When a significant motor carrier collision happens, the pattern response is for the truck driver to immediately call the dispatcher, who calls the risk manager even at home in the middle of the night, who in turn calls in a “rapid response team” – a defense lawyer in the state where the crash occurred in order to claim work product privilege for anything that is done, and an investigator. The investigator, and sometimes the defense lawyer, may arrive
at the accident scene before the debris is cleared.
However, just because there is a defense lawyer on the scene, do not assume that the defense investigation is cloaked by work product privilege.
In this environment, critical evidence may be “lost” and the course of police investigation may be affected. They may then make sure that any harmful electronic evidence is deleted within a matter of days, and that documents are not retained a moment longer than required by law, if that long.
Driver logs may go missing, or may be reconstructed. Geopositional data downloads may be modified. In addition, police reports are often prepared without the benefit of input from people in the smaller vehicles, who were killed or seriously injured, while the truck driver and the company’s investigator are able to tell their story to the investigating officer. Without supportive independent eyewitnesses or unequivocal physical evidence, many cases may be lost at the starting line.
As lawyers for individuals and families harmed in trucking crashes, we too often get our first call about the case after much of the evidence has been destroyed. However, when we are called soon after the event, we seek to launch our own rapid investigation.
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Ken Shigley is a civil justice attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed among the "Legal Elite" (Georgia Trend Magazine), as a "Super Lawyer" (Atlanta Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is a national board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group and Treasurer of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.