• October 10, 2019

UPDATE: Ward Miller Killed; Vicky Miller, Walter Phipps Injured in Accident on I-40W in Iredell County, NC

UPDATE, October 11 2019: The passenger in the Lexus driven by Ward Miller has been identified as his wfie, 66-year-old Vicky Miller. The pickup driver was also identified as 63-year-old Walter Phipps.

51-year-old truck driver Charles Marlow Jr. has been charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle and failure to reduce speed.

Iredell County, NC -- On October 9, 2019, 65-year-old Ward Beecher Miller was killed and injuries were reported in an accident on Interstate 40 West in Iredell County.

Authorities say the incident happened shortly before 3:00 p.m. on the interstate near mile marker 156. Investigators believe
westbound traffic had stopped due to a brush fire next to the roadway. Witnesses say the crash happened when vehicles slowed down due to smoke drifting across the roadway. A Lexus was reportedly stopped in the right lane when a tractor-trailer swerved in to avoid the stopped traffic. The tractor-trailer hit the Lexus and a pickup truck that was pushed into another semi truck.

Miller, the driver of the Lexus, died at the scene. A passenger in the Lexus and the driver of the pickup truck were taken to the hospital.

No further information is available yet.

Commentary

If the news has the facts straight it seems likely that the truck driver is to blame for this fatal crash. I can't help but wonder why he didn't slow down before having to veer away from the traffic, though.

The answer will hopefully be found through a careful investigation. One potential explanation we've seen many times in past cases is that the driver was distracted and didn't notice how fast he was approaching other vehicles until it was almost too late. This could easily be another example of an electronic device--most likely a cell phone--causing a fatal commercial truck crash.

In the past our firm looked into a commercial driver's phone records only if it seemed particularly likely to be the cause of a crash. These days it's one of the first things we check, but it's rarely as simple as politely requesting them from the driver or his employer.

Here's an example of that point: We recently worked on a case where a big rig crashed into stopped traffic, critically injuring another driver. When we were brought in, we started gathering evidence and asked to see the truck driver's cell phone records. The trucking company told us the driver didn't even have a phone. We weren't buying that, especially when the driver later admitted when deposed that he did in fact have one. The trucking company lied to us, which we figured meant there was something they wanted to hide in those records.

Once it was clear the company wouldn't cooperate in good faith, we stopped asking politely and subpoenaed the records, utilizing the power of the courts to get what we needed. Once we had the data, we found out why they were trying to avoid handing it over: On the day of the crash their driver was watching adult movies instead of the road. With that critical information out in the open, the trucking company had little choice but to take responsibility for their employee's recklessness.

The details vary from case to case, but the idea remains the same: Trucking companies almost never accept responsibility without putting up a fight. No matter how devastating the wreck or how obvious the commercial driver's fault may seem, the burden ultimately falls to victims and their families to get the evidence that proves the trucker was responsible. The sooner they get investigators to look into the factors surrounding the crash, the sooner they can see justice done.

--Grossman Law Offices

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