As a trucking trial attorney working statewide in Georgia, I often see how accident investigations go awry due to the trucking company’s rapid response to crashes, while the victims are unable to tell officers their side of the story and do not retain appropriate lawyers until months after important evidence has disappeared.
Late Thursday night, according to a report from WTOC TV, an 18 wheeler collided with a pickup truck at the intersection of Bay Street and West Lathrop Avenue in Savannah. All three men in the pickup were badly hurt. Joe Brown Jr. , 61, of Savannah died at the scene. Connally Brinson and Ricky Brown were reported in critical condition at Memorial University Medical Center.
This is at a broad intersection on a major thoroughfare about half a mile west of the historic downtown district of Savannah, approaching the docks. The news report contains little detail, but many of the 18 wheelers operating in that area are intermodal transport units, with road tractors pulling poorly maintained trailer chassis on which are mounted shipping containers. On the roads near the Port of Savannah, we often see intermodal tractor-trailers hauling freight containers to or from containers ships. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued new rules for safety of intermodal trailers, but the new rules have not yet been implemented.
Typically, after a catastrophic crash involving a big rig operated by a majlor trucking company, the pattern response is for the truck driver to immediately call the dispatcher, who calls the risk manager even at home in the middle of the night, who in turn calls a defense lawyer in the state where the crash occurred in order to claim work product privilege for anything that is done, and an investigator. The investigator, and sometimes the defense lawyer, may arrive at the accident scene before the debris is cleared. Evidence may be “lost” and the course of police investigation may be affected. They may then make sure that electronic evidence is deleted within a matter of days, and documents are not retained a moment longer than required by law, if that long. In addition, police reports are often prepared without the benefit of input from people in the smaller vehicles, who were killed or seriously injured, while the truck driver and the company’s investigator are able to tell their story to the investigating officer.
That is why it is important for family members of the victims to act quickly to contact a lawyer who knows how to mount a prompt response in order to secure the necessary evidence before it disappears.
Ken Shigley is a trucking safety trial attorney representing seriously injured people in tractor trailer, big rig, intermodal container freight, cement truck, dump truck and bus accidents statewide in Georgia. He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute in 2005, is a national board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice, and is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America.
He has extensive experience representing parties in interstate trucking collision cases, and in the past two years has spoken at national interstate trucking litigation seminars in Chicago (trucking insurance), New Orleans (trial tactics and side underride issues), St. Louis (punitive damages), San Francisco (dealing with insolvent trucking companies), Atlanta (trucking insurance, closing argument), Nashville (use of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations), and Amelia Island (overview of trucking litigation).
A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). In addition to trucking litigation, he has broad experience in products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Treasurer and a candidate for President-Elect of the 41,000 member State Bar of Georgia.This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.