Any type of motor vehicle accident can disrupt your life. An accident with a commercial truck, however, can be especially traumatic and the aftermath can be much more devastating due to these vehicles’ massive size, incredible weight, and lack of maneuverability.
Unfortunately, these dangerous wrecks are especially common in Texas. In 2015, for example, Texas had 34,230 crashes involving a commercial vehicle, and these wrecks caused 7,892 injuries and 601 fatalities. Both of these figures represent the highest totals of any state in the country for 2015.
Like with any accident, it is important to gather and preserve as much evidence as possible after a crash involving a tractor-trailer or other large truck; however, this can prove challenging in a trucking accident case because evidence from commercial trucking accidents are treated differently. Commercial trucking companies must follow industry and federal rules and regulations on top of those at the state level, meaning that there is a lot more evidence (and related procedural complexity) unique to these accidents compared to a typical motor vehicle crash.
Evidence Unique to Trucking Accidents
When any vehicle accident occurs, it is important to contact the police and emergency medical services first. If you are able, thoroughly document the accident scene with photos; try and capture everything from highway and weather conditions to injuries and vehicle damage. After that, collect witness contact information and make sure any witnesses talk to police to give a formal statement of what they saw. Don’t let anyone remove anything from the accident scene until everything is properly and formally documented and the police are involved.
Three separate categories of evidence need to be collected in the course of a trucking-related lawsuit; these three categories pertain to whether the evidence involves the driver, the vehicle, or the cargo.
Examples of evidence regarding the driver:
- Training files
- Driving log
- Post-accident drug and alcohol test
Examples of evidence regarding the truck:
- Maintenance and inspection history documents
- Data from the truck’s communications, video, and GPS systems
- Data from the onboard module systems (engine control and brakes, for example)
Examples of evidence regarding the cargo load:
- Bills of loading
- Weight tickets
- Dispatch instructions
- Delivery documents
This evidence helps to create a bigger picture of what happened before the accident: Had the driver had enough sleep and breaks, as mandated by federal trucking laws? Was the truck’s maintenance adequate? Was the driver following company policies and federal safety regulations? Did the cargo or the way it was loaded contribute to the crash? This information is critical to proving liability and/or negligence on the part of the driver or trucking company.
Obtaining all the evidence you need can be challenging, and, without all the evidence, it might be more difficult to prove liability. Gathering everything you need in a timely manner may require some assistance from an attorney who understands these complex crashes and the many types of evidence they often involve.
Obtaining Evidence in a Trucking Case
Obtaining the needed evidence in a trucking accident case can be difficult as an individual victim. This is especially true when you are busy with medical appointments, physical therapy, family matters, and all the other complications that tend to follow a severe accident. If you’re trying to investigate your truck wreck and obtain evidence yourself, you may end up feeling like there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get everything you need accomplished for your case and also get your life back on track.
In the case of gathering evidence after a commercial trucking accident, however, time is of the essence, and action needs to be taken as soon as possible. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—the federal agency that regulates the trucking industry—only requires that certain information such as driver logs be documented and filed for a certain amount of time, usually six months to one year. This generally means that waiting beyond this period can be harmful to your case.
If an accident with a commercial truck occurs, the trucking company should keep all documentation regarding the driver, truck maintenance, and that day’s cargo regardless of the timeframe. Even though the law requires them to save all crash-related documentation, however, it doesn’t mean they will. The longer you wait to work with an attorney and compel the trucking company to retain all the evidence that relates to your crash, the more likely it is that you’re too late to get the needed evidence.
It is also possible that the driver or trucking company might intentionally destroy or falsify evidence. Even though this is illegal, it does happen and can hurt your chances of getting the compensation you need and deserve. This is why it’s important to act quickly and get someone on your side fighting for you who can recognize when the trucking company has broken the law.
Why Hiring an Attorney Can Make the Difference in a Trucking Accident Case
Hiring an experienced tucking attorney can help you navigate the complicated landscape of commercial trucking accidents and obtain all possible evidence. This is critical in the success of your claim. It is best to begin with a spoliation letter, which lets the trucking company know that you want to obtain certain pieces of evidence to prove their liability and negligence in an accident. Once the trucking company receives this letter, they will be violating federal law if they purposefully destroy or discard this evidence, regardless of the time frame. From there, your lawyer can guide you on the best path forward for your unique case.
If an individual wants to file a claim or pursue legal action against the insurance or trucking company, there are many factors working against them. From the trucking company’s lawyers to the insurance company lawyers, a trucking accident case can be a major fight and might leave a car accident victim who doesn’t have proper legal representation to shoulder the enormous costs of such a crash on their own.
For more information, you can download our free ebook “5 Mistakes to Avoid After a Truck Wreck” to help prevent this from happening to you or someone you love.
Contact Crosley Law Firm Immediately After a Commercial Trucking Accident
Crosley Law Firm is a strong advocate for increased safety regulation of the trucking industry. Catastrophic semi-truck crashes—and their devastating effects—motivates us to focus on litigating trucking accident cases and fighting for victims. If you or someone you love was involved in an accident involving a commercial truck, call (877) 535-4529 or fill out our convenient online form today to schedule a free consultation with a qualified and experienced attorney from the Crosley team.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.