Recently in Truck Accidents Category

Black Boxes in Truck Accident Cases

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Fortunately, truck accident lawyers in Maryland representing injury victims have more weapons in their arsenal to prove liability against a trucking company and its driver. Black boxes, which are found on large commercial trucks (and, parenthetically more frequently in passenger cars) are one of these tools. Black boxes are on board information recorders that can capture operational data from the truck's electronic network. A black box records data from an accident that can lead a truck accident lawyer investigating a trucking accident to a wealth of information as to how the truck accident occurred. Most notably, black boxes can often provide information as to the condition of the truck after the accident. It can also provide information on how the truck was operated, such as engine speed, brake applications, throttle position, vehicle speed, seat-belt usage, and airbag performance data. Because the black box's data storage ability is rather limited, the old data usually rewrites over the new data in a loop. Some trucks have very short loops where data is destroyed every ten minutes. On these commercial trucks, if an accident does not occur, the old data is erased and replaced with new data.

Truck accident lawyers in Maryland need to make sure after the truck accident that anyone who has custody of the truck does not try to repair the truck or even move the truck's black box. The possibility of the trucking company retrieving the black box data unilaterally should also be fought.

Instead, the parties should either agree (or the injured victim's truck accident lawyer should seek a temporary restraining order from a Maryland Circuit Court) to a joint inspection of the vehicle so that the black box data can be recovered with all parties of interest present. While it is generally accepted that the vehicle owner owns the data, the truck company cannot knowingly destroy data it believes is relevant to a civil lawsuit in Maryland.

Some insurance polices contain language that gives the insurance company the right to retrieve the black box data. If the truck has been destroyed or the black box data has been erased, you should still request the information because either the trucking company or the insurance company may have preserved the data. If the lawyer does not ask for the information, the trucking company and their insurance company has no obligation to provide it.

Black boxes can also be used by plaintiffs' truck accident lawyers as a weapon against trucking companies that do not you use black boxes to their fullest potential. Almost all of large trucking companies in 2006 use wireless communication and satellite technology to track their trucks and communicate with their truck drivers. But some companies use this same technology to help keep tired truck drivers off our highways. To prove they are complying with Maryland and federal law, truck drivers are required to keep a log of their hours. As you can imagine, some truckers either keep poor logs or fill them out long after they had a real memory of their trips (defense lawyers for trucking companies have the same problem with their time sheets). But at some more progressive companies, the black boxes can compute this information for the trucking company.

If you are bringing a claim against a company that has this technology, if the black box provides evidence that the driver was involved in a truck accident while driving more than federal law allows, it is powerful evidence of the trucker's and the trucking company's liability. If the trucking company does not employ this technology, it is a fair question to asking on cross examination of the trucking company's designee as to why the company does not employ this technology to make its fleet safer.

Maryland Car Accident Wrongful Death Damages

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
There are two fundamental limitations on how much a plaintiff can recover in a wrongful death car accident case in Maryland.  The first is our pain and suffering cap which is anywhere between $755,000 and $1,887,500 for accidents occurring today (the high includes a survival action, another claim that can be brought when someone is killed by a negligent driver of a car or truck.

The other practical limitation is often the insurance policies.  Generally not a problem with truck accident cases because commercial policies are larger (by law) and because trucking companies usually have assets to pay settlements and judgments.  

But there are some car accident cases in Maryland where there are insufficient insurance from the at-fault driver and also insufficient uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.  The key in these cases is to uncover every possible stone to find additional insurance coverage.  But that is not always possible.  We have had clients is wrongful death cases whose recoveries are topped out at $30,000.  

The take home message: get high uninsured motorists limits to protect yourself and your family. 

Verdicts and Settlements for Rear End Truck Accidents

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
A Jury Verdict Research study found that the median award in rear-end truck accident cases is $93,909. Remarkably, plaintiffs recover damages in only 63 percent of truck accident cases that go to verdict. That study is based on verdicts rendered throughout the United States from 1997 to 2007.  While these statistics are a little bit dated, I think they fairly reflect the median value.  

This is the median not the average truck accident verdict. Clearly, the average big rig crash verdict would be substantially higher because a full twelve percent of the verdicts in rear end truck accident cases are over $1 million. 

Spoliation in Truck Accident: Most Commonly Cited Case

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
I have written and read a good bit about spoliation in truck accident cases.  A common case cited nationally in these cases is J.B. Hunt Transp. Inc. v. Bentley, 207 Ga. App. 250, 427 S.E.2d 499 (1992).  In this truck accident case, the defendant trucking company did what many trucking companies do after an accident: destroy the logbook.  There was no conspiracy: this was a destruction in the normal course of business.  Plaintiff' filed a lawsuit alleging that the accident was caused because of driver fatigue.    bigtruck.jpg

Plaintiff's lawyers screamed that the defendant should have - given the notice of a potential claim - preserved the trucking logs.  The trial court agreed, telling the jury that they should presume that the trucking logbook would have shown that the driver did not have sufficient rest. 

The court relied I'm sure in no small part on the fact that the trucking company was clearly a bad seed.  It was a "habitual violator" of the hours-in-service requirements of the Georgia Public Service Commission for its vehicles.   One-third of the company's logbook violations which were penalized were because of driver excessive driving.  Incredibly, and this is over-the-top even for poorly run trucking companies, it operated a "forced dispatch" system, under which drivers could be terminated for not driving a load upon demand. 

That said, destruction of trucking logs after an accident is common, even when the company knows that a potential claim may follow.  Good truck accident lawyers use this lack of evidence to their advantage and seek an instruction that the destroyed evidence would have helped plaintiff's case.  

Settlement with State Farm

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
State Farm is a tough insurance company if you are trying to settle a car accident case.   We have a little magazine type thing called the Metro Verdicts Monthly which provides interesting summaries of personal injury cases that go to trial in Maryland.  The majority of cases that go to trial are auto and truck accident cases.   I have never gone back and done the math but I suspect that almost half of the auto accident cases that go to trial in Maryland are with State Farm as the defendant. 

State Farm is sending a message: we are going to fight.  The question is whether you are ready to fight back.

Car Accident Settlement Calculator

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Laura Zois writes on the Maryland Accident Lawyer Blog about the search for the elusive car accident settlement calculator.  Sneak preview: there is a formula but no calculator.  

Maryland Lawyer: Car Accident

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
How do you pick a lawyer for your car accident claim/lawsuit?  

First, don't let anyone kid you.  While there are a lot of lawyers out there who will take your accident claim that shouldn't be handling car accident cases of any level of complexity, there are a lot of competent Maryland auto accident lawyers who can handle your accident claim.  

But the key to finding a quality Maryland accident lawyer is to ask the lawyer the tough questions about their experience.  You need to first admit that this task is not as easy as it sounds.  I've asked my own treating doctors about their level of experience and qualifications to perform the job. It is not fun and it is no easy.  But you really have to suck it up and ask the right questions.  Here are three you may want to consider:

  1. Have you every received a settlement or verdict in excess of $1 million?  This question is misleading for lots of reasons but it is still a good question.  Why?   Accident lawyers who have not handled large cases are more likely to blink the moment that the insurance company makes some thing that approaches a real offer. You may want to feel like your accident lawyer's only client but you don't want to be the lawyer's only client.  
  2. How many cases have you tried in the last few years?  Few successful Maryland accident lawyers are trying 10 cases a year.  Good lawyers handle good cases and this means a lot of time put into the case before trial and good accident cases, more often than not, settle.  But if the lawyer and his/her law firm are only rarely trying cases, it is unlikely they take cases to trial.  Even if your goal is to settle your case, you want an accident lawyer who is ready to go to trial (and one the insurance company knows is ready for trial).
  3. What kind of cases to you handle?  If the lawyer handles criminal, domestic,and everything else under the sun, you can reasonably question whether that lawyer has the experience to handle all that comes with a complex personal injury case.  Not to say that some lawyers can't be successful handling many different types of cases.  But it does raise a red flag that should be fully explored.

Can You Work With My Lawyer on My Truck Accident Case?

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
If you currently have another lawyer and are not unhappy but want to involve a lawyer who has successfully tried catastrophic injury truck accident cases, we may be able to work with your current lawyer as o-counsel" in your truck accident case. 
In the vast majority of cases, this has no impact on your fee because we share fees with your current lawyer.  We can certainly do this in Maryland truck accident cases - as we have many times - but every state has different requirements that govern how lawyers work together on accident cases.  So if you are not in Maryland, the answer is most likely yes but it depends on your state's laws. 

How Fast Was the Driver Going Before the Accident?

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
I read a bar journal in Maine today that provided some good links of some of the literature that is out there to try to determine how fast a driver was doing at the time of impact in a car accident:

 Baker and Fricke's The Traffic Accident Investigation Manual, Northwestern University Traffic Institute (ed. 1986).

- Thomas Bohan's and Arthur DaMasks' Forensic Accident Investigation Motor Vehicles, (1995), which includes an introduction to vehicle accident physics, speed calculations and computer-generated images.

- Daily's Fundamentals of Traffic Accident Reconstruction, Institute of Police Technology and Management University of North Florida (1988), the text utilized by the state of Maine.

 Watts, Atkinson & Hennessy's Low Speed Automobile Accident Reconstruction and Occupant Kinematics Dynamics and Biomechanics, (1996).

- Armentrout's Physics Applied to Accident Reconstruction, Maine College of Physics Teachers, University of Maine (1983).

Knee Injury Settlements and Verdicts

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Metro Verdicts Monthly's graph this month addresses median settlements and verdicts in knee injury cases in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia since 1987. The median settlement or verdict in Maryland knee surgery cases is $37,500. The medians for Washington, DC and Virginia are $75,000 and $52,500.

I'm not sure why Maryland verdicts and settlement in knee surgery cases are half that of Washington D.C. and it makes me question the data.  As always, I pass this along because I think it is interesting.