Search

Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

The trucking business is a dog-eat-dog world.

Shippers want to get their products moved as cheaply as possible.  Smaller trucking companies are often the best choice to keep cost down.  Smaller trucking companies.  They have low overhead and simpler systems. Many trucking companies — usually smaller trucking companies — have less systemic checks and balances.  And they cut corners — safety corners — like crazy to keep costs down.

As a result of all of this, truck accidents happen.  Too many plaintiffs’ truck accident lawyers leave millions on the table because they do not explore potential claims against the brokers and shippers.

Experienced truck accident lawyers know that when beginning to investigate a new matter, it is extremely important to hit the ground running. Why? Because the moment the client signs the retainer, you are already behind. Most likely, you are significantly behind.

Why? Because the trucking company and its’ defense team had a head start. The lawyers who defend trucking companies with regularity have a 24 hour crash line (ok, an associate with a cell phone) for the company to call immediately after the crash. As soon as dispatch knows there has been an accident, they call the number. Once the lawyer gets the call, they hustle to get somebody out to the scene. They call a reconstructionist who will be able to get there while the evidence is fresh and undisturbed. They get the vehicles and the scene photographed, and they get an investigator moving to obtain statements from the witnesses. This has all most likely happened before the injured person even thinks to call a lawyer.

On the other side, let’s assume the accident victim is badly injured. He’s in the hospital for two weeks. After he stabilizes, he begins the search for a personal injury lawyer. After talking with a few lawyers, he takes another week to decide which one he likes best and to sign a retainer. At that point, the lawyer has only had a client to represent for 5 minutes, and he’s already 3 weeks behind the defense in his investigation.

We all know that distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents. At this point most lawyers handling car and truck accident injury cases are asking questions in interrogatories and at depositions about possible distractions from electronic devices, cell phones in particular. Many states, including Maryland, prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones. Now the feds have followed suit, imposing a similar rule for drivers of commercial vehicles (mostly tractor-trailers).

Scott Turner’s Truck Crash Blotter has a post discussing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) ban on hand-held cell phones that went into effect in January, 2012. The new rule applies to all drivers who drive routes through more than one state, and to drivers who operate only in one state if they are carrying hazardous materials.

There is a very important point in Scott’s blog post for lawyers handling truck accident cases in states without a hand-held cell phone ban. You might think that if the motor carrier defendant is operating only intrastate and not carrying hazmats, neither state law nor the new regulation would prohibit handheld cell phone use. But you might be wrong.

One thing we all know is that we aren’t as sharp when we are tired as we are when we are well-rested.

That’s why some occupations have rules about on-duty hours, truck drivers for example. There are federal regulations governing how many hours professional drivers can work. Working in violation of these limitations could be considered evidence of negligence in many circumstances.

Even in the private sector, the Maryland Depatment of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration requires drivers to inform the MVA’s Medical Advisory Board when they are diagnosed with certain sleep-related medical disorders, like sleep apnea or narcolepsy. “The objective of the MAB is to assess medical fitness to drive of individuals who have medical conditions that can impact on their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.” I think we can all agree that sleep deprivation can be a major factor affecting the abilty to drive a car or truck, or operate heavy machinery.

I’m 38. For many in my generation, when we hear the phrase “private investigator”, Tom Selleck playing Magnum, P.I. is what springs to mind. But in the real-world practice of law, there are certain times when a good private investigator can be invaluable, even if he isn’t a Ferrari driving ex-Navy SEAL.

One example is locating difficult to find witnesses. A few years ago we had a red light – green light case in Baltimore City where our client had a permanent crush injury to her ankle. The case was vigorously contested on liability, and the only locatable witnesses agreed that the defendant had a green light. So I got my investigator working on locating the other witnesses who were listed on the police report. He found one of them- an 11 year-old boy who had seen the accident happen from a friend’s porch that was located a short distance from the light. He confirmed that my client had entered the intersection on a green light.

We tried that case. The jury found the boy more credible than the adult witnesses, who had been drinking that afternoon. The jury awarded our client over a million dollars in damages- on a case we never could have won if we hadn’t found that witness.

Regular readers of this blog (Hi, Mom!) will probably remember that cross-examining defense medical experts on the issue of financial interest bias is a topic that I have discussed several times. That is because our lawyers believe that when an expert has a financial interest bias, that it is of vital importance to get that information before the jury, so they can fairly evaluate the wtiness’ testimony.

In Maryland, the most useful authority on the issue is contained in two appellate opinions: Wrobleski v. DeLara, 353 Md. 509, 727 A.2d 930 (1999), and Falik v. Hornage, 413 Md. 163, 991 A.2d 1234 (2010). The second one is a Miller & Zois case. Actually, two cases combined for appeal. One was handled in the trial court by my colleague Rod Gaston, the other by me, and I was appellate counsel in both. So we feel that our law firm is out on the leading edge in this issue.

One topic that often comes up in personal injury litigation is the issue of personal injury lawyers referring clients to particular medical providers. Defense lawyers always want to delve into this, on the theory that there is some wink and nod quid pro quo between the lawyer and the doctor that the referral will result in favorable testimony. I don’t know that this is neccessarily true. There are lots of good reasons referrals like this are made: many clients do not have health insurance to pay for treatment, Maryland PIP is only $2500 (and is often used up to replace lost wages), and many treatment providers will not accept patients who were involved in accidents.

In Part I, I talked about how useful a set of portable office supplies can be for staying organized at trial. But that is just a small part of the required level of organization. In this installment, I discuss another vital part of my overall organizational system- the trial box. Keep in mind that I am describing how I organize the typical 2-3 day jury trial. Longer, more complex trials travel in a larger set of boxes that are organized following the same basic outline.

I have a portable file box with wheels that all of my paper materials go in. This is a collapsible plastic box the size of a milk crate with wheels and a handle- the kind you see sales reps and business “road warriors” use. I organize it from front to back using file folders and large Redweld-style folders. Less important or less frequently used items go in the back, more important or often-used items are toward the front.

Starting at the back and moving forward, this is what it contains:

Emergency Personnel Need to Know Who to Call

When it comes to being hurt in an accident, we all think that it will never happen to us. It’s always the “other guy.” Nobody wants to prepare for when the unthinkable happens.

But if you are seriously injured or incapacitated in an accident, you want to make sure that the authorities are able to quickly contact your loved ones. Nobody wants to sit alone in a hospital, or have a stranger making medical decisions because the authorities didn’t know who to notify. Now the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration allows you to add three emergency contacts to your personal information using your driver’s license number.

This one is courtesy of Dorothy Clay Sims. We often see expert witnesses with resumes three feet thick, full of impressive-sounding credentials like faculty appointments, society memberships, and consulting gigs. But how accurate is that expert’s C.V.?

Often, it pays to ask. Just recently, I found three inaccuracies on a defense expert’s C.V.

First, he listed himself as an instructor at a national judicial college and a guest lecturer at a local law school from “1990-present.” So I did some research. I found out that the national judicial college hadn’t even offered the course he taught in the last two years. I found out that the law school did not list him in the faculty directory (where even part-time and adjunct faculty are listed). When asked, he admitted that he hadn’t done either of these things in at least the last five years.

As you can tell by some of my recent blog posts, I have been spending a lot of time lately cross-examining defense medical experts. So I thought I would let you in on another fun little technique I use: Using the defense experts to bring in favorable opinions.

Contact Information