Why Evidence Collection is Important When Investigating Truck Accidents
When it comes to accidents on the road, there is nothing worse than one involving a semi truck. Truck accidents have the highest rate of fatality and damage when compared to other types of vehicle accidents. When someone is involved in a truck accident, there is a very high chance that even if they survive they will be left with devastating injuries that could cause lifelong health problems and a diminished quality of life.
When it comes to proving liability, the unique thing about truck accidents is that there is often a lot of evidence to look over. If the truck company is the party that is liable, they have records and data that can be examined, for example. If the trucking company is to blame, then there is the possibility of compensation from the company for your injuries and lost wages. To do that, there must be an investigation that proves the company was negligent in a manner that led to the accident.
Investigating a Truck Accident
When investigating a truck accident, evidence must be gathered to prove the culpability of the negligent parties. In most cases, a trucking company has the upper hand since they are the ones in possession of many of the most important documents. They can “misfile” or lose certain documents that might demonstrate that they were negligent or following improper procedures. In fact, in many cases the negligence lies in the fact that certain documents have been lost or destroyed and are unable to be produced.
Many trucking files don’t have to be kept for very long. In fact, record of duty status documents for drivers only have to be kept for six months. Roadside inspection reports are only required to be kept for twelve months, and vehicles inspections for only 14. This means that if you want to pursue compensation from a trucking company, you cannot delay. The process needs to be started as soon as possible to make sure that you can access those documents should you need them.
Types of Evidence From Truck Accidents
There are several different types of evidence than an experienced truck accident injury attorney can examine to determine negligence. They include:
- Driver logs
- Police reports
- Driver qualifications, licenses, and driving history
- Tire marks
- Inspection reports
- Witness statements
- Onboard recording devices
- Phone records
- Truck company compliance
- The wreckage itself.
Any one of these pieces of evidence can provide a piece of the picture as to what happened and who was at fault.
Even though records may be destroyed by a trucking company, attorneys and victims do have a legal way to ensure that they preserve them. A spoliation letter is a legal request that certain documents be put aside for use in a future case. The trucking company and their insurance company are legally required to do so. A personal injury attorney will have to make sure to be specific about what they want, since if something isn’t named in the letter it is unlikely to be preserved.
Of course, trucking companies can still claim to have lost documentation or data. However, they can’t do this too often, otherwise it will look suspicious. Much of the most important information that can be used as evidence is legally required to be collected and stored by the trucking company. With a spoliation letter, an attorney can request documents such as inspection reports, accident scene photos, onboard recordings, and inspection reports.
One of the tricks that trucking companies like to pull is to clean up and repair the wreckage from their vehicle before it can be examined. If the truck was not up to safety standards before the accident, you can bet that it will be once it is repaired. Evidence of negligence with regards to those safety standards would be gone for good at that point. This is another reason why you need to move fast if you want to get compensation for your injuries. That truck and its maintenance records must be examined before the evidence can be lost.
Examining the Documentation
There can be any number of things that attorneys and their investigative teams will look for in the documentation that was successfully provided form the trucking company. They will want to make sure that the truck was inspected as per regulations, and that the driver at the time of the accident had been compliant with their hours of service limits. The electronic on board recording data will show if there is a discrepancy between the driver’s submitted hours and the actual hours the truck was running. They can also check if the driver had been making a call on their mobile phone at the time of the accident through phone records.
Nowadays there is much more data available than in the past. For instance, if there is a question of how fast the truck was going, its GPS data will have it recorded. Many vehicles on the road have mounted cameras as well, which provide valuable footage of accidents and what happened immediately prior and after. Investigators will also go over police reports, including driver statements and witness statements to get a complete picture of what happened.
Investigators must also dig into the driver’s history. This includes their driving history, but also anything else that might be relevant. Have they taken the proper training courses and received certification for that type of vehicle? Do they have traffic violations and accidents on their abstract? Medical records can also provide some illumination on whether they should have been behind the wheel in the first place. While it might not be dangerous to drive a personal vehicle with certain medical issues, driving the largest vehicle on the road is a different story.
Investigate the Trucking Company
It could be that the trucking company itself has a history of being negligent with its record-keeping. Or, they may have been subject to personal injury claims in the past due to their lack of standards and adherence to state and federal regulations. The investigation should always pursue this avenue as it can prove a pattern of negligent behavior that is leading to dangerous situations on the road.
Witness statements are powerful in a court proceeding. They can help clarify what actually happened and provide much-needed context. This is the hardest type of evidence to gather, since most witnesses wander off when things seem to be back under control at the scene of an accident. Usually it’s the police who will try to canvas for witnesses, but it can be very difficult if nobody left their names or contact information.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, or a loved one has died or been seriously injured, then don’t delay in contacting Henderson Law for help. Time is of the essence to gather the necessary evidence to prove that a trucking company has been negligent in a way that led to the accident. We will fight for your rights and get you the best possible outcome for your case. Please contact us today or call (410) 721-1979.