Truck Wreck Cases

It has become a well-advertised axiom that trucking cases are different from simple car wreck cases. They involve federal and state safety regulations, multiple categories of documents, industry jargon, electronic data and often nationwide discovery. The cast of characters is different, the insurance coverage are different, the discovery different, the jurisdiction and venue issues different and often the potential for recovery different. If you learn what to look for and act quickly enough, you can often find evidence of corporate negligence that enhances the case value. But if you treat it like a regular car wreck, you may cut your client short.

One big difference between truck and car crash cases is physics. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to grasp the idea that an 80,000 pound truck packs a bigger punch of kinetic energy than a 4,000 car traveling the same speed. One might result in a whiplash while the other produces multiple fatalities with corpses crushed or burned to a crisp.

Trucking cases also typically involve larger insurance policies than the typical car wreck case. The minimum liability coverage for interstate freight motor carriers is $750,000, and we seldom see a policy for less than $1,000,000. Often there is more coverage if you know where to look. Trucking companies and their insurers call in “rapid response teams” immediately after a catastrophic truck crash. At the head of the rapid response team, often directing the efforts of investigators at the scene, are defense lawyers specializing in trucking cases. After a case gets into litigation, you may find that the defense attorney was at the scene of the crash before the debris was removed.

While far from a comprehensive treatise on the subject, this paper is intended as an introduction for the lawyers accustomed to handling motor vehicle wreck cases but who is not experienced in trucking litigation. The following steps of case investigation and preparation often overlap and interweave, and some are not necessary in every case, but the outline may be used as a checklist.