Client’s Perspective: How a Truck Accident Lawsuit Works
We have represented many clients who were hurt in collisions with commercial trucks. We have also represented the surviving family members of people who died in crashes caused by negligent truckers and trucking companies.
This is the story of one injured client, who we’ll call “Eric” to protect his privacy. Eric, who was a trucker himself, suffered serious injuries when another driver struck him. Eric had been standing behind his own truck, working on some equipment, when the driver behind him accidentally let his foot off the brake and rolled into him. Eric was pinned between the two vehicles. The commercial truck pressed against Eric’s arm, torso, and legs. He shouted. That got the attention of the other driver—who had his windows down—and the other driver backed up. But not before Eric’s arm, torso, and legs had been crushed between the vehicles.
Injuries from Eric’s Tractor-Trailer Accident
Eric’s injuries were serious, but thankfully not as severe as they could have been. He had to have surgery on his arm, where an internal hematoma (basically, pooling blood inside his arm) was causing pressure and could have led to a serious condition that doctors call “compartment syndrome.” He received treatment in the emergency room, but that wasn’t enough to fix the problem. He had to have a surgery performed on his arm in which doctors opened up his arm and “evacuated” (basically, they removed) the blood that was pooling inside.
Eric’s legs healed without surgery, but the pressure on his torso caused damage to the discs in Eric’s back. Eric tried conservative treatment. He and his doctors tried epidural injections and physical therapy, but neither fixed the problem. Eric had to have a fusion surgery on his lower back.
Trucking Company’s “Defenses”
When lots of money is at stake, trucking companies (like other defendants) often deny everything — even things that seem obvious. This trucking company raised all kinds of so-called “defenses.” First, the trucking company denied that it was responsible for the driver, claiming that the driver was an “independent contractor.” Second, the at-fault driver claimed that the brake pedal in his truck was worn, which caused the driver’s foot to slip. Third, the trucking company even disputed that Eric had suffered all of the injuries that the collision had caused.
At the time of his collision, Eric didn’t know our firm. So he had initially contacted a different law firm, who started to work on his case. But before long, that firm realized that this was a big truck accident case and would involve a hard fight. This was a good law firm — run by good people — but they weren’t set up to deal with a hard fight that could last months or years. So the firm called Butler Kahn and asked if we could help.
This video deposition shows our cross-examination of the trucking company’s safety director, in which we addressed these so-called “defenses.” It has been watched over twenty thousand times on YouTube.
Preparing Eric’s Truck Accident Case for Trial
We got to work. To address the “independent contractor” defense, we demanded evidence from the trucking company about whether the company was “vicariously liable”—meaning, legally responsible for—the negligence of its driver. It turned out that the truck company had leased the truck from Ryder, then sub-leased it to the driver. Our legal research showed that in those circumstances, the trucking company should be liable. For months, over the phone, over emails, and in motions filed with the Court, we fought the issue. Finally, we traveled to New York to take the deposition of the trucking company’s “Safety Director.” (Look to the left to see a clip from that deposition.) Under cross-examination, this company executive finally admitted that his company was responsible for the driver.
That took care of one defense, but it still left the at-fault driver’s claims about the brake pedal being “worn.” Again, we demanded written evidence. Again, we dug through it carefully. It turned out that the driver had filled out a pre-trip inspection of the truck—which should have included an inspection of the brake pedal, and would have told us whether there was really a problem with the pedal—but the company claimed to have lost his inspection report. We knew that was suspicious. So we cross-examined the Safety Director about that too. Before this collision, the Safety Director had never heard of any problem with the pedal. Even after the collision, the at-fault driver didn’t mention any problem with the brake pedal in the several conversations he had with company personnel about the collision. In fact, the driver didn’t mention it at all until the lawsuit was filed, when suddenly he “remembered” that the brake pedal had been worn. It was obvious that a jury wouldn’t believe that.
Even after all that, the trucking company still refused to admit that Eric had suffered the injuries that the collision had caused. So we went to his doctors. We met with the doctor who had performed Eric’s arm surgery, and that doctor signed an official “Medical Report” (that we planned to use in Court) that said exactly what injury Eric had suffered, described the surgery that he performed, and specified that this collision is what had caused Eric’s arm injury. We also met with the doctor who performed Eric’s back surgery. We took his deposition—that is, took his testimony under oath—on video, so that we could play the video in Court for the jury. The spine doctor explained Eric’s injury, described his surgery, and specified that this collision is what had caused Eric’s spine injury. (Look to the right to see a clip from that deposition.)
In this video deposition, Eric’s surgeon explained what happened to Eric’s back.
Eric’s Truck Accident Settlement
We prepared the case for trial and were ready to go. And then a funny thing happened—a funny thing that often happens when a defendant knows that we are ready for trial and that we’ve got them beat. They asked for mediation. At mediation, the trucking company’s insurer agreed to pay $702,000 to settle the case (which was many times greater than his total medical bills). Eric happily accepted.
We love happy clients—and it is an honor and a privilege to work with people like Eric. We were especially humbled and grateful for the five-star review he left us after the case was complete.