Photo by Brian Turner via Creative Commons License

A trucker rear-ends a car at 50 mph in broad daylight on a nearly deserted Interstate highway, killing a 10-year-old child and injuring others in the car. Slam-dunk win for the plaintiff, right?

Not so fast.

A while back, we published an interview with Dallas-based attorney Bill Chamblee. Chamblee, Ryan, Kershaw & Anderson is a legal firm defending trucking companies against lawsuit stemming from traffic accidents.

My interview with him was extensive and had to be edited for length. But I recently stumbled across those notes and wanted to share one of his court stories with you.

In this case, a truck rear-ended a passenger vehicle on I-35 in broad daylight. A 10-year-old died, others in the car were injured and the family sued for millions of dollars.

"All the information and data showed our truck was traveling approximately 50 mph when it rear-ended the vehicle of the plaintiffs," Chamblee explains. There were no other vehicles on the roadway to speak of. There was no emergency evasive maneuver that had to be taken because someone changed lanes.

Chamblee said he talked to the driver repeatedly, at the time of the wreck and before the trial, and the driver consistently said he checked his mirrors in preparation to change lanes because there were mowers up ahead. There was no vehicle in front of him until he turned his vision back to the road after that short mirror check. Suddenly there was a car, apparently stopped or moving very slowly.

"Everybody believed it wasn't defensible," Chamblee recalled. The assumption is if you don't see a vehicle in front of you, obviously you weren't paying attention or you were fatigued and fell asleep.

"I told everyone at the start, if our driver is telling the truth, there's another explanation for this accident, and that's what we need to find," Chamblee says.

"If our driver is telling the truth, there's another explanation for this accident, and that's what we need to find."

The car, he deduced, was probably off the side of the road for some reason and pulled out in front of the truck. But that didn't match up with what the plaintiffs were saying.

So he started digging. He learned that the plaintiffs had traveled to San Antonio to pick up the husband and were on their way back. "They had this kind of broken bizarre relationship, and the plaintiffs were not forthcoming in their depositions about their trip, the purpose of the trip, why they were traveling," Chamblee says. "They weren't credible, they weren't forthcoming and honest about their relationships and reason for being in San Antonio.

"So when I talked to the jury I said, 'You're going to hear from the plaintiffs that they were on the roadway and traveling with the flow of traffic, but we know from crash data and accident reconstructions that they were at a stop or slowly moving. You'll hear from our driver, who's an honest and credible man without a mark on his record, that he looked up from checking his mirrors and saw a vehicle in the road.

"You're going to have to decide which version is the truth, and I think you're going to decide it's my driver because the plaintiffs have too many credibility problems, because they didn't tell the truth about what happened before or about the speed of the vehicle."

Chamblee won the case.

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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