Did you know that most trucking companies, insurance companies, and insurance defense law firms have Rapid Response Teams or Accident Response Teams that are “on call” to respond to a truck crash on a moment’s notice. Believe it or not, our firm has handled trucking cases where the trucking company’s lawyers or corporate representatives can actually be seen in photographs that were taken by law enforcement personnel at the scene of a truck crash within just hours of a truck crash.
The minutes and hours following a truck crash are critical. You can bet that the trucking company and its lawyers and insurance carrier’s representatives will be at the scene within minutes or hours of a significant truck crash. You can also bet that material evidence is being immediately documented and preserved, while it is also being moved, destroyed, cleaned up, modified, repaired, etc. within hours or days following a truck crash by the many personnel who are on the scene, so it is imperative to get representatives of the victim of a truck crash to the scene in order to preserve the scene and any physical evidence from the scene and from the vehicles right away.
Due to the nature of most truck crashes involving large, heavy trucks that are involved in collisions with smaller motor vehicles, truck-drivers often escape such crashes with little or no injury, while motorists in smaller vehicles often suffer serious injury or death. This usually means that truck-drivers or their dispatchers are able to immediately notify others after a crash so that a Rapid Response Team can be deployed to a crash site within minutes. This is done by trucking companies for no other purpose than the trucking company and its representatives beginning to mount their defenses and attempting to influence the flow of information during the crash investigation.
In one recent truck crash case where our client was killed when his vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer while both were traveling on a major interstate, in addition to the trucking company’s lawyer and safety representative being spotted in law enforcement photographs taken at the scene, discovery in the lawsuit revealed that the truck-driver and the company’s lawyer sat together in the lawyer’s vehicle for close to an hour before the truck-driver first spoke to law enforcement officials about what occurred. Naturally, the truck-driver’s self-serving version of how the crash occurred could not be refuted by the deceased victim. Fortunately, independent eyewitnesses were identified in that case, and their deposition testimony was useful in refuting the truck-driver’s version of events.
While it is not always immediately possible for an injured party or his or her family members to summon someone to the scene to begin the important task of gathering evidence, it is important to realize that every minute that goes by after a truck crash increases the likelihood that key evidence will be lost and will not be available to the victims of the crash or their representatives.
It is never too soon to take immediate action following a truck crash by retaining a skilled trucking lawyer who can hire investigators and experts, collect and preserve physical evidence from the scene and from the vehicles, gather information, talk to witnesses, and who can communicate with law enforcement personnel and the trucking company and its representatives. By ensuring that you as the victim(s) of a truck crash have skilled trucking lawyers in place to investigate the crash and to speak on your behalf is often the difference-maker between a successful resolution and an adverse one.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has rules and regulations in place that govern the collection of certain data and evidence following a truck crash, including drug and alcohol testing of professional truck-drivers. In addition, most local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies have procedures in place that govern their investigation of a truck crash. These agencies, however, do not always possess an interest in protecting the parties involved in truck crashes. Oftentimes, little or no physical evidence is gathered or documented after a serious crash, or key physical evidence is moved, because the priority is placed on simply clearing the roadway so that traffic can flow again. Other times, a more thorough investigation may be done by law enforcement officials, but the evidence and data may not be properly preserved or documented, and it can become useless later on if a legal claim is pursued in court.
The Romano Law Group’s trucking team has decades of combined experience responding to, investigating, and handling truck crash cases in Florida and across the country. The firm has established protocols to assist victims of truck crashes who find themselves in the unfortunate position of being involved in truck crashes, including the rapid deployment of investigators who are well versed in preserving evidence.
By Todd Romano