The Illusion of a Phantom Truck

Plaintiffs argued that my clients  owned the truck that impacted them and forced them off of the road. The truck that hit the Plaintiffs did not remain at the scene, and the accident report indicated that the Plaintiffs were not able to describe the tractor-trailer at the time of the accident. Consequently, there were serious questions regarding whether the Plaintiffs could meet their burden of proving that my client’s  tractor-trailer was involved in the accident.
The Plaintiffs’ basic story was that after they left the accident scene, they went to the BP truck stop at  the next exit from Ithe location of the accident. There they found the truck that caused the accident, but there were many inconsistencies in the details of their story.

After the accident, the plaintiffs spoke to an eyewitness but there were unable to  describe the tractor-trailer, the driver of the tractor-trailer, a partial tag number on the trailer, or any writing or emblem on the tractor-trailer. The eyewitness gave a difference description of the “phantom vehicle.”

Later when the plaintiff’s went to the truck stop, they wrote down part of a tag number allegedly from my client’s truck.
What we learned for sure is that the tag number described by the Plaintiffs did not match the trailer which was in the area at the time, but description of the tractor-trailer given by the Plaintiffs did, for the most part, match my client’s  tractor-trailer which was in the area at the time.

The plaintiff stated that the person she saw getting into the truck at the truck stop was a white male. She assumed he was the driver; however, she stated that when she saw him in his rearview mirror on the road she thought that he looked darker. At the truck stop,however, she saw him getting into a truck and thought that his skin looked white.

The Plaintiffs must have gotten this information from somewhere. Since the accident report did not indicate that client’s tractor was involved and the tractor described by the witness did  not match my client’s tractor, it was probable that the Plaintiffs first saw the  tractor-trailer after the accident.

The driver logs indicated that the tractor-trailer was at the BP truck stop from 6:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. The accident occurred at about 6:15 p.m. According to the police records and the testimony of the witnesses, the plaintiffs probably left the accident scene between 7:00 p.m. and 7:20 p.m.

Based on the above information, the possible theories were:

1) Plaintiff was telling the truth (unlikely). If the driver’s  logs were correct, this theory was  not plausible because the logs put the drivers at the BP station at 6:00 p.m.; prior to when the accident occurred.

2) Plaintiff went to the BP station and found the truck. This theory seemed  plausible; however, the driver logs did  not support it. According to the logs, the truck had left the BP station at 7:00 p.m. The plaintiffs did not leave the accident scene until after 7:00 p.m. Therefore, the truck would not have been  at the BP station when they arrived.

3) The Plaintiffs lied about going to the BP Station, and instead saw the  truck on the interstate after it left the truck stop. This seemed most  plausible because the he plaintiff  called the State Police (at about 7:30) from the accident site to report that she found the truck, but not from the BP station as she had testified. This also explains why she seemed reluctant to go back to the BP station to meet with the police.

4) The Plaintiffs went to the BP station just as the truck was leaving.
We calculated that if the client’s drivers drivers drove at an average of 60 miles an hour from Jackson, MS to Minden, LA, they could make the trip in just under 3 ½ hours. It took them 4 hours to get from Jackson, MS to Minden. The driver logs would put them in Minden well before the accident took place.

The accident allegedly took place at just after 6:15 central time near the Springhill-Dixie Inn exit of I-20 westbound. According to the drivers logs, the drivers were stopped at a truck stop west of the accident scene during the time of the accident.

The witness to the accident was entering I-20 on the Springhill-Dixie Inn exit heading west. She saw the tractor-trailer pass her as she was merging onto the interstate. She recalls that the trailer was shiny silver van with no writing on it that she could see. She could not remember the color of the tractor, but stated that she has no reason to disagree with her statement in the accident report indicating that the tractor was “royal blue.” She considers royal blue to be like the color of the blue field on a Texas flag.  She was shown photos of two trucks, one that is light blue and one that is darker blue. She stated that the light blue truck was definitely not what she considered to be “royal blue.” It is noteworthy that, when shown the same photo, the plaintiff indicated that the light blue truck was the one that caused the accident.

My client’s records indicated that their truck that was in the area at the time of the accident was light blue, but immediately following the accident the State Trooper attempted to elicit identifying information about the tractor-trailer that caused the accident. The information he received was too vague for him to put out a look-out to other troopers regarding the tractor-trailer that caused the accident. He did  not recall anyone giving him a partial tag number, a description of the driver, or information about the Florida emblem on the tractor.

After the trooper left the accident scene and was on his way back to the troop, he received a call from his desk sergeant to go to the BP station because Gilmore had located the truck. He went to the station, and met Gilmore next to a truck. She told him that she was mistaken; that the truck was not the correct one.

Another interesting lie was that the plaintiff claimed she recalled the tag because her step-father flew a plan with the same numbers on the wing. She didn’t work out the details with her step-father because he denied flying planes during his military service. He did not recall the tag number on the tractor-trailer.

The plaintiff’s step-father was called to the accident scene and was there within about 30 – 45 minutes. While he was there, the plaintiff wrote down the license number on a piece of paper she had in the car. He did not hear anyone describe the driver. When they left the accident scene, they stopped at the Goodwill Rd. BP station to get a drink. He drove around back, and both plaintiffs yelled that they saw the truck that it had a Florida state emblem on it.

He saw damage on the left, rear tires of the trailer. The tire had scratch marks all over them and the rims had traces of green paint. He saw no damage to the trailer. He described the trailer as a light color with a Florida emblem on the back.

He claimed they waited for about 30-40 minutes for an officer to arrive, but no one arrived. They drove back to the accident scene to see if the police were still there. No one was there, so they went back to the BP station. The truck was still parked, but the police were not there, so they left. After they left, neither the plaintiff or her mother made any phone calls.

The plaintiff’s mother said she wrote down the license plate number of the tractor-trailer that hit plaintiff, but she was  unable to find it. She saw the tractor-trailer while it was parked in the rear of a truck stop. It was light blue with a silver trailer. The back of the trailer had an outline of the State of Florida on it.

No one reported the partial tag number to the officers. But  while driving from the accident scene that “coincidentally”  were talking about “the war” and current events and how the plaintiff’s stepfather flew a C-47 or C-10 in the military. She said that she called the State Police the next day to report all of this but the trooper that investigated her accident was not in. The truck she saw at the truck stop had the same tag number that she saw on the road, and it had a mark on its tire from an impact.

The state police fraud investigator interviewed the Parish Sheriff’s Office dispatcher who received the calls from the plaintiff, who called and told her that she found the truck at the BP station. Within 10 minutes, the plaintiff  called back and said that the truck she found was not the one. The dispatcher reported that the plaintiff  called several times and said that she was not sure if the truck she found was the one. Several days later, the plaintiff called the  trooper that she recalled a partial plate number “C473” and that my client’s corporate logo was displayed on the side of the tractor.

Later the plaintiff contacted the Safety Director for my client to advise him that she had been hit by one of its trucks. She provided a partial FL tag number “C473.”:  However, the statement she gave to her insurance carrier was  that she could not remember anything about the truck at the time of the accident.

There were so many lies and inconsistencies in this case that her attorney settled the case for clerk of court costs. As my grandmother would have told the plaintiff:

 “Always tell the truth and you never have to remember what you said.”

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