Bibb County couple killed in crash

A husband and wife from Macon were killed in a crash involving a tractor-trailer Sunday afternoon in southern Baldwin County.  The fatal collision happened at the intersection of Vinson Highway, also known as Ga. Highway 112, and the Fall Line Freeway, near the Georgia Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

According to the Georgia State Patrol, a Howard Sheppard Inc. semi-truck was traveling south on Vinson Highway and ran the stop sign at the Fall Line Freeway intersection. The tractor-trailer then entered the Fall Line Freeway and was struck on the left side by the Ford F-150 driven by John Woodford. Following the impact, the Howard Sheppard truck rolled over onto the F-150 pickup, killing both John and Joan Woodford.

The GSP Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team (SCRT) is conducting a follow-up investigation, and charges are pending the results of the investigation.  

One must reserve judgment pending investigation, but the list of possible causes may include driver distraction (e.g., cell phone, texting, GPS manipulation, video streaming, food or beverage, etc.), driver impairment (medical, fatigue, impaired vision, diminished coordination, drugs, alcohol, etc.), excessive speed,  mechanical failure, or other possible causes.

The first priority for the surviving family members is the need to process grief and celebrate the life of the loved one who was killed.  In such cases it is important for family members to act quickly to make sure the case is properly investigated. Tractor-Trailer crashes are not just big car crashes.   Most family members will need a lawyer skilled in handling tractor-trailer crashes to make certain all possible evidence is gathered quickly and will be presented correctly.

Commercial vehicles generally have a great deal of data that can be downloaded after a crash. If police fail to do a thorough investigation and reconstruction, and allow a truck to be removed from impound before the family has a chance to send its own investigator, that electronic data evidence may be lost.

The first step in such an investigation is to immediately serve the company with a notice of the need to preserve evidence, including a list of categories of evidence to preserve inviolate. Then an inspection should be scheduled with a competent accident reconstruction expert.

The trucking company’s insurance company usually has a “go-team” ready around the clock to get to the crash scene, preserve evidence and speak with investigators and witnesses.  Our goal, when we get the case early enough, is to get our own reconstruction investigator to the crash scene as soon as humanly possible to preserve the evidence, make certain the insurance “go-team” doesn’t misplace any evidence or try to improperly persuade investigators or witnesses.

Root cause analysis of these totally preventable and unnecessary crashes usually goes back to corporate management, training and supervision.  If a driver was lost, it is likely because dispatch failed to provide good directions and GPS systems. If the driver was tired, we need to consider whether the company adequately monitored fatigue and hours of service compliance, including the auditing driver logs against available documents to catch log falsification.

The bottom line is that an 18-wheeler driver simply cannot safely run through a stop sign on a public road.  Every time a tractor-trailer driver runs a stop sign, he creates a clear and present risk of injury or death to any of us.

Trucking companies are often unyielding when protecting themselves against liability and will take every measure to refute claims, even if they are obviously responsible for a crash.  Having an experienced truck crash attorney on your side who is well-versed with the legal process involving trucking companies is essential to success. To schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, contact our firm today at (478) 741-0024 and let us help ensure justice for you and your family.

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