Heyl Royster

 

The Truck Driver: A Cornerstone of the Defense

By: Mitch Hedrick, mhedrick@heylroyster.com

Oh my God, what just happened? Where did that car come from? That was a really hard impact…Is the driver okay? Were there any passengers? Oh God, did I just hurt a kid? Do I need to do any first aid? Do I need to call the police or an ambulance? Did I do anything wrong? Am I going to get a ticket? Will I lose my commercial drivers license? Will I lose my job? Is there anything I can do to make this right?

These are just some of the thoughts running through a truck driver's mind after an accident. Many others will follow. I know. Ten years ago I turned my straight truck in front of a Cadillac. The moment of impact is as vivid in my mind now as it was on the day of the accident, down to the most minute details. A truck driver experiences a moment of acute stress just before an accident, sometimes known as the fight-or-flight response, which he will remember for the rest of his life. That is why it is so important for the defense attorney to build a rapport with the truck driver as soon as possible. The truck driver needs be confident the attorney will answer his questions and address his fears. He needs to know he has an advocate. The attorney must cultivate a "team" approach.

During trial, the truck driver will be the most visible representative of the motor carrier. In many cases, the truck driver is the most important witness in a case. Ultimately, it is the trucker driver's actions before and after an accident which the jury will be asked to judge. The attorney and truck driver must work as a team to build the strongest defense possible. Most truck drivers are eager to do so because they take pride in their work and are true subject matter experts when it comes to the ways of the road. They often feel genuine remorse for any injuries the driver of the automobile has suffered, even if the truck driver is not at fault.

Likewise your attorney is the courtroom expert. It is critical that the truck driver knows exactly how his actions will affect the case. Your attorney needs to prepare the truck driver, who should be professional and conscientious at all times. Early on, the truck driver needs to be informed not to discuss the accident or post his thoughts about the accident on social media sites. The attorney should explain the legal process in clear terms and outline the best strategy for a successful defense. Furthermore, the early rapport that is established with the truck driver will cause the truck driver to be more comfortable and cooperative as time evolves, allowing the attorney to gather information from the truck driver which will help strengthen the case defense.

The best way to prepare the truck driver for his new responsibilities is to build a strong rapport early. As the case progresses, the truck driver, the attorney, and the company's relationship should grow closer through regular communication. Early teamwork will ultimately lead to a more successful result in the case.