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.
Jafri Jamaludin 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.
Jamaludin, 38 and the father of three, worked at Spirit Manufacturing in New Berlin 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, owned by Enterprise. Jamaludin was traveling westbound on Beloit, the other driver was driving southbound on Moorland. Paquin told responding police officers that as he approached the intersection he slowed almost to a stop, when his light changed to green and he accelerated through the intersection. He claimed that Jamaludin ran the red light and “just appeared” in front of him and that he could not avoid striking the motorcyclist. Based on his statement, the New Berlin police determined that Jamaludin was at fault and issued no charges or tickets to the other driver.
New Berlin police completed their investigation over the weekend, and on the next Tuesday morning they notified Enterprise that they could pick up the damaged truck from the police impound lot. In the meantime, Jamaludin’s widow met with the life insurance agent representing Spirit Manufacturing on Monday, 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.
Doreen Jamaludin contacted Gatzke Law on Monday afternoon, and 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 to Enterprise 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 to Enterprise 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 Jamaludin 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 Jamaludin’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 Jamaludin 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 Jamaludin was at fault. The jury awarded Jamaludin’s wife $1 million in damages.