Though statistics show truck drivers are at fault in only approximately 25% of all truck-involved crashes, motor carriers and their drivers are never safe from litigation.
It’s not unusual for carriers to pay $100,000 or more to settle non-serious accidents, even fender-benders, says Kevin McClain, an accident investigator. If a fatality occurs in a crash, the settlements can often run more than $3 million, he says.
McClain remembers one accident case he worked that had no physical damage to the passenger vehicle or truck. That didn’t stop the plaintiff’s attorney from asking $3 million to settle a case that ultimately went to trial.
Cases like this show that motor carriers and insurance providers cannot afford to leave anything to chance when investigating accidents at the scene, he says.
“Carriers have got a bullseye on their back,” he says. “The scales are never level for them.”
Lawsuits can surface at any time, even a year or two after an accident occurs. Waiting to investigate an accident is a losing cause since witnesses disappear and the driver involved will probably be working for a different company before long.
McClain became a truck crash investigator in 1993. Most people in his profession work for attorneys of personal injury firms. He started on that end where he learned to put together cases against trucking companies.
His company, McClain Investigations, evolved to work for the defense and conduct accident investigations for motor carriers and insurance brokers.
Recently, he contacted CCJ to share news about a technology platform he developed to speed accident investigations. He began working on the idea when Uber released its ridesharing app. “Why couldn’t we do something in the investigative world that would connect investigators through a mobile app to respond to crashes and incidents for our clients?” he wondered.
He wanted motor carriers and insurance brokers to have a detailed report at the scene of the accident location within hours to make critical decisions on what to do next.
After working with software developers, he launched Readi Response (www.readiresponse.com), a cloud-based platform, this month. Drivers and fleet managers can use the website or mobile app to initiate an accident alert.
A fleet can send GPS location data to Readi Response, which uses the data to set a geofence around the accident scene and initiate an electronic search for eyewitnesses. Motor carriers can also send any evidence they have collected, such as video event data, to McClain Investigations through the platform.
The software can monitor social media posts, comments, tweets, and even YouTube videos posted in the vicinity to find, corroborate and authenticate evidence and witnesses, he says.
Similar to how the Uber app works for drivers to locate work, accident investigators across the country use the Readi Response app to be notified of cases to investigate. McClain developed a network of more than 800 investigators, who all have more than 10 years of experience.
“We want highly skilled investigators interviewing witnesses. Then, when we have to go to trial or deposition, we know that our clients are getting highly skilled investigators going out to handle cases,” he says.
When investigators arrive on site, they immediately begin documenting as much information as possible before the critical evidence, information and witnesses disappear.
“By doing this, now the carriers are in a proactive position,” he says.