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Winning truck wreck cases: What works — and what doesn’t

Attorney Tom James of Michigan Auto Law shares his truck litigation tips with the the Kentucky Justice Association at Trucking Litigation Seminar

Our very own Tom James recently spoke to the Kentucky Justice Association on the nitty gritty behind what works — and what can flop — in the quest for attorneys to reach the best possible settlement and trial results in truck accident cases.

Tom’s presentation was called “Winning Truck Wreck Cases: The Big Picture of What Works and What Doesn’t.”

Tom is a tested trial attorney with Michigan Auto Law. He’s tried more than 25 cases, including many trucking accidents, and he has earned several multi-million dollar settlements and jury verdicts for his clients.

For instance, Tom and I secured a $2.55 million wrongful death truck accident verdict for the family of 83-year-old Michael Shekoski, who was run over by a truck and killed as he was attempting to cross the street on his bike in Shelby Township in Macomb County. The highest defense offer before the last day of trial was $250,000.

Tom shared several lessons acquired over the years from personal trial experience on what concepts, tactics and techniques have worked, and what has not.

Winning truck wreck cases is not easy, as it requires specific, in-depth, complicated industry knowledge and hard work. Tom says since attorneys not all born with this knowledge, especially when it comes to the rules and regulations covering commercial transportation. It’s important to be honest and know when to ask for help. Here are a few of the tips Tom covered:

The big picture:

  • Frame company violations in terms of affirmative choice. You can do so by using your expert and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations.
  • Deposition of the trucking safety director is KEY.
  • Deposition of the truck driver is a life preserver.
  • Never “trade” admitted liability against driver for a waiver of actions against Company. The verdict form includes the company.

Knowing your limitations:

  • Be honest with yourself. Get help if you need it.
  • Brainstorm cases with experienced attorneys. You don’t know what you don’t know.
  • Experts. Hire truck safety experts to go through discovery and learn.
  • Other important experts. Consider human factors and conspicuity.
  • Use focus groups.

Move fast:

  • Evidence in trucking cases gets “lost” quickly.
  • Send preservation of evidence letters ASAP.
  • Secure the truck, logs, ECM, etc.
  • Know what is missing as far as experts.
  • Get the Spoliation Instruction.

Finally, Tom says to work relentlessly is to have success in truck accident cases. Specifically, pay personal attention to relentless discovery. For instance, start by going to the scene to scope out what else is in the area, such as daycare, schools or local businesses that might have video.

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