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Why it is important to act quickly after a catastrophic tractor trailer crash

When a loved one is killed or catastrophically injured in a collision with a tractor trailer, there may be a temptation to wait for a “decent interval” before hiring a lawyer who specializes in commercial trucking trial practice. The trucking company’s insurer may encourage that reluctance by saying some soothing things to lull you into inaction.

But it is important to know that the trucking company and its insurance company get a rapid response team to the crash scene before the vehicles are moved. While the victims are in an ambulance or in the emergency room, the trucking company has its investigators massaging evidence and trying to influence the police report.

Some electronic data from tractor trailers may be lost or destroyed within a few days if there is not quick action to assure that it is preserved. Every minute of delay leads to loss of crucial evidence.

Therefore, it is vitally important for the victim’s family to move quickly after a catastrophic truck crash to hire a lawyer who specializes in trucking cases and who can deploy his or her own rapid response team. While responses may be scaled to the seriousness of the case, the ultimate rapid response may include:

• a highly qualified accident reconstruction expert with solid experience in reconstructing crashes involving large commercial vehicles, not just car wreck.

• a trucking safety expert qualified to assess violations of trucking safety rules;

• a conspicuity expert qualified to assess visibility of vehicles in the conditions existing at the time of the crash;

• a forensic evidence photographer qualified to preserve the actual appearance of the vehicles and conditions under existing lighting conditions;

• a human factors expert who can assess perception and reaction under the conditions on
the roadway;

• a forensic computer expert qualified to obtain and interpret the wide array of event data recorders and computers on large commercial trucks.

In a catastrophic truck wreck it is a mistake to rely solely upon the police report, even when reasonably well qualified police accident reconstructionist are involved.

Ken Shigley is immediate past president of the State Bar of Georgia, chair of the board of the Institute for Continuing Legal Education in Georgia and incoming secretary of the American Association for Justice Motor Vehicle, Highway and Premises Liability Section. He is a board member of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group and has been on the faculty of trucking litigation seminars from coast to coast. Mr. Shigley is double board certified in Civil Trial Advocacy and Civil Pretrial Advocacy by the American Board of Legal Specialty Certification (formerly National Board of Trial Advocacy), has an AV Preeminent rating in Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, is listed as a “Super Lawyer” by Atlanta Magazine and “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend, and is the lead author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation & Practice (West, 2010-12).