Tuesday, May 10, 2016

18 WHEEL TRUCKS ~ Not just a car wreck. By Attorney Howard Spiva Savannah Ga

18 WHEEL TRUCKS ~ Not just a car wreck. By Attorney Howard Spiva Savannah Ga

 

Please watch this short 1 minute video:  Video On truck Wrecks

People involved in a wreck with an 18 wheeler (tractor trailer) need to know that the lawyer representing them should have experience beyond just car wrecks. 

Our firm was hired on a case where defendant truck driver who has gotten so many violations that the insurance company has excluded him from the policy. He’s not covered by the company’s insurance if he’s driving their vehicle. Well, low and behold, even though he’s excluded, the employer has this guy driving the truck and ironically, the guy’s gotten many past, from a year ago all the way up to current, he’s gotten many citations for unsafe loads and lack of reflective tape on his trailer. Ironically, he’s pulled over on this day and is cited for several violations including not having any reflective tape on the back of his trailer. 

He either has no lights or the lights are completely blocked by the logs that are overloaded and hanging off the trailer. After he’s stopped, it’s bad weather, it’s dark, there are two cars going down the road and at the same time that they are approaching and approaching and approaching, the tractor trailer is now pulling out into the lane in front of the path of the vehicle that’s on the right. 

The vehicle that’s on the left sees that the driver on the right is just driving right into a black hole and that black hole is the back of this 18 wheeler logger that is excluded from the insurance policy. The guy just drives right into it, the logs go through the windshield, they go through his radiator, they go through the dash and into this guy just crushing and destroying his bones and turns him into a quadriplegic. 

He and his wife spend five out of seven days in Atlanta going through painful and expensive and long and slow rehab (at the Sheppard Spinal and brain injury clinic) to slowly get him back where he can have some function of his limbs. They are, for lots of reasons I won’t go into here but for lots of reasons that are really unfounded, initially they're afraid to bring a claim. His employer luckily has some dismemberment insurance and does give him some of his salary so that he can survive while he’s on the road to recovery. He’ll never be able to return to what he was doing and that is building airplanes. 

They called us and we got the case and we contacted the adjuster and the adjuster said he’s excluded from the policy, we don't have to cover him. We get the name of their lawyer, we call their lawyer and the lawyer says he’s an excluded driver. Ninety-nine out of a hundred lawyers would stop right there, because he’s an excluded driver, he’s not covered, it’s a trucking company and they usually don't have any other assets or anything, their usually a mom and pop way out in the middle of the woods and a lot of people would end the case right there or maybe find out if there was twenty-five, fifty or a hundred thousand uninsured motorist and settle the case and go on down the road. 

But because we do trucking cases and we understand trucking regulations and laws, one thing that we do is immediately, even though it’s way up the country, we send our investigator out, we count the number of vehicles we have, we video and take pictures of the household and so forth. After they told us that, we sent them a short letter and said: 

“Dear Adjuster, Dear Attorney, we want the MCS 90 proof of coverage that’s on this truck.” Many lawyers do not understand that in trucking, that if the company has this MCS-90 endorsement, it’s basically, if you go out and get in a car wreck and the other person is uninsured or excluded from coverage, the law says that that person’s coverage can’t not pay in a car wreck because it will be voiding it’s public policy and it would leave an innocent victim uncompensated. 

Well, this endorsement that’s on a trucking commercial policy, if the company has it, it’s basically a fund that provides people coverage who’d normally would never have coverage. Because we know that the truck didn't just travel in Georgia, through our investigation we found out that the truck went to South Carolina, we’ve already found a million dollar coverage under this endorsement. So that’s one incidence of showing that we you know the trucking law you can find out stuff that the other people have no clue. We have a full time investigator on staff, most lawyers don’t. 

So as a standard part of our investigation we’ve gone to the various websites and we’ve made Open Records act and Freedom of Information act and we found all of these violations that not only this trucker but has this trucking company has against it and most lawyers wouldn’t even know that this pages exist or that it’s public record, or how to get them or any of that sort of thing, so that’s one example of how it makes a difference. If you know what you’re doing and you’re doing trucking you send out spoliation letters to keep them from destroying evidence. A lot of people don’t realize the short period of time, in which. Truckers have to keep their log books. The companies are only required to keep them for six months and so it’s very important that somebody understands trucking law and understands the rules because it can make a difference not only in the recovery but also in if there’s any recovery at all. 

On attorney fees, let me say this, a lot of people that call up and they’ll say well we’ve been checking around and we understand that your fee is forty percent and we talked to somebody and they might do it for a third or if it settles and it doesn’t have to go to trial, they might do it for twenty-five percent. 

What they don’t understand is the level that we handle a case and our work, our experience, our results, and our costs we put in it. We’ve had several big cases in the last month. We’ve hired experts, who costs thousands of dollars. They go out and even establish a case that may not have otherwise been there without the proof they provide. 

You know what I tell somebody is OK, would you like to have a lawyer that you pay twenty-five percent to and he gets you a hundred thousand dollar recovery or do you have a lawyer that gets you a two million dollar recovery and you pay forty percent. You kind of get what you pay for so to speak.

 If you don’t mind, I would like to take a minute and tell you about a past trucking case that we did. You got a minute? Let me tell you about another case we had. We had Larry and Donna, that’s not their real names, but Larry and Donna, husband and wife, they’re getting ready for a really special event. Their child is getting ready to graduate from kindergarten, to take the summer off and to finish up their first year there. I can’t remember if it was kindergarten or first grade, let’s say first grade. 

The little child, beautiful little girl, she’s getting ready to graduate so what they did was, they went over to a local outlet to get their daughter some shoes so she’d have a new pair of shoes that day for her little party graduating from first grade. While they’re going and it’s only maybe ten minutes from where they’re going to take her to the school to where this outlet is, while they’re going, the traffic as it comes over a viaduct is slowing down because a lot of people are exiting the exit while people other people are also merging in. As they go over this viaduct the traffic immediately starts to slow down. The traffic is, some of it is stopping and they are in left lane and the left lane is coming to a stop. 

This trucker who is a little bit behind them is coming over the viaduct and his lane is stopping. So what he does is he quickly changes over into the left lane as he comes over the viaduct . Well when he does, that lane stops and he’s almost rear ending our client so he swings back into the middle lane which is moving now to miss them. When he gets up beside them, apparently he’s pretty angry, got some road rage, and he takes his finger and he makes a like he’s got a, you know like little kids will stick their thumb up in the air and they’ll their stick their pointer finger out like it’s a gun, and he points at the wife whose a passenger like bang he’s shooting her and a very, very angry look on his face, and so she tells her husband, “this guy’s crazy. I saw him coming up in the rear view mirror. He almost rear ended us and then he’s making threats like a gun”. 

Larry speeds on up as the traffic starts moving and when he gets four or five lengths up he goes over into the middle lane and then he goes over into the right lane because their exit’s coming up. This truck driver speeds up, gets beside them on the driver’s side and starts coming over into their lane and when they see that truck coming over, they start moving over to where their tires are on the emergency lane. 

Well he keeps coming and not only comes completely in their lane, but when they go in the emergency lane he comes over into the emergency lane with them and so then they go into the grass. Well when they go into the grass, he loses control and the car fishtails around and hits the gas tank that’s on the trailer and then his car flips rolls about five times. The truck driver just keeps going. 

A bunch of witnesses see this and they go catch the guy. The guy is driving his Uncle’s truck and his Uncle’s got a lot of bad history on his driving record. What we later decided after being on the case for a long time was that probably the Uncle was driving and that this guy just told the cops that he was driving but in any event, he stops way up the road, he never comes back, nobody else ever gets out of the truck but him and all these witnesses say this truck tried to kill these people. 

His story is “No, I was just changing lanes. I didn’t know he was over there. I didn’t make any gun signs at them” and then he tells other people that gets back to us “oh, they flipped the finger at me” and our guy says I didn’t flip the finger at him. When he started coming into my lane, I rolled my window down and I started waving at him “hey, hey we’re over here. Don’t hit us.” 

So anyway, they flip, Larry’s knocked out, he gets a head injury, he gets a serious fracture on his collar bone, he gets ribs broken, he gets a spinal disc injury and Donna suffers a loss of consciousness and a lot of bruising and some sprains and strains and so forth. Larry actually gets a surgical open procedure with fixation (metal parts in his spine)and gets a lot of injections and she gets injections and a lot of treatment. 

Wouldn’t you think the insurance company would pay up quick? No, they completely deny liability. We are not responsible and we’re not paying anything, you ran off the road, we didn’t cause anything and they refused to pay any amounts. Just completely denied liability. 

Even over a year later, they still wouldn’t pay . Larry and Donna hire us, we sent the jail record picture of the defendant, we alleged punitive damages, we sent them all kinds of investigation that we had done and so forth and they actually said that the local police was charging the guy because Donna was a local person, they said that she was like a groupie for the cops and that the cops were telling her version of it and not this wonderful truck driver who they denied had any fault and of course the cops denied it. 

They said that they had seen her but that they didn’t know her. We got pictures of the car rolled over and their car was completely destroyed, their family car was destroyed. Luckily they had not picked up their daughter yet and she was not in the car with them but they would have had her if it had been even fifteen to thirty minutes longer. We got all the medical records together. 

So finally because Larry had over sixty thousand dollars in medical bills and Donna had forty thousand in medical bills and so we sued them and we prepared it to go to trial. These folks had no other means of support. They had no disability, no social security. They had no income coming in for over a year. They were virtually losing everything. He had been in his own business and she had worked and they now weren’t able to work and so anyway, long story short, they were forced financially to eventually settle the case instead of taking it to a jury. 

Would a general practitioner or a car wreck lawyer be able to handle this long and expensive fight? We believe it’s only through our experience of knowing trucking law and knowing what to do and knowing how to dig up this information, that we were able to settle this case for seven figures. We got them a million dollars in recovery for the family. That’s an example of trucking cases, how difficult they can be and you would think where someone intentionally ran someone off the road that they would just show up and pay the money but that’s not how it works. 

They had the log books and had people on the scene before the cops even left. They had their rapid deployment team there. They hired a lawyer before our clients even arrived at the hospital. 

It was much later before we were hired. That kind of gives you some insight on trucking cases. It’s not just a car wreck. It’s completely different rules. 

These people they lie about what kind of insurance coverage have. They usually just tell you…like in the log case, they told us there was no insurance. They had the umbrella coverage. You see there’s really no punishment for them to disclose it or to fail to disclose it. 

If they tell the people or their attorney about the insurance they have a lot more to lose. You almost always have to file a lawsuit in a trucking case to find all the insurance, It takes a lot of expertise and experience in trucking cases to know what you’re doing. It’s a different set of rules. It’s not the rules that you read when you go down and take your driver’s license. 

A truck driver is a professional, just like a pilot. When they go out to their truck, they have to go over a checklist, just like a pilot would. They have to climb all over this truck. They have to inspect the brakes. They have to adjust the brakes. They have to weigh the load and make sure it’s weighed properly. They have to make sure everything’s connected up right. It’s a professional driver who is in an eighty thousand pound, sometimes more, vehicle that can cause devastating damage and a lot of people think that I can go hire the lawyer that did my real estate closing or I can hire the lawyer that did my car wreck and the truth of the matter is that’s not sufficient because it’s a war and these guys have lots of money, they’re usually very well-funded, they have the biggest and the best law firms on the other side working on them, and they don’t care. 

They’ll crush you on the road and they’ll crush you in your law suit and if you don’t have someone whose ready, willing and able to get you results, you’re in big trouble. 

Five thousand people die each year from truck wrecks in the USA! That’s more than who died in 9/11. And much of the time it’s driver fatigue (like what happened in the case recently in the news with Walmart and the comedian Tracy Morgan) 

Here you’ve got one of the most prominent trucking companies in the world, Walmart, and you still have this falling asleep deal. It’s driver error. Walmart and all these guys, they have a navigation system that tells them where their drivers are at any one time. And here, they’ve got a truck that’s rolling for 24 hours and nobody knows it? That’s insane. 

What happens in these cases exactly what I wrote that article about, “The trucker Myth”. You’ve got this rolling death and everybody likes to think of the trucker as hero, most truck drivers are hard working folks trying to earn a living, but the companies often put profits over safety. In reality it’s often, too often, very, very, very, very, very dangerous. 

A lawsuit is like a war, and you shouldn’t get caught with your pants down. You look like the winner you are, and you maintain a winning attitude. You need to look more organized to a jury. You need to be prepared, you need to be at the top of your game. 

One example is our RV, a mobile office, The war wagon. It’s the ultimate convenience for testimony, and you can get real-time support and feedback. You get fresh memories from testimony. It helps us winning att trial with technology. You look more professional. We broadcast the message that “we came to win”. 

When we pull up in our War Wagon we broadcast the message that “we are prepared to fight”. Defendants, insurance companies, witnesses, judges, and the jury all hear that “we came to win” message. I believe as in life, Attitudes win cases. Live over the top. Go the extra mile. Let the world know that you are committed, what you’re committed to, to win consistently in every game you play. You must take a big bite out of life, with six tons of comfort and convenience and technology. The War wagon bites hard.

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