Are You a Victim of a Tractor Trailer Collision?
We specialize in representing the victims of tractor trailer collisions. Our trucking attorneys honed their skills by representing motor carriers in accident litigation throughout the United States, and now we leverage that experience to protect the rights of injured victims and their families.
Tractor trailer collisions are vastly more complicated than ordinary collisions. At each stage of the case, we have the specialized experience to protect your rights and ensure you are fairly compensated.
Talk to one of our Kansas City personal injury lawyers today.
The Importance of Prompt, Thorough Investigation
Immediately following the accident, the trucking company’s risk manager, attorneys, and investigators spring into action in an effort to mitigate their financial losses and reduce the value of your claim. You, too, need a team of professionals on your side working quickly to protect your rights.
Preserving and documenting physical evidence of the collision is critical, and too often overlooked. Law enforcement may decide not to map the scene of the accident, and tire marks or other roadway evidence can disappear or be distorted in a matter of days. Trucking companies often fail to preserve the tractor, trailer, or both, sometimes in an effort to get the units back in service to protect their bottom line. We work with highly qualified accident reconstructionists in the immediate aftermath of the crash to ensure that physical evidence is preserved for your case. When warranted, we will use total stations, drones, and other state of the art equipment to map the accident scene. We use this data to show the jury exactly how the accident occurred, using expert testimony supported by forensic mapping, photographs, and animation.
Preserving Electronic Evidence
Quickly preserving electronic evidence is equally important. Modern tractor trailers are equipped with various electronics that can contain evidence relevant to your case. These include Event Data Recorders (EDR), dash cameras, and onboard computer systems.
Event Data Recorders
Event Data Recorders (“EDR”) often capture crash data, such as the speed of the tractor prior to the collision, whether the brakes were applied, and other data that can be used to calculate the delta-V and measure crash severity. Because tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, the force exerted in these collisions can be devastating.
EDR data can disappear if it is not handled properly. Different software may be required to download the engine data depending on the manufacturer of the engine (e.g., Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Caterpillar, Paccar, etc.), the model year, and other engine specifications. Often this software is proprietary and difficult to access. The dealerships that do have the software may not have the expertise to properly capture and preserve the data. Their mechanics are accustomed to downloading engine data from motor control modules, but not always crash data. Performing the download improperly risks overwriting the data.
Preservation of EDR data can be especially difficult when the tractor’s equipment was damaged in the collision by force or fire, or where the tractor is stored improperly and subjected to the elements or water damage after the accident. Our team works quickly to preserve and recover electronic data of the crash, particularly when equipment is damaged or compromised.
Most motor carriers now equip their fleets with dash cameras featuring an inward and outward facing camera, which can provide powerful evidence at trial. Our trucking attorneys have special expertise in this technology from years of representing trucking companies in the implementation and management of their dash cam programs. Dash cams can be activated manually by the driver, but more often are activated when the unit’s accelerometer and/or motion sensors experience sufficient G-force to trigger an event.
Dash cam video typically records four seconds prior to impact, and eight seconds after impact. The inward facing camera can provide critical evidence of driver behavior, for instance: whether the driver was distracted by his phone, cigarette, food, dispatch equipment, etc. Dash cam video is typically not stored locally on the unit, but instead is uploaded via satellite. Usually the motor carrier will have a designated dash cam manager who will receive a copy of the crash video via email within 24 hours of the accident. The video is not stored in the cloud indefinitely—typically only six months, so measures must be taken to ensure the video is preserved.
Onboard Computer Systems
In addition to EDRs and dash cams, most modern fleets are equipped with onboard computers used by the motor carrier to manage its fleet. These systems contain messages between the driver and his dispatcher/driver manager. They are also used by the driver to upload hours of service logs, bills of lading, weight tickets, and other documents that can be critical to your case. Most fleets are also equipped with a separate GPS unit to track the location of the vehicle.
Working with Trucking Companies to Preserve Your Data
Our attorneys work quickly on your behalf to put the trucking company on notice of its legal duty to preserve physical evidence and electronic data. If the trucking company fails to do so, we will ask the court to impose sanctions and penalties at trial. Additionally, we will work with you to ensure you understand your obligations to preserve evidence until your matter is concluded by settlement or trial.
The Importance of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
Trucking companies in interstate commerce are subject to a complex set of federal regulations known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSR”). Among other things, the FMCSR dictates how motor carriers must train and qualify their drivers, inspect and maintain equipment, and monitor their drivers’ hours of service. You need an attorney with a sophisticated understanding of the FMCSR to hold trucking companies accountable. Exposing regulatory violations not only increases the value of your claim, it can prompt policy changes to improve the safety of our roads and highways.
Importantly, mere minimum compliance with the FMCSR will not shield a trucking company from liability. We routinely encounter trucking companies that do the bare minimum when it comes to safety, and the consequences are often devastating. Modest, commonsense investments in safety can save lives and prevent life-altering injuries. We ensure that companies that skimp on safety are held accountable.
Business and Insurance Issues Unique to Trucking Companies
The Independent Contractor Model
Many motor carriers utilize an independent contractor model whereby their drivers are not technically employees of the company. This structure is achieved through complicated independent contractor agreements, equipment leases, and other documentation. However, a trucking company remains liable for the negligent acts of drivers operating under its motor carrier authority. Your attorney should have a detailed understanding of the independent contractor model and how it may impact your case. For instance, the independent contractor model often coincides with high turnover and minimal investment in driver training. We analyze all these issues to determine how they may impact your case.
Unique Insurance Structures
Trucking companies can also have unique insurance structures. With approximately 500,000 trucking accidents per year in the United States (resulting in about 5,000 fatalities), big trucks are incredibly expensive to insure. Trucks are required by the FMCSR to carry $750,000 in liability insurance, but most trucking companies carry substantially greater insurance limits due to the incredible risk of harm and financial loss posed by trucking accidents. The premiums are expensive due to the number and size of claims, so trucking companies use a variety of strategies to keep their premiums down.
For instance, many companies will have a large self-retention (deductible), under which they may be responsible for the first portion of the claim (e.g., $500,000). Companies using this model often maintain control of their claims internally through a risk management department, with reduced reporting obligations to their insurers. These companies typically carry layers of excess insurance, any number of which may be involved depending on the severity of the accident at issue.
The JHC Difference
Depth of Experience
We have experience litigating trucking accidents with all the major carriers that underwrite primary and excess coverage for trucking companies, and we understand how they evaluate and defend claims. We use this knowledge to advocate for our clients in settlement negotiation, mediation, and collection after trial.
Maximum effort, maximum rewards
Unlike many of the “churn and burn” firms, who churn through a high volume of claims rapidly, winning their clients bare minimum awards, our personal injury attorneys are committed to maximizing your payout through high quality, personal representation. The difference can be hundreds of thousands or even millions in your pocket. Put your personal injury or wrongful death matter in the experienced hands of our attorneys.
Personal, priority attention
When you call Joseph, Hollander & Craft’s personal injury team, you won’t get a generic call center representative or rushed treatment. If you have been physically injured or have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, JHC’s in-house receptionists will connect you to Drew or Matt as quickly as possible.