At any point in time bringing in or calling someone with a specialty in trucks is really important to figure out what is lost what was there and what’s not there anymore.
Tom Mustin, Ask the Lawyers 0:09
Are semi truck crash case is fundamentally different from other vehicle crashes? We’re going to talk to Attorney Nick Gurney about that on today’s Ask the Lawyers. Nick, thanks for joining us.
Nicholas Gurney 0:20
Thanks for having me, Tom.
Tom Mustin, Ask the Lawyers 0:21
Great to talk to you. So, I know you’ve done a lot of work handling trucking litigation and educating other lawyers about truck crash cases. So, how are these cases different from general personal injury or car accident cases?
Nicholas Gurney 0:36
Yeah, it’s a great question. One of the major differences that that we see in these cases is just the pure size of the vehicle, the amount of responsibility that’s placed on the driver of these large vehicles – these heavy trucks – and the number of regulations that the trucks are subjected to. When we handle these cases, we treat them completely different from your sort of “standard” auto cases – where there’s two passenger vehicles involved, for example. We really look at the regulations that are applicable to that truck, that driver, that roadway, that trip and really examine where the breakdown was. Because if a crash occurs, something went wrong. It doesn’t necessarily mean the driver made a mistake. But when we look at the regulations, we take sort of a holistic approach. That’s one of the biggest differences in handling those cases: these trucks are huge, they weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds or more, they can cause immense damage on the roadway. Real carnage in a lot of these crashes that we see. So it’s important for the families, the victims, that we do that really deep dive – studying the regulations, studying the industry, seeing the changes that are coming down the pipe, and also looking at all the different potential defendants. It’s just a much wider breadth of work and a case where there’s a heavy truck involved.
Tom Mustin, Ask the Lawyers 1:51
And you touched on this a bit, Nick, but tell us how what you’re doing here in these kinds of cases is different than say what a personal injury attorney does.
Nicholas Gurney 2:00
Well, and we work with a lot of personal injury attorneys where we’re getting cases referred in, where perhaps they don’t handle truck cases as often or as a central part of their practice like it is for us. One of the things we can bring to the table for those folks, is a lot of the hands-on work. So, a lawyer in my office attends every inspection. We inspect every truck, every trailer, in every case we have and there’s a lawyer from my office at that inspection. It’s usually me, but it’s frequently another lawyer. And we attend, we have jumpsuits – people kind of make fun of us – but we have sort of those zip-up shop jumpsuits with the logo on it and we go out there and we get under the truck, we get our hands dirty. We go down with the expert, the engineer, the mechanic, the motor carrier expert. We get under the trucks, we look at the brakes, we touch the brakes. That gives us a much greater degree of understanding of what went wrong, what the failure point was, what parts of the truck were in really good condition and which ones were not. And so that we can explain that to the client to explain what happened and why. A lot of our clients are looking for answers in that way. We can explain it to an adjuster for the insurance company, defense lawyer, the judge, and frankly – at the end of the day – if we have to, we can explain it to a jury. We can tell them about the the smells, the oils, what the inside of the cab looked like. We do a lot of that hands-on work and it brings great value to the clients’ cases.
Tom Mustin, Ask the Lawyers 3:20
So right from the beginning, you all are diving right into it there. So, can anything be done if a case, if a significant amount of time has passed between the accident and all of a sudden the person decides he wants to make a claim with an attorney?
Nicholas Gurney 3:32
Yes, so that’s a great question. We see this from time to time, where time has passed. And, I come from the products world – products liability work – where we examine defective and unsafe/dangerous products. And the number one rule there – one of the top rules there – is to secure the product. So, I’ve sort of been been, you know, woodshedded on that. And so, what we do in our cases is – we want to get the truck and the trailer, we want to get a download, we want to get an inspection. That’s the really the critical evidence in many cases. So, when time has passed, that presents a challenge. The more time that passes, the better the the odds – just all else being equal – that the data on the truck has been overwritten or changed or altered or lost. So, the sooner the better… and these trucks have a ton of data, a ton of information. They have infotainment systems, they have telematics systems – those are the little antenna you might see on the top of the truck that’s sending out a cellular signal with data – they have Qualcomm, a company used to be called Qualcomm with radios in the truck. They’re really advanced. And so, the more time that passes, the more that information can be lost. But, at any point in time bringing in or calling someone with a specialty in trucks is really important to figure out what is lost, what was there, and what’s not there anymore.
Tom Mustin, Ask the Lawyers 4:49
And I know you’ve had a lot of these cases, Nick. So, talk about some of the mistakes that attorneys have made in these truck crash cases.
Nicholas Gurney 4:56
Yeah, so, you know, we we work with a lot of really great lawyers. And one of the things we do is we learn in the process with them. So, you know, as far as “mistakes” go, we’re all always learning. But some things that we see that we recommend are for lawyers to secure that truck and trailer, to get someone out to do the inspection, to secure the vehicle condition, take photos and videos and measurements. Same with the scene where the crash occurred. And to make sure that all of the potential defendants, sources of liability have been identified. That could be the truck driver and the trucking company – most folks, sort of, think of that – but it might also be a broker, someone who arranged for the load to be driven by this trucking company, this driver. It could be the shipper or the receiver. Could be something called a 3PL, a 4PL, a 5PL. Those are logistics companies. They arrange for loads to be delivered and they’ve been held accountable in cases in the past. So, it’s really important to identify those folks. And then to pursue the claims aggressively. Because these trucking companies and motor carriers, they have rapid response teams, they’re out to the scene, sometimes faster than the products manufacturers. And we saw this in a lot of cases – Ford and GM – they might go out to the scene and pick up a piece of tire off the side of the road. Well, they gotta hear about the case first, about the crash. Motor carriers, they get a call from their driver, “hey, I was in a crash,” and they send somebody out quick. So, we want to make sure that we have a similar response. And so for anyone who sort of has a case… it’s not a mistake, but something they should consider doing is: as quickly as possible, jumping on that case. And if they need, call a truck specialist – a lawyer that specializes in those kinds of cases.
Tom Mustin, Ask the Lawyers 6:40
So, I was just gonna ask you that question. So, if you are representing someone who’s injured in the crash like this, should they bring in someone — an attorney who specializes in these kind of cases?
Nicholas Gurney 6:50
I mean, look, I mean, obviously, it’s in my best interest to say “yes.” And that’s the vast majority of cases we have, are folks bringing us in. But what I will say, so the benefits are obvious. Someone who’s dealt with the regulations, they’re deep in the regulations, you know, the regs book is, is an inch thick, and the font is six point font. But we’re steeped in it. Now, what I will say is – for anyone who wants to take on these cases – we give free advice, webinars, sample pleadings, documents, shortcuts — and not shortcuts in doing the work but ways of handling the cases to get the same result. For example, “service of process” – we know a faster way of serving the vast majority of motor carriers in the United States and it’s just not common knowledge. So, when people email us or call us, we give that stuff away for free. This is not a trade secret, or… as long as they’re a plaintiff’s lawyer, they’re representing people and families and victims, we want to help them. You know, a rising tide lifts all boats and we want to be a part of that rising tide.
Tom Mustin, Ask the Lawyers 7:53
Well, Nick, a lot of great information and we really appreciate you joining us today. Thanks so much.
Nicholas Gurney 7:58
Thanks for having me.
Tom Mustin, Ask the Lawyers 7:59
And that’s gonna do it for this episode of Ask The Lawyers. My guest has been Nick Gurney. If you want to ask Nick about your situation, call the number on the screen. Thanks for watching. I’m Tom Mustin, for Ask The Lawyers.