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Phantom Accident

J. Bradley Klepper
Attorney at Law

I was pulled over by a Texas Trooper for a supposed accident that happened in Oklahoma. The full story is: I was traveling West on I-40 about 40 miles into Texas from the state line when I was pulled over by a trooper for an accident he said happened back in Oklahoma near Elk City. According to the trooper, the car I hit was knocked into the median and of course all three of the men had “severe neck and back injuries”, yet they were able to drive out of the median and go to a Chiropractor for treatment, get a lawyer all before calling the police to report the accident.

I knew this whole accident thing was wrong for several reasons; one, I did not hit any car; two, I was in Elk City two hours earlier than the trooper said the accident occurred; and three, there was no damage anywhere on my truck or trailer. I was driving a Red Pete with a new Great Dane trailer. Both the tractor and trailer were less than one month old and never been touched by anything, especially any other vehicle. The trooper said I could tell my story to the judge, but he was writing me a ticket for the accident.

Lucky for me, I had just purchased a new iPhone last week so I took my time to question the trooper and told him I wanted to video him for my company and he agreed. I also walked around the tractor and trailer with the trooper in the video as we examined my truck. The trooper said he could not tell where I struck the car from the looks of my vehicle but he had to issue the ticket because he was instructed to do so. I was upset and told the trooper again that I had not hit any car.

I called my company and emailed them the video and a photo of the ticket and told them the story. My dispatcher has been in trucking a long time and he thought he smelled a rat and would see what he and the company could do to help me. He also instructed me to contact you. My response date on the ticket is 45 days from now, what should I do? Gerry.

First, let me compliment you on having the foresight to video the truck, with the police officer, at the time the ticket was written. This type of quick thinking allows you to show the condition of your truck the moment you were pulled over by the trooper. Since we are a visual society this type of evidence can go a long way in convincing a jury that you were not involved in an accident.

With that being said, I also think you have a good case and good facts on your side. The facts you can prove are: there was no evidence of contact with any vehicle to your tractor and trailer and your logs and QUALCOMM will show you were not at the location at the time of the alleged accident. Unfortunately, a complaint has been made and the state has taken action.

Matters such as this always come down to “he said/she said” argument. The injured driver will have his friends (passengers) in the car as witnesses to strengthen his side of the story; however, you have common sense on your side. By that I mean the timeline of the accident and actions taken by the “injured” driver according to his report to the police will show that the report was made well after the accident and after all three men had been treated by the Chiropractor. While, this fact alone will not save you, it creates a question of whether an accident really occurred or whether this is just an “insurance scam” like we hear about on TV.

The good news is that if this matter makes it to trial, you will be able to cross-examine the witnesses. Your attorney will be able to ask questions to see if the witnesses are lying and to illustrate any inconsistent statements or facts. In addition, you have the iPhone video that shows the condition of your truck when you were stopped as well as video of the officer inspecting your truck and finding no visible evidence of contact with another vehicle. Even though, the lack of evidence of contact does not prove you were not involved in an accident it sure does help your case. The state will have to prove you caused or were involved in the accident while you will have to prove nothing.

You should keep in mind any accident with personal or property damage will result in two different types of trials. The first is the criminal side with the officer and the District Attorney who will try to convict you of such charges as reckless driving, speeding, failing to report an accident, leaving the scene of an accident and as many other charges as come to mind.

The other matter will be brought in civil court. In this venue, the plaintiff (the allegedly injured driver) will sue for monetary damages. This suit will likely not only involve you, but if you are employed by a motor carrier, your employer as well. In a civil action, the plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that you were somehow negligent in order to win their case. If the plaintiff prevails in a civil action, he could receive damages in an amount ranging from $1.00 to millions of dollars.

As you can tell, a finding of guilt or innocence in the criminal law suit will go a long way in determining liability in the civil action. As a result, it is critical that you take immediate action to defend yourself in the criminal matter. The money you spend in this defense will be some of the best money you will ever spend. Also, it is extremely important that you make your employer aware any time you are involved in an accident since they may be able to help.

Brad Klepper, Esq. is President of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the forty-eight (48) states on both moving and non-moving violations. Brad is also Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at greatly discounted rates. Brad spent almost a decade with the largest law firm in Oklahoma where his practice included extensive experience in transactional law, business defense litigation, and intellectual property. In addition, Brad is a licensed architect and serves as General Counsel to the Oklahoma Board of Architects, Landscape Architects and Interior Designers. Brad has dedicated much of his time to DataQs challenges, which are challenges posed to the FMCSA for CSA incidents, to examine data and reports filed by law enforcement.

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