Modern Day Trucking Litigation: Exposing Both the Phyiscal and Corporate Cause of the Catastrophic Wreck

by: Prince, Glover & Hayes Monday, March 15th, 2010

Part IX

Handling and Preparing Drive
-The defense attorney must also make immediate contact with the driver for the following reasons:
a. Prepare driver for interview by law enforcement and other government officials
b. Prepare driver for drug and alcohol testing
c. Retain criminal defense counsel

Most transportation companies have a policy that if one of their drivers is involved in a wreck resulting in personal injury and the wreck is ultimately determined to be preventable on the part of the employee drive, that here is an automatic termination of the employee. Knowing this, many drivers provide false statements to law enforcement agents and even their own employers in the hours following a catastrophic event. Many times these statements, provided by the truck driver to their employee, are inconsistent with statements provided to law enforcement and with testimony provided during depositions. Every attempt should be made to obtain from the transportation company these statements. Inconsistencies on material facts cast severe doubt on the testimony of the employee driver.

On a similar note, examine closely the company’s position regarding who is responsible for the wreck. May times, the initial response teams, which comb the scene of the wreck, make quick determinations regarding why the wreck was non-preventable on the part of the employee driver. Find out when such a determination was made, find out who made such a determination and find out the basis for such a determination. Often such an examination will uncover the willingness of the company to say or do anything to avoid responsibility.

Finally, spend considerable time examining the policy manuals of the respective transportation company. Many times, trucking companies will be very specific about the standards they proclaim are in place at their workplace. Transportation companies often have policies about how many moving violations, speeding tickets an/or preventable wrecks will be tolerated before termination. Unfortunately, for the safety of those on the highway, these standards exist only on paper and not in practice. Also, closely examine their standards for hiring new drivers.

The growing trend is for many companies to withhold or deny the existence of corporate policy manuals. The rationale is perhaps best articulated by an insider to the industry.

“The absence of a policy is different than a policy not to do it. A policy not to do it will get you in trouble. A policy to do it, and you don’t do it, will get you in trouble. The absence of a policy is something we can work with.”- Mike Connelly, Chief Safety Officer for D.M. Bowman.

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