Use a full defense team to investigate a trucking/transportation accident

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by Phil Dearth on January 25, 2012

There was a fatality accident over the weekend in Idaho involving two small passenger vehicles and four tractor-trailers.  (Yes, the incident made the news in our Austin, Texas newspaper).  Apparently, a man lost control of his car and hit a semi.  The semi then lost control and collided head-on with another semi.  A third tractor-trailer swerved to avoid the accident and hit a fourth semi.  A man in an SUV swerved to avoid the accident and went into a ditch.  One of the tractor-trailer drivers was killed, while two other individuals were hospitalized with injuries.

With accidents involving multiple vehicles, you cannot rely on the official accident report to be accurate or comprehensive.

The accident involved four tractor-trailers and resulted in a fatality and two hospitalized individuals.  As we all know, there is a high likelihood of litigation.

With accidents involving multiple vehicles, you cannot rely on the official accident report to be accurate or comprehensive.  While most law enforcement officers generally do the best they can, they are often understaffed, undertrained, and under-equipped to perform a proper accident investigation.  Further, most municipal police departments and local state police offices do not staff qualified accident reconstructionists, and the officers investigating the accident are not investigating with the thought of civil litigation in mind.   As a result, oftentimes they fail to gather and record pertinent data and information.  They make mistakes.  They misidentify (or completely fail to identify) potential witnesses.  If they create a diagram that is inaccurate or not drawn to scale, their report can greatly distort the points of impact, final resting places, and vehicle positions before and after the accident.  Once they commit this data and these “findings” to their official reports, the mistakes or inaccuracies can be difficult to overcome during discovery and litigation.

On serious accidents, we believe it is very important to have a knowledgable accident reconstruction team on the scene immediately after the accident.

At the minimum, the team should consist of a local adjuster who has working relationships with local law enforcement; an accident reconstructionist; and an attorney.  Such a team can ensure that:

  • the accident scene is accurately measured, photographed and documented for later reconstruction;
  • evidence at the scene is properly preserved;
  • the tow and storage location of the vehicles involved is identified;
  • ECM, satellite data, driver logs and other pertinent data is collected and preserved;
  • all witnesses are properly identified and, in necessary, interviewed;
  • recorded statements are taken when appropriate;
  • injuries and fatalities are assessed; and
  • the driver is alcohol and/or drug tested if required by the Federal Regulations.
Having the attorney present overseeing the investigation helps to protect any aspects of the investigation that you might want to later protect from discovery, arguing attorney-client and investigative privileges.

In short, there is no substitution for having a knowledgable accident response team on site as soon as possible after the accident.  When properly performed, the information collected during an initial accident investigation can be utilized throughout the litigation process.

If you are defending a trucking or transportation accident in Texas, and are a fellow defense attorney, a trucking or transportation company, an insurance company, or a TPA, call us: we’ll be happy to trade contact information for PI’s and accident reconstruction experts.

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