Milwaukee. The attorneys at the New Berlin firm, Gatzke Law, acted quickly following an accident to preserve critical evidence and then used that evidence to win a $1 million jury verdict in a Waukesha County wrongful death case.
The client was killed in a motorcycle crash when he was struck by a truck as he crossed the intersection of W. Beloit Road and S. Moorland Road on his way to work in New Berlin in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 19.
The client, 38 and the father of three, worked as a machinist and was on his way to work just before 6 a.m. when he was struck by another motorist, who was driving a brand new leased truck. The client was traveling westbound on Beloit, the other driver was driving southbound on Moorland.
New Berlin police completed their investigation over the weekend, and on the next Tuesday morning, they notified the lessor that they could pick up the damaged truck from the police impound lot. In the meantime, the client’s widow met with the life insurance agent representing the decedent and gave him details, as she knew them, from the accident. The insurance agent, sensing that there might be a claim to be made for the accident, advised the widow to contact the attorneys at Gatzke Law and have them investigate to determine if she might have the basis for a claim.
Upon being contacted on Monday afternoon, investigators from Gatzke’s office went to look at the scene of the accident and inspected the car in the NB police impound facility. Gatzke’s investigators were stunned to learn that police had not downloaded information from the truck’s computer which could be used to determine a number of factors including vehicle speed at impact. When Gatzke’s investigators learned that the vehicle was going to be released on Tuesday, they notified Gatzke who prepared an emergency Order and got it signed by the duty Judge on Monday evening and then presented the Order to the police preventing them from returning the car on Tuesday morning. Had the vehicle been returned to Enterprise, the data in the onboard computer would have been lost forever.
The onboard data recorder constantly records a series of data feeds, including the vehicle speed, engine RPM’s, and whether or not the brakes are engaged, and whenever the air bag is deployed, the data recorder freezes the five seconds of data immediately preceding air bag deployment.
Once the Court-order was in place, Gatzke Law retained Robert Krenz, a professional engineer and traffic reconstruction expert, to inspect the vehicle and download the data. What the data revealed was staggering.
Contrary to the other motorist’s statement that he had slowed nearly to a stop as he approached the intersection, and then accelerated when his light turned green, the vehicle data recorder indicated that his speed was a constant 45 miles per hour during the entire 5 seconds before impact. In addition, the brakes were never engaged prior to impact and the vehicles RPM’s were constant for the entire five seconds before the truck struck the motorcycle.
Gatzke Law’s investigators then went to work and found witnesses who saw the client stopped at the red light at Beloit and Moorland waiting for the light to change, and they found a security video from a nearby gas station that confirmed the witness accounts of the client’s actions before the accident.
At the trial In Waukesha County, the other driver repeated the story he had told police and New Berlin police testified in his favor, albeit they were forced to admit, under questioning by Gatzke, that they had done an inadequate investigation. Gatzke then presented the data recovered by his experts and the witnesses who testified as to what they had seen.
Without an actual witness who could testify that the client had the right of way, Gatzke presented an argument based on the available evidence, challenged the other driver’s honest recollection of what happened, and was able to convince the jury that the driver who hit the client was at fault. The jury awarded the client’s wife $1 million in damages.