While most people would assume that the biggest challenge to the trucking industry are fuel prices, fewer drivers interested in doing the job, or competition from other forms of cargo transport, a more immediate threat stalks the highways of our nation. This danger strikes without warning, upends lives, and like a stealth tsunami, leaves tragedy in its wake.
Despite the seeds of destruction that it routinely sows upon the highways, this motoring menace has never actually been seen. However, like the dark energy that accelerates our ever expanding universe, we can infer its existence by the effects it has on other motorists, particularly truck drivers.
Only in hushed, quivering whispers among themselves, or in shouts from the mountain tops to police officers immediately after an accident, do drivers ever dare to speak his name...Mystery Driver. (Spanish truck drivers call him El Conductor Mysterio.)
The Mystery Driver Went Down to San Antonio...
...he was lookin' for a truck to wreck. He found his mark on an eerily calm, clear evening, Friday, February 3rd. Along Loop 410, between I-37 and W.W. White Road, Mystery Driver struck.
A completely innocent truck driver was lawfully in the passing lane on northbound Loop 410, when, like a bolt of lighting from a cloudless sky, Mystery Car made his move. He cut right in front of the guileless truck driver. Startled and lacking time to assess the situation, the irreproachable truck driver swerved into the grassy median to avoid Mystery Car. Once in the median, the driver lost control of his truck, crossed over into oncoming traffic, and the tractor-trailer jackknifed. At least 2 cars crashed into the stricken truck.
When all was said and done, Mystery Car's mayhem left 7 people injured, including one person who had to be airlifted to a local hospital.
According to news reports, the truck driver told police very clearly that he was cut off by Mystery Driver. This is a lucky break for the truck driver and the community at large. In order for the truck driver to have had no choice but to drive into the median, there should be some tread marks where either he, Mystery Driver, or both left in the road. This means if the police pursued this lead, then there is a chance that Mystery Driver can be brought to justice.
How Mystery Driver Complicates the Pursuit of Justice
There are people who collided with the truck when it came into their lane and sustained injuries. These people will naturally feel that they are deserved a measure of justice for those injuries. If this were a normal 18-wheeler accident and the truck driver simply lost control and ended up in the wrong lane, it would be pretty clear that liability rests with the truck driver. If that were the case, then the path to compensation would be much clearer.
However, as I've noted above, this incident isn't that simple. After all, it would hardly be fair to hold the trucking company and their insurance provider responsible for an accident that was so clearly caused by Mystery Driver.
For instance, if Bob Jones had been driving his Dodge Stratus and cut off the truck driver, forcing him from the road, then those injured would have a clear wrong-doer in their pursuit of justice. But Mystery Driver isn't like other drivers. Like a phantasmagoria become real, Mystery Driver appears out of nowhere and to nowhere returns as soon as his devilish deeds are done.
For the injured left in Mystery Driver's wake, can the law be on their side? Is their away to bring to account a driver that no one can see, who can only be inferred by the brutal aftermath of his deeds?
We all know that the only thing that can blame and bind the truck driver for driving through the median, losing control of his trailer, having it jack-knife in the face of oncoming traffic, and injuring 7 people is, a jury of ordinary Texans. Of course, how can reasonable, fair-minded Texans hold a truck driver accountable for what is obviously Mystery Driver's fault?
This means that in the interest of justice for the hundreds of truck drivers who have been injured or killed through the years as a result of Mystery Driver, and so that victims in this accident can be made whole for their injuries, we have to expend whatever resources are necessary to track down and hold Mystery Driver accountable for his decades of wrong-doing.
Unmasking the Mystery Driver
The idea of Mystery Driver, an agent of chaos, who leaves injured and dead people strewn across the highway sounds absurd. However, with a bit of literary license, my absurd description of the Mystery Driver is one that trucking companies and their insurers make in litigation every day.
I'm not suggesting that truck drivers are never cut off or put in dangerous positions by other motorists. However, when a truck driver is truly endangered by another motorist, there will generally be tire marks or some other physical evidence. Often there are corroborating eyewitnesses who stop to render aid. The problem is that after many accidents, the police responding to the scene are primarily concerned with helping the injured and determining whether or not someone committed a crime. If they don't suspect a crime, they will often take a truck driver's word that they were cut off and not look for corresponding evidence.
I don't say this to pick on police officers. In most jurisdictions, accidents involving 18-wheelers are so uncommon that it would be a waste of limited time and resources to train officers to properly investigate these accidents. That just makes the need for a prompt investigation by an outside party who is properly trained that much more important.
Anytime someone at our office reads about an accident where a truck driver claims that a vehicle, which is nowhere to be found, is responsible for the accident, someone invariably says, "The Mystery Driver strikes again." Grossman Law Offices has seen hundreds of truck accident cases over the years and knows that when the only explanation for an accident is that a truck driver screwed up, invariably the Mystery Driver will be part of the story.
The truth is that commercial insurance companies respond very quickly to these accidents. In many instances, an insurance adjuster will be on the scene and coaching the truck driver about what to say, even before the police have a chance to take their statement. I don't blame truck drivers for doing what they're told. They're professionals in a bad situation who just want to stay out of trouble. In most instances they made an honest mistake and we don't put people in jail for honest mistakes. That doesn't mean that a commercial insurance agent won't instill unfounded fears into a driver, in order to get the driver to say something that benefits the insurance company.
Those who pay the price for these games are the injured and the dead. While the Mystery Driver may be an absurd contrivance, it doesn't mean that it can't harm victims' quests for justice. Every bit of blame that is placed on a Mystery Driver reduces the responsibility of the negligent trucking company. This in turn can mean that innocent victims don't recover the full value of their lost wages, medical bills, or other damages associated with these types of accidents.
The Mystery Driver is one aspect of truck accidents where not only what you don't know can hurt you, but also what you can't see, hear, or even prove exists can still cause tremendous harm.