The Law Firm for Truck Safety Attorneys Talk Modern Day Trucking Trial Tactics at Oklahoma Association for Justice’s Trucking Litigation Intensive
On September 15, The Law Firm for Truck Safety’s truck accident attorneys gathered in the Sooner State to speak on effective strategies within modern-day truck crash cases.
In partnership with The Oklahoma Association for Justice, our leaders in truck accident law spoke to a room of plaintiff personal injury attorneys looking to learn more about trucking law and explore litigation techniques they can take into their own trucking cases.
The 7 hour CLE program covered topics:
- The Changing Trucking Landscape: How Amazon Technology is reshaping trucking cases.
- The advantages a CDL brings to truck crash attorneys
- Overcoming defense arguments based on the Business Immunity Rule
- Overcoming defense arguments based on Sudden Medical Emergencies
- The shortcomings of current Personal Conveyance and ELD Regulations.
- Theming your Trucking Trial arguments around your jurors and their group dynamic.
- The history and evolution of modern-day Standards of Care
Incorporating their own experience and stories inside and outside of the courtroom, The Law Firm for Truck Safety attorneys spoke on trial-tested techniques and best practices for truck accident cases, providing OAJ members with the tools to strengthen their own trucking cases and pursue justice to its fullest extent for their own clients.
Have a question about your trucking case? Contact our experienced truck crash attorney team today.
Matthew Wright talks Amazon, Load Driver Relay Technology, and Liability
Managing Partner Matthew Wright kicked off the Trucking Intensive by exploring how Amazon has shaped not only freight delivery in this US but how these changes –and the technology they use to delegate freight to third parties — incentivize unvetted and under-vetted motor carriers to drive on US roadways. This is achieved in the programmatics of their freight app, the metrics the app measures, and how the app rewards the lowest bidding motor carriers over time.
All these items work in concert to drive down the costs Amazon pays to motor carriers. So much so it is actually unprofitable for motor carriers to take their loads. More tenured and established freight companies can see through this carrot and stick pitch, which leaves new motor carriers run by less experienced entrepreneurs to haul their cargo. As a consequence, the practices increase the risk Amazon freight carriers pose to drivers on our roads.
Amy Papuga explores the advantages a CDL gives to plaintiffs attorneys.
Senior Associate Amy Papuga shared her experiences obtaining a commercial driver’s license with OAJ members as well as the advantages this knowledge brings to truck crash attorneys.
Driving a commercial motor vehicle requires different techniques, awareness, and skillsets than driving a four-wheel vehicle. Because the eighteen-wheelers are different, so too are the crashes these vehicles are involved in.
When it comes to understanding the facts of a truck crash and its causes, a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) gives truck crash attorneys an advantage because those who are CDL holders can speak first-hand firsthand about drive a semi-truck. They are also able to identify and gather critical facts from a crash or truck driver testimony at other personal injury attorneys (and first responders) may miss simply because they don’t know what they don’t know.
Michael Leizerman Discusses Trucking Standards of care
Managing Partner, Michael Leizerman, spoke to OAJ members about the evolution of trucking standards of care. While the level of care has increased over the years, it’s important to remember that all truck crash fatalities are preventable. The paradigm of the trucking industry to look to the standards of care that have historically been in place, will always miss the mark on keeping today’s roads safe.
What historically has been the norm is not synonymous with what ought to be done to keep our roads safe. In his talk, Mr. Leizerman gave the poignant example of today’s out of service rate, which on average is a little above 20%. Out of service being the percentage of vehicles in a motor carrier’s fleet which pose such a great risk to drivers on the road, that they, by definition are illegal to drive.
When the risk for harm is greater, the standards of care must be greater, too, and the standards of care that govern four-wheel vehicles, are not sufficient nor equivalent to those that govern their eighteen-wheel counterparts; cars and trucks are different and so too should the safety standards surrounding them.
Rethinking Discovery with Joe Ervin
Managing Partner, Joe Ervin, went back to basics with OAJ members to rethink trucking case discovery and how plaintiff attorneys can leverage this process to see those big verdicts at trial. Often attorneys think about discovery as a templated process, but if every case is treated the same, not only will you miss critical information to the case before you, truck crash attorneys also risk becoming bogged down with extraneous information, that won’t help move the needle.
Instead, Ervin suggested, before start starting discovery, start with “why” and build a discovery process around your goal. Prioritize the information critical to the case in front of you.
Joe further elaborated on this by provide examples of discovery for the sake of discovery and shared commonly missed items that can have a tremendous impact on the strength of your trucking case.
When done correctly, discovery can help truck crash attorneys uncover details and information that can be watershed facts down the road, if only you know what to look for.
The Sudden Medical Emergency Defense
When a truck crash happens, and the result is a wrongful death or catastrophic injury case, often a common argument made by defense counsel is one of sudden medical emergency. In these instances, plaintiff truck crash attorneys must determine the credibility of this argument.
- Could this sudden medical episode been preempted?
- Did it impact the driver’s ability to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL)?
- Was there enough time to pull over?
Finding answers to all these cases is critical to combatting the sudden medical emergency (SME) defense. And The Law Firm for Truck Safety’s Joshua Leizerman set out to answer these questions and more in his talk on the sudden medical emergency defense.
In addition to reminding the audience of Oklahoma personal injury attorneys that a healthy truck driver is a safe truck driver, and the inherent issues the SME defense raises with regard to reasonable care in motor carrier hiring practices, Joshua drilled down into some real-world SME cases to demonstrate how rare a true sudden medical emergency that is both unavoidable and spontaneous actually is.
The reality is that, often there are red flags that precipitate these medical episodes and even when immediate, there is usually a warning sign. Thus, there is time for the truck driver to remove themselves from the road to mitigate the hazard they pose to drivers, should they lose control of their vehicle.
DJ Young Breaks Down the Business Immunity Rule and What it Means for Modern-Day Trucking Cases
One of the hot-button issues in trucking law at present is the Business Immunity Rule, or McHaffie rule.
This effectively sates that if a trucking company can be excluded from any preemptive negligence (ie. hiring, training, vehicle inspections, etc.) if they assuming responsibility for their driver’s negligence at the time of a crash. Whether a successful defense argument can be made on these grounds largely depends on the state, but even in states that do not reject this rule, plaintiff attorneys can still effectively argue to hold accountable trucking companies when systemic and operational negligence contributed to the great harm their drivers and vehicles posed on our roads. Attorney DJ Young, a leading attorney on this topic, spoke to Oklahoma Association for Justice members on pitfalls on the bad law leading to the McHaffie rule and talked techniques they themselves could use to combat any defense arguments based in the Business Immunity Rule in their own trucking cases.
What does “Cheating” in the age of ELDs look like? Trucking Attorney Joe Ervin Breaks it Down.
For his second talk on truck accident case strategy, Managing Partner Joe Ervin pivoted to technology and how, for all its advancements, stills falls short limiting unsafe truck driver behavior.
In today’s trucking industry, drivers are paid by the mile, and while speed governors may limit how fast a truck can go and ELD logs automatically track semi-truck driver miles, the incentive for profit still reigns supreme. With these technologies in place, modern day truck drivers have simply become more creative in how they “cheat” technology and boost their paychecks by boosting their miles.
In his talk, Joe discussed these creative techniques used by trucking companies and drivers use to “cheat” on electronic record keeping. He also stressed the importance in a trucking case to obtain these records and what plaintiff attorneys should look for to see if any edits had been made and why.
Andy Young Explores the Value of Theming your Trucking Trial around your Jurors
Closing out the Trucking Litigation Intensive was Ohio truck crash attorney, Andy Young, who spoke on how to theme your trucking case to appeal to the jury. No two juries are the same, and different juror archetypes and group dynamics can impact the efficacy of your argument. In his talk, Andy gave examples of the different ways to present the facts of the case, through appeals to emotion, logic, authority, etc., and how to win favor with different personality types.
Andy also shared a powerful technique to bolster empathy for truck crash victims among jurors –despite they themselves never experiencing a similarly traumatic and devastating loss.
Ultimately, Andy reasoned, the success of your argument comes down not to facts, but how compelling a group of jurors finds your argument of those facts to be, so it is crucial to understand your jurors, and adapt your strategy around them and their experiences and priorities.
Thursday’s CLE program closed with a social mixer and optional Q&A with The Law Firm for Truck Safety attorneys. With topics and strategic insights spanning from discovery through jury trial, Oklahoma Association for Justice members received a comprehensive CLE program on what makes for a successful truck crash case, and gained insight into the trial techniques that lend themselves to the nuclear verdicts becoming more and more prevalent in the modern-day trucking case landscape.