Part 1 – Know Your Clients and Their Story
The Plaintiff’s safety expert will be the witness that puts meat on the bones of the Plaintiff’s attorney’s argument that your trucking company client runs an unsafe operation and needs to very likely being punished. While this witness can potentially inflict a lot of damage, handled properly, this witness can help you tell your narrative to the jury.
First, you must know your clients and their story.
Preparing to cross-examine the Plaintiff’s safety expert starts the day you get hired. Remember, your job as a trial lawyer is to craft a narrative for the jury that will enable the jury to reach a decision that is most beneficial to your client. And you need to start crafting this narrative from day one.
It is absolutely critical to meet with your truck driver on numerous occasions. Get to know them. Find out where they are from. How did they get into trucking? What do they enjoy about being a truck driver?
Plaintiff’s attorneys have an advantage here in that their clients (generally) have been horrifically injured and will naturally elicit sympathy from a jury. The Plaintiff’s narrative is an easy one to craft. However, with a little work, you can start crafting your narrative that will allow the jury to see your trucking company and your truck driver as real people.
After you get to know your truck driver, you need to spend a lot of time with the folks from your trucking company client. How did the trucking company start? What are their core values? How do they train their drivers? What steps do they take to make sure that they put qualified drivers on the road who operate their equipment safely? What are their policies and procedures? Do they follow their policies and procedures? If you don’t know the answers to all of these questions, then you are not going to be able to portray your trucking company client to the jury as a group of people who are committed to safely delivering freight day in and day out.
You need to find out the good things that your truck driver and your trucking company do every day to make sure that they are reasonably safe in how they go about their jobs. Let’s say that you have a truck driver that is meticulous about how she does her pre and post-trip inspections every day. You need to find that out and then bring it out during her direct examination. Show the jury that this is a driver who takes her job very seriously.
Let’s say your trucking company client has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on new technology to better train drivers. You need to tell that story to the jury. You need to figure out who from the trucking company is the best person that can sit in front of 6 or 12 people and explain to them all of the steps that the company takes to put safe drivers and safe equipment out on the road.
But if you don’t get out from behind your desk and go out to the pointy end of the spear, you will never be able to learn these things. And if you don’t know these things, then the only narrative that the jury is going to hear is the one painted by the Plaintiff’s attorney.
Finally, probably the most important reason you want to find out about your truck driver and your trucking company is you want to use all of these good pointswhen you cross-examine the Plaintiff’s expert. If your trucking company is an industry leader in safety, then you need to hammer the Plaintiff’s expert to admit that there is no company out there that is doing more. If your driver’s logs are within the hours of service regulations, you need to hammer the Plaintiff’s attorney that your truck driver client follows the rules and operates her tractor trailer within the applicable hours of service. If your trucking company has a solid safety program, and it’s documented, you need to use that fact with the Plaintiff’s safety expert to get that expert to admit that your trucking company is taking reasonable steps to make sure that they are putting safe drivers and safe equipment out on the road. In short, use the Plaintiff’s expert to tell your story to the jury.