The North Carolina State Highway Patrol reported that four (4) separate witnesses called them about the horrendous crash caused by tractor-trailer driver Michael Gray Rigsbee, 38, of Creedmore. Rigsbee struck a motorcycle ridden by Sean Christopher Newman, 38, of Cary near mile marker 220 in Henderson, North Carolina. The collision sent Newman into the median. Newman was thrown from his motorcycle, and authorities say he was killed instantly.
When Rigsby failed to stop after the collision, witnesses contacted the Highway Patrol and followed the criminal truck driver until State Troopers caught up with him and pulled him over some 20 miles south of the wreck scene. Troopers arrested Rigsby and charged him with 2nd degree murder, felony hit & run, failure to render aid following a collision, and careless and reckless driving. The truck driver is still in jail in Vance County under a $120,000 bond. He will have his first appearance before a district court judge on Monday. His attorney will likely seek to have his bond reduced.
The victim’s family disclosed that Mr. Newman worked as a freelance photo journalist and had traveled all over the world. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Julie, and they had a seven (7) year old son. They were also in the process of adopting a little girl from Korea.
Troopers have not released any information about what their investigation into the wreck discovered. This author is confident that State Troopers downloaded the electronic data from the truck’s electronic control module (ECM). The ECM is also often referred to as a truck’s black box because it contains so much information about what was happening with the truck in the time surrounding a crash. ECMs record data such as the truck’s speed prior to and following a crash, the truck engine’s RPMs in relation to a hard braking event, and whether and precisely when the truck’s brakes were applied in a hard fashion. This data can be used in correlation with the physical evidence at the scene to reconstruct how and why a collision happened.
Following a crash, many truck companies and/or their insurance company deploy a crash response team to the scene of the wreck. The goal of a crash response team is to gather whatever data is available and minimize the truck company’s liability if possible. Unscrupulous and notorious crash response teams have been referred to as “cleaners” or “sanitizers,” referring to the fact that all of the harmful evidence was gone after they finished their work.
Crash response teams are usually made up of a professional accident investigator, an accident reconstruction engineer, a professional insurance adjuster and sometimes a trucking defense attorney. The information gathered by these teams is often withheld in a lawsuit on the grounds that the data was gathered in anticipation of litigation and is subject to the attorney work product privilege because the data was gathered after an attorney was hired for the truck company. In our cases against truck drivers and their companies, we often have to seek a judge’s help in forcing the truck company to disclose the data gathered by the crash response team.
To make sure the truck company does not destroy or erase valuable evidence following a crash such as this, it is important that an experienced truck accident attorney be retained by the victim or victim’s family as early as possible so that the truck company and its insurers are put on notice to preserve all such evidence. A company’s failure to preserve important evidence after being put on notice is called “spoliation.” Courts will impose judicial sanctions against truck companies for intentionally or carelessly failing to preserve evidence. To read about what needs to be done to protect a victim’s rights following a collision with a tractor-trailer, click on this link.
Davis Law Group helps the victims and survivors of interstate truck collisions throughout North Carolina and the southeast. If you would like to speak to a very experienced truck accident lawyer, contact truck accident attorney Brian Davis. Mr. Davis was just named as a first tier personal injury lawyer by US News – Best Lawyers for 2010. Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected organization in the US to rank attorneys by practice group. Consultations at Davis Law Group are free.