Wild Truckin’ 101

  • 15 December, 2023
  • 1.4 GB

This week, Bob Simon teams up with one of his the partners at the Simon Law Group, Evan Garcia and Ryan Conger, of counsel with SLG and founder of Conger Law. Bob and Evan deep dive into the nuances of trucking cases, sharing their experiences and insights on the swift collection of critical data, such as insurance details and carriers’ historical records, and utilizing online platforms like the Safer website. The conversation further explores strategic choices in venue selection and uncovers potential hidden coverage avenues, including broker or trailer policies. Joining the discussion, Ryan sheds light on the litigation aspects, emphasizing the necessity of engaging proficient experts and conducting comprehensive investigations. Tune in for an enlightening session that promises to enrich your understanding of the complexities of trucking litigation.

Evan Garcia, Simon Law Group

Ryan Conger, Simon Law Group


Bob Simon (00:07):
All right. Welcome to this edition of the Justice Team Podcast. Today we’ll be talking trucking and things, trucking and that. We have none other than one of our partners at the Simon Law Group, Mr. Evan Garcia. Hello,

Evan Garcia (00:19):
Hello, hello, hello.

Bob Simon (00:20):
He’s talked to us about AI and pi. Now he’s doing some trucking, which he does a lot of. And we also have on our color commentator, my co-host today, Mr. Ryan Conger. Ryan, what’s up?

Ryan Conger (00:29):
Hey, how you doing?

Bob Simon (00:30):
He’s actually wearing a suit jacket, which I find a little intimidating. So if you have any questions about the show or have any general legal questions or what you want to hear, go to justiceteamnetwork.com. Click that button for a consultation. We’ll get back to you or pick your favorite show. So we’re going to jump right into this one. We’d like to be very specific and quick hitty with these, practical stuff. Quick hitty.

Evan Garcia (00:48):
Quick hitty. I like it. Is that a word?

Bob Simon (00:51):
I think it is. I think it’s on the Urban dictionary.

Evan Garcia (00:53):
Oh, don’t go there.

Bob Simon (00:55):
Okay, well anyways, we’re going to go straight into practical stuff for our listeners. We have young lawyers, maybe they pick up a trucking case. Evan, where do they hide coverage? What’s the best way? We get these police reports?

Evan Garcia (01:06):
Oh, man.

Bob Simon (01:06):
Yeah. So what do we do? We get a police report, it’s a rear end car crash, seems like a mid-liability. And they tell us, “In California, we got the minimum for Interstate 750K. What are our next steps?”

Evan Garcia (01:18):
Yeah, I think first and foremost, you can pop up with a little Google search here and literally this will get you there, safer space web space, and then enter the motor carrier name and the first result’s going to be from-

Bob Simon (01:35):
Wait, wait. Do that again, just for listeners.

Evan Garcia (01:37):
Safer, S-A-F-E-R, space web space enter the motor carrier’s name. And the very first link that’s going to pop up is going to be the snapshot that the federal government maintains on that motor carrier.

Bob Simon (01:49):
Wait, so you’re saying we go to Google right now?

Evan Garcia (01:51):
Google it up, yeah.

Bob Simon (01:52):
And say it’s wild trucking.

Evan Garcia (01:55):
You go to Safer space web space wild trucking, enter. And no joke, the first result that pops up should be a website maintained by the federal government, and it’s essentially the Safer web snapshot of that motor carrier’s history. It takes a little getting used to it. There’s a little legend as you navigate the options. But with some digging here, you can find out potentially, I’d say high confidence, the available coverage, some of the averages, if they’re under/over national averages in inspections. I mean, it’s a pretty cool tool. So I think that’s number one where you look. And you can get an idea of where they’re domiciled, they’re going to have diversity issues. That’s something to be mindful of is where is this case going to be venued [inaudible 00:02:47]. So those are things that I’m thinking of.

Bob Simon (02:48):
Yeah, we’re speaking venue here. You got to look at what are some different choices that we may have where we’re going to file, or have it, and why would we make those choices?

Evan Garcia (03:00):
Yeah, I know Ryan had one, the Hans case that you guys tried, I think this played out. But some of the things that you need to look at, the two obvious options is where does the defendant reside and then also what is his home base for the motor carrier. Personally, we have a lot of cases out here in California. I think it’s hard to beat California state court, but in many instances, you’re going to have particularly because obviously these trucking cases are interstate/intrastate travel. And we have a case right now where the defendant driver is from North Carolina, but the motor carrier is based here in California. Well, obviously you need to make sure you name the motor carrier and keep it in California state court. And there’s other reasons, like for instance, Texas recently passed a bill that directly affects commercial motor vehicles and essentially allows the defense to bifurcate the liability and the damages phases. And so you need to be abreast of, let’s just say, some legislative issues in the various jurisdictions to help you decide if you have a few options.

Bob Simon (04:14):
I know our firm and others, they lean on you pretty heavily within Justice HQ about trucking stuff. I think you, George, Joe, Jay Vaughn are probably the top three, and Joe Fried.

Evan Garcia (04:28):
Yeah, I mean-

Bob Simon (04:28):
How do they get ahold of you to be able to say, “Hey, Evan, fucking run this down.”

Evan Garcia (04:31):
Yeah, [email protected] is always a good spot.

Ryan Conger (04:36):
Give up the cell phone.

Evan Garcia (04:37):
Yeah, yeah. You ready? Let me look at Bob real quick.

Bob Simon (04:41):
You can give him my cell phone. It’s okay.

Evan Garcia (04:44):
I think that’s the best place and always happy to help. I think the one thing that I… Here’s practical tips: got to move fast, got to get a preservation letter out. Got to let them know that you’re looking, you’re lurking around so they keep the relevant information, happy to share those. And you probably Google one and get halfway there.

Bob Simon (05:01):
But what are you looking for? I mean, they just say you go in this Safer and it shows that they have a 750K policy, they got six trucks, and you’re like, “There’s got to be something more to this puzzle. Who else could be responsible for this and what else are you looking for?”

Evan Garcia (05:16):
Yeah. Well, and depending on, because here’s the trap. I mean, depending on what your potential damages are, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. But so let’s say you are looking for more coverage. In some instances, the trailer attached to the tractor may have its own policy that as defined in that policy will provide coverage to the event. And so that might be an option.

Bob Simon (05:45):
Well, how do we figure out who’s responsible for-

Evan Garcia (05:48):
Well, you got to do some digging and I think one of the most important documents, and a lot of people will agree I think with me here, it’s tough to get in pre-lit, but is the bill of lading, I mean that is a document-

Bob Simon (05:58):
And that’s L-A-D-I-N-G, lading.

Evan Garcia (06:00):
Yeah, it’s going to provide you-

Bob Simon (06:02):
Not ladying like a tall lady.

Evan Garcia (06:04):
Yeah, well, I mean you can do both. But yeah, bill of lading provides you a lot of relevant info and kind obvious when you’re reading it, you should be able to identify some of the players. A lot of times there’ll be a broker, which is another potential source for recovery, but you can Google it too. You can educate yourself with Chat.

Bob Simon (06:25):
And brokers were like, somebody needs to haul something goes to somebody and they say, “Hey, we’ll find somebody to haul this for you.” But that broker is ultimately responsible for-

Evan Garcia (06:34):
Yeah, they certainly can be. Yeah.

Bob Simon (06:37):
And that broker might not be on anywhere, not on either truck, not on the trailer, just might be in that bill of lading.

Evan Garcia (06:42):
Yeah. And so definitely try to get your hands on that. For instance, we have a case, obviously there’s no obligation to share information pre-lit, but we have a case and they reach out to you, “How tragic, unfortunate, wrongful death here going to be venued in Texas happened in New Mexico.” And they reached out potentially waving the white flag, “Look, we know we’re responsible. Let’s explore some early resolution.” The answer is, “All right, no problem, but I need to do my due diligence. First off, what’s your limits? I think they have a million and I need the bill of lading.”

And in that case, they appreciate that in this situation, the unfortunate passing of an individual, a father of two, that a million dollars isn’t going to get it done. And so they’re game, they want to see if they can find more coverage. And so he shared that with me and that allows me to contact them and then you go from there. And so overall, I still would want caution. I mean these are things you can talk to me about. Jay Vaughn’s a great resource, Jordan Jones, there’s a lot of guys out there that have some experience. But you got to move fast and be mindful of not buying off more than you can chew. These things get expensive and you don’t want three defense lawyers when you can only deal with one, if necessary.

Ryan Conger (07:53):
Hey, speaking of moving fast, a lot of these trucking companies have teams, legal teams, that get out to the site like the same day. Is there anything that as a plaintiff lawyer you can do if you find out about this thing the same day that it happens to build your case up right away?

Bob Simon (08:10):
You got to do the preservation letters that Evan’s talking about for everybody you see on the Safer, right?

Evan Garcia (08:17):
That’s a good point, Ryan. I think you can call up, maybe you have some reconstruction system folks or an investigator on the scene and at least get them out there and start taking some photos. Because what is helpful, and I think you and I had a case where the debris that was left over on the interstate, along the concrete barrier that separates eastbound/westbound and as along with some of the tread marks, or I should say skid marks from the various tires, that goes away. And it was important to take pictures of that. And I think that case is still going and unfortunately the federal government’s involved, so it’s in fed court.

But anyways, that wouldn’t have happened. We wouldn’t have some of that evidence had we not hired the investigator to get out there quickly. And that’s a little more cost-effective than sending out a full blown recon team with laser scanners. I mean, if you can do that and it warrants it, well maybe do that. But you do need to act fast though.

Bob Simon (09:12):
Yeah, and speaking of acting fast, Evan, I know you got to take a quickie out of here, but we’re going to lean into Ryan right now.

Ryan, I want to start talking to you about the litigation side of things because you did stuff on the defense, right?

Ryan Conger (09:24):
I did, yeah.

Evan Garcia (09:25):
Well, and before I bounce out, and forgive me here, going to go pick up my son. It was the last day of school. But Ryan just shared with me an incredible lawyering story and I think it has periphery of some commercial vehicle items of this tire blowout case and this is real lawyering. So I hope you get into that.

Ryan Conger (09:46):
We’ll get into it at some point today. Brandon always laughs when I say, “Only a few things are certain in life: death, taxes, and truck drivers testify shitty.”

Bob Simon (09:57):
My dad being an ex trucker now, Big Bob works the firm, but his handle was Mr. Potato Head. If you guys are wondering, that was it. But he would give fantastic… No, he wouldn’t give fantastic testimony.

Ryan Conger (10:07):
Look, I used to sit there and defend a lot of these drivers. I would just squirm because I knew that some bad testimony was coming out. I mean in that Hanson case, remember the driver became your star witness?

Bob Simon (10:21):
Oh, yeah. They were disputing liability in that case, which is just, whatever.

So Ryan, we talked about stuff to do emergently and I think get investigated, at least somebody takes some photos. And I think something people will need to be cognizant of, is when you hire that expert and you get to that site inspection, you might be doing some black box downloading.

Ryan Conger (10:42):

Bob Simon (10:43):
You got to hire somebody that’s actually specialized to download that box.

Ryan Conger (10:47):
Absolutely. Yeah, you got to have the right experts in these cases. No doubt about it.

Bob Simon (10:51):
Yeah, because it’s a very specific type of download and license that’s different per truck or per D deck or whatever you want to call the black box. There’s so many more things you can find out. I mean, have you ever seen the crazy shit you could see if somebody knows what they’re looking for?

Ryan Conger (11:07):
These black boxes are more sophisticated and contain a lot better information than just your regular motor vehicle black box.

Bob Simon (11:14):
And if you have somebody that doesn’t know how to do the download, they just get the basics. But you can get days’ worth of stuff sometimes. Sometimes, and especially car, you can get some cell phone information merges in there.

Ryan Conger (11:25):
True. And I think one thing that for younger lawyers who don’t do a lot of trucking cases that’s important to know going into these things is when you’re driving a big commercial vehicle like that, you’re just held to a completely different standard. I think when I very first started doing trucking cases, I didn’t realize that. And then you look and you get the information. So talk to your expert, find out what the standard of care is for driving a vehicle like that.

Bob Simon (11:52):
What are some resources that we can use when we’re looking at that heightened duty for motor vehicle carriers or some resources we could use?

Ryan Conger (11:59):
It’s their own training materials. So these companies have their own training materials and then there’s the defensive drive… I can’t remember the name of the manual, but there’s the defensive driving manual. And I mean, it’s a standard frankly that is difficult to meet.

Bob Simon (12:17):
You have the California handbook, there’s a one for trucking too. I mean, if you look at it’s fascinating. I had a trial coming up that settled, but in that handbook they have stuff that’s even goes to Cuban factors type stuff. It’ll tell you how far behind you’re supposed to be trailing, how many seconds you’re supposed to be behind. And it goes to a lot of these visibility stuff that you can then thrash the experts on, because it’s their policies and procedures. But I think in these trucking cases, there’s so many rules out there that if you find the rules and you walk the truck driver down the line, they can show how many different rules they violated.

Ryan Conger (12:51):
That’s right. And they always are going to admit that that is the standard. “Were you taught and trained to do this? Were you taught and trained to do this? Were you taught and trained to do that?” And they almost are always violating multiple of those standards.

Bob Simon (13:03):
And one of the big ones that people don’t realize is inspection of safety stuff, the tires.

Ryan Conger (13:08):
That’s right.

Bob Simon (13:09):
And a lot of times they don’t document this stuff for weeks or months and then that’s an issue. We have a lot of cases where like tracker trailers were making a huge U-turn or a left or for some reason stalls and is in the middle of the highway and another car just comes driving by and essentially almost gets decapitated from underneath the cab.

Ryan Conger (13:25):
Same goes for buses by the way, they’re held to that. All these big vehicles are held to that standard. One thing I like to do is depose the trainer for the company because that person is always going to give you to the letter of the rule or to the letter of the law, the standard.

Bob Simon (13:40):
Yeah, I mean, Evan said he had to pick… I think he had diarrhea, so we excuse his absence. We take this moment to endorse Pepto-Bismol for all your needs, Imodium A-D. Thank you Evan.

So on these underride cases, we’ve talked about some other angles of liability. Sometimes we’ve had huge results where the police report will put the deceased at fault or the party at fault that we’re representing, but there’s always more to the story.

Ryan Conger (14:08):
Always, yeah.

Bob Simon (14:10):
And what are some steps that you take because you’re a digger. You’re a digger.

Ryan Conger (14:14):
What do I do to-

Bob Simon (14:16):
I mean, I see you always hire investigators to go door knock and figure some shit out.

Ryan Conger (14:21):
Yeah, a lot of times. You got to get video, you got to talk to witnesses, you got to look, I mean, we just had a case recently where we had a Ring camera video gets sent to us like a week later. We had an investigator go out, talk to everybody at the scene. There was a liquor store nearby. Everybody said, “No video.” And then all of a sudden randomly we get an email from a neighbor who had gotten our email address and there’s a Ring video of the incident as it happened.

Bob Simon (14:51):
I mean there’s just so much. There’s not the company, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, Ryan, but it’s called Turn Signal I think. And they actually have access to all of the state highway cams. So with the subscription, you can actually see all of them within your state and go back to a specific day and see what you can find. It’s crazy. I think it’s called Turn Signal. I’ll find that out. But yeah, the guy that found that, he’s speaking with… I’m at CLEO Con this year and he’s speaking too. And I’ve been trying to look at his product, but I was in Louisville last week with Jay Vaughn and some others and they use this. I was like, “Holy shit.”

Ryan Conger (15:27):
We’re going to get to a point in life where everything’s on video.

Bob Simon (15:30):
Oh yeah, we’re on video right now.

Ryan Conger (15:31):
That’s right. And so many times they tell you, “Oh, the video wasn’t working that day,” or, “It wasn’t recording at the time of the accident.” And I think you got to embrace that too and just say, “Really?” I think the jury’s going to roll their eyes at something like that.

Bob Simon (15:44):
Oh yeah. Evan just had a recent verdict where they were denying liability for a bus and they had every camera angle on that bus except for the critical one that would’ve shown everything that happened.

Ryan Conger (15:54):
Of course.

Bob Simon (15:54):
Come on. No one’s going to buy your shit after that. But yeah, you go back to deposing the trainer, the policies and procedures, and they admit, “Yeah, that should have been on. Yeah, that would’ve been the critical area. Yeah, we screwed up.”

Ryan Conger (16:05):
Right. You’re going to get that.

Bob Simon (16:07):
Yeah, and I think lay witnesses are the best that we can dig up on these.

Ryan Conger (16:12):
For sure.

Bob Simon (16:12):
Yeah. So we’re going to wrap up this session of Wild Trucking. Just practical how-tos on this one from the Justice Team Podcast. I think takeaway today is how to find coverage, what to do initially. These are just brass tacks that you should be doing in every trucking case. Go to justiceteamnetwork.com and hit us up if you have any questions or concerns or want to hear more of Ryan’s voice. If you think he should co-host more, let us know. I think he’s kind of stinky, so we got to go.

Ryan Conger (16:38):
Let’s go.

Bob Simon (16:39):
All right. Thank you all.

Ryan Conger (16:39):

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