Being involved in any motor vehicle crash is serious. It can be traumatizing, with long-lasting and devastating effects. However, being involved in a big truck accident leads to disproportionately high injury rates and fatalities compared with involvement in a car crash. This is not surprising, given the increased size, weight and impact force of big trucks. These trucks, also known as semis, big rigs, tractor-trailers, and 18-wheelers, can weigh up to 80,000 pounds with their loads.
Collecting critical evidence for truck crash cases is more complicated than for standard vehicle accidents. In the case of a big rig accident, the fault could lie with the driver, the trucking company, the shipper, the parts manufacturer, the loading company - or someone or something else.
This article will help you understand the differences in gathering critical evidence in truck crash cases versus other motor vehicle accidents.
What Should You Do First?
If you or your loved one has been involved in any kind of motor vehicle accident, you should:
- Seek medical care right away. You could be in shock and not aware yet of your injuries, or there could be effects from the accident that don’t show up right away. Get any necessary tests and treatment, and keep records and documentation from all medical sources, including EMT personnel if they are involved.
- Speak with witnesses. Memories fade over time and become unreliable, so get witness names, phone numbers, addresses, etc., and a statement from each person right away. If you cannot do this yourself, have a trusted family member, friend, or legal representation obtain witness statements for you.
- Get a copy of the accident report. The police will generate the official report, and you can request a copy for your records.
- Take pictures of the scene. If you cannot take them yourself, have someone do it for you, possibly an expert your lawyer has hired for you that can later testify in court if needed. This is also important to do right away as there may be skid marks, an unsafe construction area, an obstruction in the road - something that may not be there later. The police or the media may also take valuable pictures that will support your claim.
If you or your loved one has been involved in an accident with a truck, it becomes more complicated. There are many more federal regulations and industry standards governing the trucking industry, and there is much more critical evidence to be collected.
Critical Evidence for Truck Crash Cases
Drug and alcohol testing. In most cases involving physical injury or a fatality, federal regulations mandate that a commercial vehicle driver be tested for alcohol and drugs, including prescription drugs.
Truck inspection at the scene. Police at the scene will also request a certified truck inspector to examine the truck before removing it from the scene and include their findings in the final accident report. This will ensure an accurate record of the truck's condition at the time of the accident. If the trucking company has repairs made subsequently, the original condition is part of the record.
Document retention. The FMCSA requires that certain documents be kept for specific periods of time. Logbooks, for example, must be kept for six months, while data from the truck’s black box can be recorded over within 30 days - or sooner. This data must be acquired quickly.
Even so, these requirements aren’t always strictly adhered to, so to increase your chances of getting them, you need a truck crash attorney, one who specializes in this type of case. Your attorney will send a spoliation letter to the trucking company right away, notifying them of your claim and instructing them to keep the evidence specified in the letter. Your attorney can also file a temporary restraining order on your behalf to preserve all relevant evidence.
Additional Critical Evidence
There are many questions to be answered and investigated, including:
- Was the driver properly trained? What were their qualifications?
- Was anything deliberately overlooked, either during the hiring process or after?
- Did the driver keep an accurate log?
- Are the driver’s inspection records up-to-date? Was the driver trying to make up for lost time, either on his own initiative or upon company request?
- What were the results of the post-collision alcohol and drug tests?
And that’s just the beginning. Critical evidence involving truck crash cases that must be obtained, analyzed, and evaluated include:
- Black box data from the truck
- Truck maintenance history
- Data from onboard communication systems, including cell phone usage
- Trip monitoring documents
- Downloads of the onboard systems
- Bills of lading
- Weight tickets
- Dispatch instructions
- Trip envelopes
- Delivery documents
- And more
The importance of consulting with an experienced truck accidentattorney and having them on your side to gather, dissect and interpret the evidence to support your case cannot be overstated. As mentioned earlier, truck crash accidents are often catastrophic; the cases are complicated, and the fault could lie in several places.
These types of cases are challenging, and even when negligence can be proved, commercial insurers go to great lengths to negotiate as small a settlement as possible. At Bostwick & Peterson, we can help you understand your rights and options.
We have passionately defended, represented and protected our clients’ rights in the San Francisco Bay Area and won over $1 billion in settlements and verdicts for them in catastrophic cases. We care.
If you or a loved one has suffered catastrophic loss, including cases of wrongful death, call us today at (888) 831-8448 for a FREE consultation and learn how we may be able to help you.