts who are “on call” even before a crash occurs. This enables the trucking company to promptly dispatch a team to an accident scene. In many cases, they will be there within hours of a crash. The truck company’s team immediately begins collecting or shaping the evidence. In other words, while crash victims are dealing with injuries, medical care, or funeral arrangements, the trucking company has already begun preparing its defense of the case.
2. Beware of lost or altered event-recorder data or dash-cam video data.
Modern trucks are equipped with an event recorder or black box. Some trucks are also equipped with video cameras. Event recorders document the speed of the truck immediately before impact, as well as the truck’s braking history. Many video systems record the truck’s forward movement, as well as side vantage points. Some video systems also record the truck driver within the cab. This may reveal whether or not the truck driver was alert, distracted, or impaired. Continued use of the truck after a crash and the passage of time may result in a “looping over” of the data, thereby destroying it or limiting the amount of data available. Consequently, the victim of a truck crash should immediately issue a letter to the trucking company requesting the preservation of all such information.
3. Beware of providing a recorded statement to the company’s representative or its insurance adjuster.
Many accident victims naïvely believe that the insurance adjuster is there to help them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our legal system is an adversarial system. The trucking company and its insurer are business entities. As such, they are duty bound to protect their finances and their “bottom line.” If the insurance adjuster seeks a victim’s statement, it’s not because they want to help the victim; it’s because they want to defeat liability or limit the claim. Recorded statements can be twisted, turned and used against accident victims in a way that one would never have imagined. The accident victim is not required to give a recorded statement to the trucking company, so the better approach is not to do so.
The above three points illustrate the immediate challenges facing truck crash victims. Simultaneously, victims are forced to deal with injuries, medical care or funeral arrangements. No doubt, there are numerous other questions or problems confronting the injured parties or their families.
Nonetheless, truck crash victims and their families can and should retain an attorney who is intimately familiar with the trucking industry. The right attorney can and will immediately dispatch his own team of experts to the scene; a team that is capable of going “toe to toe” with the trucking company’s experts. Likewise, the attorney who is intimately familiar with the trucking industry will take immediate steps to preserve and download all digital data and will protect his client from the “overreach” of a recorded statement.
Finally, those who have suffered a loss in a truck crash need not worry about legal fees or costs. Most attorneys who handle these types of cases offer a free consultation, and these types of cases are typically handled on a contingent-fee basis. In other words, there are no upfront attorney fees or costs. Instead, attorney fees and case expenses are paid at the end of the case, and only if the case is successful. Contingent-fee percentages and the manner in which case expenses are reimbursed may vary from law firm to law firm, so it’s important to determine how fees and expenses are to be handled.
Attorney Dan Linebaugh is the author of the book, 9 Costly Mistakes that People Make following an 18-Wheeler Crash,
and is a frequent lecturer regarding trucking litigation. Mr. Linebaugh is Board Certified as a Specialist in Personal InjuryTrial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has been inducted into the Million Dollar and
Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum as a life member.