A Framework for Trying Your Own Cases
Trial attorney Michael Cowen has handled over a thousand commercial trucking or company-owned vehicle cases. Many have resulted in six-, seven-, and even eight-figure settlements and verdicts. He’s spent the last several decades learning and discovering new and better ways to hold companies accountable for their bad conduct. Starting in 2019, Cowen began to hold case workshops to help other lawyers strengthen their trucking cases–offering advice and strategies based on his past experience. Across the workshops, one common question kept cropping up: “Exactly what is it that we are doing?” Realizing that the lawyers he was helping were looking for a series of steps they could take on their own, he began to draft a framework to empower them to do their own analysis and case development without him.
9 Steps for Developing and Winning Trucking Cases
Big Rig Justice: A Comprehensive Guide to Maximizing Value in Truck Accident Cases is Michael Cowen’s answer to any attorney seeking to learn how to handle trucking cases. In it, Cowen illustrates how to successfully apply his nine-step method for successfully working up, and winning, cases involving accidents with commercially-owned vehicles.
In part one, Cowen lays out his nine-step method:
- Initial triage
- Gather all available information
- Identify and analyze potential immediate causes
- Root cause analysis
- Draft jury instructions
- Find rules and anchors
- Formulate a discovery plan
- Continually re-evaluate the case
- Test the case
Cowen goes into the details of each step, mapping out each part and offering examples from past cases of his own. Michael also demonstrates how to develop your trial story as you complete each step and successfully frame the trucking company as the villain.
The Trucking Industry
In part two, Cowen provides an overview of the trucking industry. Cowen delves into the different regulations and rules–and the authorities that support those rules–that regulate the trucking industry to give you the background you need to try these cases. He also tells you how to find the regulations that govern motor carriers, and why you need to also know the realities of the industry so that you can understand why and when trucking companies are likely to make unsafe decisions that put people at risk. At the end of part two, Cowen discusses the evidence maintained by the government and trucking companies themselves, and how to get that evidence before it disappears.
The Different Types of Trucking Cases
Part three focuses on how to apply Cowen’s nine steps to different types of trucking cases. Cowen covers the most common crash scenarios, such as simple rear-end collisions, as well as more complex cases–such as when your client hits a parked tractor-trailer. This section also includes cases that deal with negligent training, bad hiring and retention practices, improper maintenance, fatigue, and distracted driving. In each type of case, Cowen offers examples of rules, safety regulations, government publications, driver handbooks, and materials from other trucking companies that you can use, as well as where to find them, and how to use documents and depositions to establish your case.
Unique Legal Issues
In the fourth and final part of Big Rig Justice, Cowen offers expert guidance on some of the legal issues that can be unique to trucking cases. Cowen draws from his decades of experience to offer insights on hiring and working with experts. He teaches strategies for resisting the defense’s attempts to hide evidence of bad conduct. And finally, Cowen details how you can make a case against brokers, shippers, and manufacturers–vital knowledge for claims in cases with catastrophic injuries caused by inadequately insured motor carriers.
Don’t Leave Money on the Table in Your Next Case
Trucking cases need to be handled differently from run-of-the-mill car crash cases. Cowen seeks to take what he’s learned from the decades of he’s cases tried, experts he’s hired, and consultants he’s worked with–from David Ball to Rodney Jew, Richard Jenson, and more–and pass that knowledge on to the next trial lawyers who will continue the work of holding companies accountable for their misconduct.
As Cowen puts it, “Your approach to a trucking case can have a dramatic effect on the outcome. Take two truck crash cases with identical facts and identical damages. One settles for hundreds of thousands of dollars; the other settles for millions. What is the difference?” In Big Rig Justice, Michael Cowen works to help you find the answer.
Part One: Theory and Method
1. The Method
2. The Trial Journey
3. Cast Your Villain
Part Two: The Trucking Industry
4. Understand the Trucking Industry
5. Rules and Anchors
6. What to Do Right Away
Part Three: Types of Cases
7. Negligent Hiring
8. Negligent Training
9. Negligent Supervision
11. Distracted Driving
12. Rear-End Collisions
13. Lane Changes
16. Backing Crashes
17. Improper Turns
18. Plaintiff Rear-Ends Tractor-Trailer
19. Drugs and Alcohol
20. Hazardous Weather Conditions
Part Four: Legal Issues
21. Other Defendants
22. Overcoming Stipulations
About the Author
What Legal Leaders Are Saying
— Joe Fried, nationally renowned truck crash educator and lawyer with $1 billion in recoveries, cofounder of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys
As a leader in handling truck crash cases and teaching strategies for effectively preparing and presenting trial cases, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that this is a must-read book for anyone who wants to learn how to be a better truck crash lawyer. No matter how much or how little experience you have in this field, you will learn from this book. It will save you time, keep you focused on the right things, and help you avoid pitfalls. Every trial lawyer and aspiring trial lawyer should read this book even if they have no interest in truck crash cases. It’s that good!