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EP 29: Investigating the Scene of a Catastrophic Event (Part 2)

What process do officers, first responders and investigators go through when they arrive on the scene of an accident and catastrophic event? Today we’re talking with Jeff Swagger, a former North Carolina State Trooper, who is currently an investigator at Speaks Law Firm.

In the second part of the conversation, we discuss the importance of acting swiftly for both investigators and people involved in catastrophic accidents. Plus, we’ll learn more about different types of accidents and how they’re handled.

Here’s some of what we discuss in this episode:
0:00 – Amending a report
3:06 – Timeliness is key
5:50 – Tractor trailer crashes
10:13 – Industrial accidents
12:18 – Final thoughts

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Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury.

If there was a problem with the report, how difficult is it to change it to get to have general to have a mended collision report generated?

In my experience, it's not. It's not that overly difficult. It's it does involve contacting the officer that was involved in completing that report, explaining what maybe there might be a disagreement or misinformation that was on the report. And then the officer just goes in and files a supplemental report and has it updated. And of course, that goes through the Division of Motor Vehicle system. And now supplemental report has been filed. But it again, it goes back to knowing that that needs to be done. Do Do I need to contact the officer? Is this piece of information? First of all, is it right? Or is it wrong? If it is incorrect, why is it? Why is it different than what my opinion of it is on the report? And then how do I go about contacting the officer and asking for that report to be amended?

To me, it's been my experiences, it's if in order to be able to do that you have to have compelling, objective evidence that shows that, hey, this has some information that you didn't have when you were doing your investigation. And then here it is, and then and then does that affect your analysis, but also, we have to get that evidence to somebody as quickly as we can. Because the longer that that collision report stays in its unamended status, then the more difficult it is to go back and change it later is that that's my experience, is that consistent with your observations that

that is true, it is, it's important to once there's a discrepancy that's been found or pointed out that that that process should begin as quickly as possible, because it's much makes much more sense, even to the I can speak to it from the from the officer standpoint, if someone can't had contacted me, you know, within a week of the crash happening, when they got that report takes time to process this, and they finally got the report in their in their hand. And they realize there's, there's something I don't really agree with here, or this is, this is not, this may or may not be right. That makes much more sense to do it. With the urgency of it's much closer to the time of the incident or time of the crash, as opposed to now here we are eight months later, and we're having a conversation about a collision that happened, you know, relatively quite some time ago. It's not that nothing can be done. But it just the, the sooner that that contact is made, the better it is for everyone involved.

So sometimes we'll have people call us about not just wrecks, but all of these things are all kinds of accidents and injuries and those types of things. And and sometimes they'll you can you can hear in their voice will I want to take care of getting myself better. And then I'll think about all this, and I'll decide later how I want to pursue it. You know, our our thought is always I understand why you would feel that way. But that's a mistake. If you're not gonna go with us, you got to do something soon, because these reports are, it's, you know, if there's missing evidence, you're not going to find it later. You want to find it. Now, if there's missing missing witnesses, we need to get on that now. If there's an investigation that needs to be done or omitted and reports that need to be made, that needs to be done now is what do you think about that?

That is that's true, because especially in all those cases, but you think about the witnesses. So when someone sees something that they're involved in, they were witness to how quickly do we forget the details of that. If it wasn't something personal to me, it might have been something I experienced, or I saw but it was not. It did not impact my life forever. So I may forget those details about a crash that I that I had seen. So that's why we want to get in contact with those witnesses as quickly as possible. So we get that information while it's still fresh on their mind. So they can recall what they saw what they heard. And then physical evidence as well. There's, there's evidence at the scene that is going to be washed away by rain, it's just going to fade you know the grass is going to be mowed just for so we're just speaking of tire impressions, those things are going to go away quickly. And the quicker we can get to the scene. Get those document that evidence, take pictures of measurements, all that's involved, and then also on the piece of the vehicles, the longer we wait to inspect those vehicles, it has, it can have a huge impact on the outcome of the case. So the sooner someone can reach out and say, Hey, I've been injured in this crash, and I'm still hurting, I still got some ongoing medical issues to be dealt with. But I need some help navigating this process, the sooner they get some help on their corner, the better off they're going to be. So,

Jeff, let me ask you about, we've been talking about just accidents in general traffic accidents in general. The focus of this show was on a catastrophic accidents, catastrophic accidents can can be all kinds of different accidents. But let's talk for a minute about truck accidents, like these big you know, we're all on the highway in the streets every day or nearly every day. And we every now and then you use especially on the interstates and, and all you'll see these big trucks just barreling down the road. And it's hard to not think, man, what if? What if one of those hits somebody that I care about me or my family? Or my kids or whatever? You've investigated those kinds of crashes? Have you not sure many of them? How are those the same? And how are they different from ordinary, you know, rear end collisions, like you described earlier?

They are, they're the same, as far as the Elon the clash on the crash aspect, because two vehicles have collided, right? For whatever reason, or one vehicle is caused another vehicle to run off the road and have a crash. They're the same in that, but they're much different in the fact of the types of vehicles. First of all, you got just the mass of an 80,000 pound tractor trailer that's involved in these crashes. So you've got the the actual size of the vehicle, but then their own. As it relates to commercial vehicles, there's a lot more required of the drivers and also of the, the owner of the truck, the company involved in that there's a lot more required of them, not only within North Carolina, but federally, the regulations that surround that as to the certifications of the driver, the safety aspects that are involved in that. Drivers, some drivers are required to have medical medical cards Yeah, sure to be certified that they that they medically cleared to drive a via commercial vehicle. Then there's the logbooks as to how long has the driver been driving? When did they take their breaks? How long was the break? Those pieces are involved as well. And then then you're looking at the equipment on the on the actual truck? How is the load secured? Is the trailer secured properly? Is did the truck have all the safety equipment on it that it's required by state and federal regulations? And

if you have you investigated accidents where sometimes all those things were done correctly, and sometimes some some other things were not done correctly.

I've seen both ends of that spectrum where everything about the truck, the truck, first of all, the driver, everything was exactly right. He had all of his driver's licensing and certifications, he was supposed to have to be able to operate that vehicle. And then he had been driving within his hours he or she within their hours of driving. So they weren't outside of their hours that they could be logged everything was just exactly, exactly as it should be the truck, you know, the braking system was intact and the loads, everything was right. But then the other flipside of that is when there's extreme cases of it seems like almost nothing's right, you know, the driver is not licensed properly, he's driving outside of his hours or has no record of how many hours he has or hasn't been driving. So there's no no record of that. And then we're getting into the vehicle fit typically, many times when you see that with a driver, then you start seeing things with the truck as well the truck not being maintained properly, it's not up to the regulations that are required. The braking system, the lights, the way the load secured, just it gets into a lot more than just okay, everything's fine. It's it's a big complicated process of filtering through what how all this related to this crash,

how it contributed to, to the events that led to the person's people being injured in the crash taking place is that right?

Exactly and it can that can all that can simply be a braking system issue that can be should have been caught on inspection. And truck wasn't properly inspection should not have been in service. Now it's out operating on the highway weighs 80,000 pounds, and a collision could have been avoided, if it would had a proper braking system.

One of the things that we put into the kinds of cases we become involved in is industrial accidents. There's a plant that where somebody's run over with a forklift, or there's a fall or there's a, there's some other kind of, maybe there's an explosion or whatever. Those are, in my experience, those are similar in the sense that they have to be investigated, and there was evidence and there's, you know, and and they're different. Can you imagine how some of those investigations might be similar?

They are in the in the immediate, they're similar? Because is this is the same safe for the responders at the scene safe for the initial investigation to begin? Is that scene safe? And then it's the same as it goes for witnesses? Did anybody see what happened? You know, being able to identify those witnesses? Is there video evidence of the incident? The time that what led up to that, that happening? What evidence is there? So they're very similar in, in that aspect, because there will there will typically be those different types of elements to that, to that catastrophic event. But then it's different, in some ways, because the regulations are different. So what type of safety equipment was required? What type of process was involved to train the people in that area about the use of the safety equipment or the safety process? If it's, if it's someone who is not a, maybe they don't work for that company? You know, it was their proper warning sign, it was their signage up warning people keeping them in out of an area that should that they shouldn't have walked into. So there's those pieces of it as well, that are all just part of that investigative process of finding out what happened, why it happened? And what contributed to that.

So it sounds like that. Some of the specifics might be different. But we're still trying to answer those same questions. You know how it happened, what happened, who was responsible in urgencies is just as much a part of that analysis as it is any other accident? Absolutely.

The longer the longer someone waits to reach out for that help, to ask for helped into their situation to their their injury, they then just the more evidence is going to go away. Things get things get moved, witnesses forget exactly what they saw. video evidence gets taped back over, you know, then the loop just gets because nobody captured that when they needed to. So you know, within whatever the timeframe said, it just gets looped over again. And then. And unfortunately, if too much time goes by within the process, the situation is corrected. And even in some catastrophic, catastrophic events. It begins to be rebuilt and repaired. And now we're way beyond where, where we need to be on getting ahead of all that in on the investigative side to be able to help the clients in what what they need to, to seek help, and they're in restitution for their injuries.

So Jeff, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it. I think that's helpful to to a lot of our viewers, if we have if anybody in North Carolina has a catastrophic injury or an accident, they're forced, they can call us. But even outside of North Carolina, if you have questions about this, you can call our law firm. And we'll try to connect you with somebody who, who can help you who's who's we do find is competent and able to help you in one of these complex, catastrophic situations. And generally, we know people in about every state in the United States. So again, Jeff, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it. Thank you, Clark. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

Transcript

Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury.

If there was a problem with the report, how difficult is it to change it to get to have general to have a mended collision report generated?

In my experience, it's not. It's not that overly difficult. It's it does involve contacting the officer that was involved in completing that report, explaining what maybe there might be a disagreement or misinformation that was on the report. And then the officer just goes in and files a supplemental report and has it updated. And of course, that goes through the Division of Motor Vehicle system. And now supplemental report has been filed. But it again, it goes back to knowing that that needs to be done. Do Do I need to contact the officer? Is this piece of information? First of all, is it right? Or is it wrong? If it is incorrect, why is it? Why is it different than what my opinion of it is on the report? And then how do I go about contacting the officer and asking for that report to be amended?

To me, it's been my experiences, it's if in order to be able to do that you have to have compelling, objective evidence that shows that, hey, this has some information that you didn't have when you were doing your investigation. And then here it is, and then and then does that affect your analysis, but also, we have to get that evidence to somebody as quickly as we can. Because the longer that that collision report stays in its unamended status, then the more difficult it is to go back and change it later is that that's my experience, is that consistent with your observations that

that is true, it is, it's important to once there's a discrepancy that's been found or pointed out that that that process should begin as quickly as possible, because it's much makes much more sense, even to the I can speak to it from the from the officer standpoint, if someone can't had contacted me, you know, within a week of the crash happening, when they got that report takes time to process this, and they finally got the report in their in their hand. And they realize there's, there's something I don't really agree with here, or this is, this is not, this may or may not be right. That makes much more sense to do it. With the urgency of it's much closer to the time of the incident or time of the crash, as opposed to now here we are eight months later, and we're having a conversation about a collision that happened, you know, relatively quite some time ago. It's not that nothing can be done. But it just the, the sooner that that contact is made, the better it is for everyone involved.

So sometimes we'll have people call us about not just wrecks, but all of these things are all kinds of accidents and injuries and those types of things. And and sometimes they'll you can you can hear in their voice will I want to take care of getting myself better. And then I'll think about all this, and I'll decide later how I want to pursue it. You know, our our thought is always I understand why you would feel that way. But that's a mistake. If you're not gonna go with us, you got to do something soon, because these reports are, it's, you know, if there's missing evidence, you're not going to find it later. You want to find it. Now, if there's missing missing witnesses, we need to get on that now. If there's an investigation that needs to be done or omitted and reports that need to be made, that needs to be done now is what do you think about that?

That is that's true, because especially in all those cases, but you think about the witnesses. So when someone sees something that they're involved in, they were witness to how quickly do we forget the details of that. If it wasn't something personal to me, it might have been something I experienced, or I saw but it was not. It did not impact my life forever. So I may forget those details about a crash that I that I had seen. So that's why we want to get in contact with those witnesses as quickly as possible. So we get that information while it's still fresh on their mind. So they can recall what they saw what they heard. And then physical evidence as well. There's, there's evidence at the scene that is going to be washed away by rain, it's just going to fade you know the grass is going to be mowed just for so we're just speaking of tire impressions, those things are going to go away quickly. And the quicker we can get to the scene. Get those document that evidence, take pictures of measurements, all that's involved, and then also on the piece of the vehicles, the longer we wait to inspect those vehicles, it has, it can have a huge impact on the outcome of the case. So the sooner someone can reach out and say, Hey, I've been injured in this crash, and I'm still hurting, I still got some ongoing medical issues to be dealt with. But I need some help navigating this process, the sooner they get some help on their corner, the better off they're going to be. So,

Jeff, let me ask you about, we've been talking about just accidents in general traffic accidents in general. The focus of this show was on a catastrophic accidents, catastrophic accidents can can be all kinds of different accidents. But let's talk for a minute about truck accidents, like these big you know, we're all on the highway in the streets every day or nearly every day. And we every now and then you use especially on the interstates and, and all you'll see these big trucks just barreling down the road. And it's hard to not think, man, what if? What if one of those hits somebody that I care about me or my family? Or my kids or whatever? You've investigated those kinds of crashes? Have you not sure many of them? How are those the same? And how are they different from ordinary, you know, rear end collisions, like you described earlier?

They are, they're the same, as far as the Elon the clash on the crash aspect, because two vehicles have collided, right? For whatever reason, or one vehicle is caused another vehicle to run off the road and have a crash. They're the same in that, but they're much different in the fact of the types of vehicles. First of all, you got just the mass of an 80,000 pound tractor trailer that's involved in these crashes. So you've got the the actual size of the vehicle, but then their own. As it relates to commercial vehicles, there's a lot more required of the drivers and also of the, the owner of the truck, the company involved in that there's a lot more required of them, not only within North Carolina, but federally, the regulations that surround that as to the certifications of the driver, the safety aspects that are involved in that. Drivers, some drivers are required to have medical medical cards Yeah, sure to be certified that they that they medically cleared to drive a via commercial vehicle. Then there's the logbooks as to how long has the driver been driving? When did they take their breaks? How long was the break? Those pieces are involved as well. And then then you're looking at the equipment on the on the actual truck? How is the load secured? Is the trailer secured properly? Is did the truck have all the safety equipment on it that it's required by state and federal regulations? And

if you have you investigated accidents where sometimes all those things were done correctly, and sometimes some some other things were not done correctly.

I've seen both ends of that spectrum where everything about the truck, the truck, first of all, the driver, everything was exactly right. He had all of his driver's licensing and certifications, he was supposed to have to be able to operate that vehicle. And then he had been driving within his hours he or she within their hours of driving. So they weren't outside of their hours that they could be logged everything was just exactly, exactly as it should be the truck, you know, the braking system was intact and the loads, everything was right. But then the other flipside of that is when there's extreme cases of it seems like almost nothing's right, you know, the driver is not licensed properly, he's driving outside of his hours or has no record of how many hours he has or hasn't been driving. So there's no no record of that. And then we're getting into the vehicle fit typically, many times when you see that with a driver, then you start seeing things with the truck as well the truck not being maintained properly, it's not up to the regulations that are required. The braking system, the lights, the way the load secured, just it gets into a lot more than just okay, everything's fine. It's it's a big complicated process of filtering through what how all this related to this crash,

how it contributed to, to the events that led to the person's people being injured in the crash taking place is that right?

Exactly and it can that can all that can simply be a braking system issue that can be should have been caught on inspection. And truck wasn't properly inspection should not have been in service. Now it's out operating on the highway weighs 80,000 pounds, and a collision could have been avoided, if it would had a proper braking system.

One of the things that we put into the kinds of cases we become involved in is industrial accidents. There's a plant that where somebody's run over with a forklift, or there's a fall or there's a, there's some other kind of, maybe there's an explosion or whatever. Those are, in my experience, those are similar in the sense that they have to be investigated, and there was evidence and there's, you know, and and they're different. Can you imagine how some of those investigations might be similar?

They are in the in the immediate, they're similar? Because is this is the same safe for the responders at the scene safe for the initial investigation to begin? Is that scene safe? And then it's the same as it goes for witnesses? Did anybody see what happened? You know, being able to identify those witnesses? Is there video evidence of the incident? The time that what led up to that, that happening? What evidence is there? So they're very similar in, in that aspect, because there will there will typically be those different types of elements to that, to that catastrophic event. But then it's different, in some ways, because the regulations are different. So what type of safety equipment was required? What type of process was involved to train the people in that area about the use of the safety equipment or the safety process? If it's, if it's someone who is not a, maybe they don't work for that company? You know, it was their proper warning sign, it was their signage up warning people keeping them in out of an area that should that they shouldn't have walked into. So there's those pieces of it as well, that are all just part of that investigative process of finding out what happened, why it happened? And what contributed to that.

So it sounds like that. Some of the specifics might be different. But we're still trying to answer those same questions. You know how it happened, what happened, who was responsible in urgencies is just as much a part of that analysis as it is any other accident? Absolutely.

The longer the longer someone waits to reach out for that help, to ask for helped into their situation to their their injury, they then just the more evidence is going to go away. Things get things get moved, witnesses forget exactly what they saw. video evidence gets taped back over, you know, then the loop just gets because nobody captured that when they needed to. So you know, within whatever the timeframe said, it just gets looped over again. And then. And unfortunately, if too much time goes by within the process, the situation is corrected. And even in some catastrophic, catastrophic events. It begins to be rebuilt and repaired. And now we're way beyond where, where we need to be on getting ahead of all that in on the investigative side to be able to help the clients in what what they need to, to seek help, and they're in restitution for their injuries.

So Jeff, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it. I think that's helpful to to a lot of our viewers, if we have if anybody in North Carolina has a catastrophic injury or an accident, they're forced, they can call us. But even outside of North Carolina, if you have questions about this, you can call our law firm. And we'll try to connect you with somebody who, who can help you who's who's we do find is competent and able to help you in one of these complex, catastrophic situations. And generally, we know people in about every state in the United States. So again, Jeff, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it. Thank you, Clark. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

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