In-cab video cameras can be an invaluable resource. They can absolve your driver of any fault for the accident, reduce litigation expenses, and protect your company from punitive damages predicated on claims of inadequate supervision.
I reached this opinion by an act of conversion. It was a transition from my longstanding reservations, if not opposition, to such evidence.
Years ago upon first learning of this technology, my reaction was, “why do I want another piece of evidence jammed on me at trial?” In our highly regulated and technologically documented industry, I had enough evidence to overcome, from ECM downloads to satellite tracking.
In the years since, I have come 180 degrees. I now see in-cab cameras as valuable evidence to protect you and your drivers in litigation.
I no longer view videos as a dual edged sword. The reality of our world is that when there is a truck-related suit, there is generally a underlying presumption by the police, court, and/or jury that it was caused by the truck.
Their minds revert to the few trucks they remember like a bad meal in a restaurant–those that cut them off or rode their tail. They forget the tens of thousands of safe driving truckers with whom they’ve interacted daily throughout their lifetime.
We begin any case with a downside. This is not insurmountable. It is not fatal. It is but a fact with which we must deal and overcome.
In-cab cameras provide an upside we don’t presently possess. Shouldn’t we capitalize on any resources that provide proof that we are not at fault? If we face a jury trying to decide between two competing, equally plausible versions by two drivers, shouldn’t we eliminate the uncertainty by presenting visual documentation of what really occurred?
We need to seize the opportunity to defend ourselves from those accidents for which we are truly not at fault. In a proceeding in which persuasion is the key, nothing is more persuasive as actual visualization of the accident—and the fault of the other.
One company that installed in-cab cameras had an experience of having documentation of not being at fault in 4 of their first 5 recorded accidents. Did they have a bad one? Yes, but there were 4 not-at-faults, resulting in an .800 batting average, excellent in any league.
We would benefit the most from in-cab cameras in lane change accidents. Faced with competing driver versions and, at best, a neutral police report, in-cab cameras provide a basis for a persuasive defense of your accident.
I recently had a trial in Middlesex County, New Jersey, a jurisdiction described as the most plaintiff-friendly in the state. The case involved a lane change accident on the New Jersey Turnpike.
The drivers each had significantly different versions of the events. Our driver related that the plaintiff changed lanes immediately in front of him while also applying his brakes, denying us the time and distance to avoid the accident. The plaintiff claimed that we ran up on him from behind and clipped him when we swerved at the last minute to avoid him.
The plaintiff had underwent fusion surgery in his low back and had not worked for the last 3 years. The worker’s compensation lien was more than $180,000.
My client did not have an in-cab camera. We were fortunate to have the next best thing—an eye-witness who testified that the plaintiff cut us off. Even then, we had to overcome plaintiff’s accident reconstructionist testimony that the accident did not occur as our driver, and the witness, claimed.
We won a defense verdict. The jury rendered a verdict of “no negligence”. However, absent the eye-witness we would have had a significantly more challenging case. The risk analysis may have resulted in a significant settlement in a matter we did not owe.
In a case that proceeds through trial, video evidence is a valuable means of persuasion. Our society has come to expect visual evidence. From police-related shootings to convenience store robberies, the new norm in television news is the presentation of video of the action. In-cab camera video satisfies this jury expectation.
Litigation costs can be significantly reduced, if not eliminated, by having the video. If it’s bad, you know immediately and can seek a fair settlement before paying lawyers. If it is favorable, it can head off the filing of suit by an attorney who would rather not invest his time and money in a sure loser.
Driver behavior can be monitored by in-cab cameras in addition to documenting the accident. Drivers can be observed and their behavior corrected so as to potentially prevent conduct that causes an accident.
In today’s litigious society, virtually every lawsuit involving a truck accident includes a boilerplate claim that the trucking company is negligent in the hiring, training, and supervision of the driver. Plaintiffs frequently seek to parlay these allegations into claims for punitive damages for which insurance coverage is frequently not provided.
In-cab cameras that observe and enable coaching of the driver are invaluable in protecting against these claims. Think about it—in our industry in which your driver works away from your premises, you would have a means of continuous supervision by virtue of this technology.
We recently tested this theory with a focus group of mock jurors based on hypothetical facts regarding the hiring, training, and supervision of the driver. One of the vital findings was the avoidance of punitive damages for lack of supervision because of the in-cab cameras with driver coaching.
Technology plays a huge role in trucking litigation. It is important for us to take advantage of valuable resources for our defense. In-cab cameras with driver supervision are one of the most valuable of resources in this regard.
Doug Marcello is a transportation attorney who has earned his CDL. His law practices focuses upon serving the trucking industry. Based in Central Pennsylvania, he has represented trucking companies in cases throughout the US, having been specially admitted in 35 states. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and driver safety meetings. He has also written numerous articles concerning issues confronting the industry and has produced several DVDs relating to accident response and aggressive defense of claims. All posts by Doug Marcello