After a catastrophic truck crash, your first concern probably isn’t preserving evidence for your personal injury claims. But if you don’t act quickly, the trucking company might destroy valuable information that supports your case. Below, the truck accident lawyers at Phelan Petty explain the importance of an attorney-directed investigation in the aftermath of a tractor-trailer crash.
Serious Truck Accidents Require an Immediate Investigation
When a truck wreck occurs, trucking companies typically send a team of defense lawyers or investigators to the site. They are looking for ways to avoid or reduce the company’s responsibility for the crash. Sometimes, critical evidence “disappears,” weakening the truck wreck victim’s claims.
For example, federal trucking regulations require that drivers and companies retain their hours-of-service logs for only six months. Once this deadline passes, they will not hesitate to destroy logs suggesting the driver violated state or federal trucking laws.
The trucking company might also attempt to repair its damaged truck quickly, getting rid of poorly-maintained or defective tires, brakes, or other parts. The trucking company may argue that the 18-wheeler was repairable and they wanted to minimize lost profits. But repairing a truck (and disposing of tires, brakes, and other parts) can deny an accident victim access to important evidence.
At Phelan Petty, we quickly send preservation of evidence letters to negligent trucking companies and drivers. This can help stop the destruction of information and evidence that supports your claims against the driver, trucking company, truck manufacturer, or other parties.
Reviewing Truck Company Records and Data Can Strengthen Your Personal Injury Case
Trucking companies must keep detailed records about the driver’s performance, medical history, and vehicle inspections. Personal injury lawyers typically demand copies of these records and carefully look for evidence of negligent hiring, signs that a driver or a tractor-trailer was unsafe, and other misconduct. This evidence might include:
- Inadequate background checks during the hiring process
- Insufficient training for drivers
- Inconsistent drug and alcohol testing for drivers
- Patterns of crashes, reckless driving, or policy violations
- Pressure on drivers to overload trucks, avoid truck maintenance, or violate federal hours of service and safe driving regulations
- Shoddy inspections or mechanical repairs
Without guidance from a personal injury lawyer, you might not gather crucial details like these that can strengthen your case.
Related Article: Virginia Trucking Companies Indicted for Hours of Service Conspiracy
Black Box and Telematic Data Can Help Prove the Driver’s Negligence
Modern tractor-trailers typically carry complicated, high-tech monitoring and driver-assistance devices. These devices rely on telematics (a combination of GPS, cellular radios, cameras, and sensors) to monitor the truck’s systems, speed, braking, and other operations. Trucking companies use this data to track their vehicles, diagnose mechanical problems, and improve driver performance.
However, this data is also a powerful tool for personal injury lawyers. A successful truck accident claim requires evidence that the driver or trucking company failed to protect you from harm or acted recklessly. We may be able to use telematics data to identify these violations. For example, black box data might suggest that:
- A driver was speeding and braked suddenly before a collision
- Distracted driving caused an accident
- The driver or truck company ignored evidence of brake, tire, or other mechanical failures
Unfortunately, unlike logbooks, there are very few rules about the retention of black box or telematics data. Unless you immediately send a preservation letter to the trucking company, this data might be lost forever.
Experts and Your Attorney Can Analyze the Accident Scene and Tractor-Trailer
Experts can reconstruct crashes based on an examination of the scene and the vehicles involved. The debris field, tire tracks and skid marks, damage profiles, and complicated algorithms can be used to identify factors that caused or contributed to the wreck. Additionally, a physical examination of the truck might identify defective parts and maintenance issues that caused or contributed to the collisions=”NormalTextRun SCXW145843294″>.
Interviewing Witnesses Can Lead to Important Evidence
Over time, memories fade. Neuroscientists sometimes talk about the “forgetting curve.” Over time, our memories become more generalized and hazy. One study famously reported that test subjects lost 50% of information only one hour after a new memory was created.
This is why it’s important to get witness statements as quickly as possible. A Virginia personal injury lawyer can help you identify important witnesses and get detailed, written statements about your truck crash. These documents can help refresh a witness’ memory and serve as evidence during a truck wreck claim.
Phelan Petty: We Fight for Virginia Truck Accident Victims
The team at Phelan Petty serves truck accident victims with life-changing injuries. Our goal is to help our clients rebuild after a traumatic wreck and recover fair compensation for their injuries. If you’d like to learn more about our personalized approach to truck accident claims, contact us online or by calling (866) 249-3164 for a free consultation.
Lacy, J., Stark, C. (2013, September). The neuroscience of memory: implications for the courtroom. Nature Reviews: Neuroscience. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183265/
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
Michael Phelan is a Virginia trial attorney who practices with a special focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases, pharmaceutical and medical device claims, product liability cases, and truck accidents. Michael’s peers have consistently recognized him for his excellence as a trial lawyer, and his clients have praised him for his commitment to deep research, his outstanding communication skills, and his sincerity and dedication.