When the Connecticut State Police Accident Reconstruction Unit concluded that Nicholas Silva, age 23, was killed due to his own negligence and inattention to driving after his new Ford Fusion had struck the rear of a truck and trailer on the night of November 28, 2010, his parents, Frank and Kelley Silva, refused to accept their son was at fault.
The State Police reported to the Silva family that young Nicholas could not have been watching where he was going as he drove directly into the back of a trailer at 50 MPH that had stopped and was waiting to turn left off Rt. 6 in Killingly, Connecticut. The State Police suggested Nicholas may have been on his cell phone, texting or playing with the radio as young drivers often do, since there were no other reasonable explanations. The flat bed trailer that Nicholas struck was carrying a skid steer, a piece of heavy machinery, on it and was being pulled by a dump truck operated by Robert Navan, an excavation contractor. The several State Police troopers who had responded to the scene within minutes noted in the police report that they observed the rear taillights on the trailer Nicholas struck were working when they arrived, the truck and trailer were stopped in the road and there was no evidence that Silva had attempted to stop. The truck driver and his passenger insisted at the scene they did nothing wrong as they were stopped waiting to make a left turn with left directional signals on when hit. That night the State Police impounded both the truck and trailer and Silva’s Ford after flat bedding them from the scene. The investigating officers examined the vehicles and the truck and trailer were then released to Navan, and concluded Silva, "after being distracted for unknown reasons… was at fault in this accident." Frank Silva was not satisfied. As second in command of the Providence Fire Department Mr. Silva had been involved in numerous complex fire investigations and he felt there were too many unanswered questions.
The Silvas sought out a Connecticut lawyer to take on the task of determining why their son would have driven into the rear of the trailer without attempting to stop. He knew Nicholas had Bluetooth on his car phone and that the cell phone records showed Nicholas was not using the phone at the time of the accident. They were bothered that an eyewitness who was following Nicholas’ vehicle that night had reported to the police she did not see the truck or trailer before Nicholas hit it, and that the police disregarded her account in their report because the troopers on the scene claimed they saw that the trailer lights were on and had even documented this that night in scene photos.
The first Connecticut law firm Frank Silva contacted was unwilling to take his case, so he contacted The Reardon Law Firm of New London. According to Bob Reardon, "When we met with the Silvas, we felt we needed to immediately meet with the eyewitness, retain a reconstructionist and examine the trailer, if it had not been repaired. Within days of being retained, we found the trailer on a site, noticed it had not been repaired and photographed the poor condition of its wiring. We then interviewed the woman eyewitness and found her quite credible when she told us she was absolutely positive none of the lights on the trailer were working as she was right behind the Silva vehicle when the crash occurred."
After retaining experts on visual acuity, human factors, truck and trailer maintenance, and accident reconstruction, Reardon was able to conduct a complete inspection of the truck and trailer with this team of experts. They found numerous wiring problems with the trailer causing the trailer lights to only function intermittently. In fact, during a videotaping of the inspection, the defendant, Navan, was asked to turn on the taillights and at first he could not get them to work.
Depositions of the investigating troopers revealed many inadequacies in their vehicle inspection done the morning after the accident. To discredit the troopers claim that the scene photos showed the taillights on, plaintiff’s visual acuity expert demonstrated that police just were only seeing the reflection of their own cruiser headlights parked behind the trailer in the taillight reflector lens. Since Silva was going about 50MPH, the plaintiff’s accident reconstruction showed that his perception-reaction time would not have allowed Silva sufficient time to apply his brakes once his headlights shined on the stopped unlighted trailer.
After researching the assets of the truck driver, a self-employed excavator and finding virtually none, the plaintiff demanded in settlement the truck’s $750K liability policy limit. Faced with a compelling case that the State Police conclusions were very questionable, the defendant’s insurance carrier changed its valuation from a "no pay" position to paying its entire policy limit to settle the case.
"The Silva family was deeply appreciative that Kelly Reardon, Joseph Barnes and I were willing to not accept a state police report as gospel. It was a very challenging case. The Silva family and The Reardon Law Firm are pleased Nicholas has been vindicated," said Bob Reardon.