Looking Closer

Look at this picture.  It’s called a stereogram, also known as a 3D image within an image.  They were popular in the 90s and have been around ever since.  Within the beautifully colored image is hidden the words “Happy New Year.”  It takes practice and a lot of time to be able to see the image, but it’s there.  You may have to cross your eyes and uncross them, or get real close to the screen and slowly back away, but eventually you can see the hidden image.

Being a trial lawyer can be a lot like looking at a stereogram.  Some of the greatest results we’ve ever had for clients came from cases that, on the surface, may not have looked like much of a case.  People have a natural tendency to see what is on the surface and not look much further.  They also have a natural tendency to not want to keep looking to see if the situation really is as it initially appears.  But any good trial lawyer will tell you that you’ve got to keep staring at the picture, and if you stare long enough, if you dig into the facts deep enough, you can often find another picture hidden in plain sight.*  Here are a few examples:

A car gets blindsided by a big truck, killing the occupants of the car.  The driver of the 18 wheeler says the car pulled right out in front of him, and he never had a chance to stop or put on the breaks.  The officer then writes the accident up as the car pulled out in front of the big truck.  Many families, struck with grief over the situation, will accept what the officer reports and move on.  Some, however, will hire a lawyer to look into it.  We have seen this scenario many times.  When this case comes to us, we hire a professional engineer to do an accident reconstruction to tell us exactly where the vehicles were, how fast they were going, where the impact took place on the road and on the vehicles, and what happened in the accident.  We hire a trucking expert to look at the records of the trucking company and driver to see if they have any major safety violations.  In short, we do a very thorough job of investigating the case.  And what we’ve found out many times is at odds with what was reported – the 18 wheeler was exceeding the speed limit; the driver was over his time driving and was rigging his log books so he could drive more; the big truck veered into the other lane and hit the car instead of staying in his lane and missing it; the 18 wheeler driver, had he been paying attention, had 5 or 6 seconds to see the car and avoid the collision; the truck driver was distracted and on his cell phone.  What was reported as an accident that was our client’s fault turns out to be a really good case against the trucking company.

A single vehicle runs off the road and into a tree, ejecting the passenger and seriously injuring him to where he has a permanent brain injury and cannot walk.  The officer looks at the scene, sees a beer or two in the area of the accident in the grass, and writes up the driver as not paying attention, not wearing a seat belt, and probably under the influence of alcohol.  Many people will accept this and not look into it further.  Fortunately, many people do want us to look into these situations.  Again, we hire an accident reconstruction engineer to tell us how fast the driver was going.  We hire a car expert to look at the vehicle to see whether the seat belt was used and whether the car’s safety features worked correctly to protect the driver.  We hire someone to look at how the road was constructed to see if there were any defects in the roadway that contributed to the accident.  Again, what we find can be at odds with the initials reports – the driver was going a safe speed and was not impaired; the roadway had a road edge drop off that prevented the car from getting back on the road; the seat belt pretensioner fired when the seat belt was being worn meaning the seat belt was on but came loose; the car’s structural beams were not built to industry standards and allowed the car to crush the driver instead of protecting him.  What was reported as an accident that was our client’s fault turns into a good product liability case against the car manufacturer and maybe the road contractor.

An insurance company denies a claim and hires an “outside engineer” to confirm their findings, yet we find the company’s own documents show the claim should have been paid and that the “outside engineer” only works for insurance companies.  A life insurance company denies a claim because the policy was cancelled, yet we find the insurance company never let the customer know they were cancelling the policy.  A business cancels the contract with our client because of “extraordinary circumstance,” yet we find out the business was already planning to contract with someone else and cheat our clients.  What the other side reports as being “business as usual” turns out to be a big company trying to cheat our clients.

Just like looking at this picture long enough and hard enough and seeing the 3D image, the trial lawyers at Jinks, Crow & Dickson, PC, keep looking and looking, digging and investigating on behalf of our clients until we are able to see the situation for what it really is, which is often not as it first appears or as the other side is telling the story.  This is the hard and rewarding work of being a trial lawyer.  It is what we do on behalf of our clients day in and day out.  With our team and our experience, eventually the picture will come clear, and we are able to pursue justice for our clients.


*Thanks to Don Jones, RIP, for teaching me this.
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