Given a truck’s massive size and the potential that it is carrying dangerous or heavy cargo, truck accidents tend to cause a massive amount of injury and damage. Victims (or victims’ family members in fatal cases) can seek financial compensation for their injuries from the truck company if the company or the driver was somehow negligent or at fault for the accident. However, you must obtain a substantial amount of evidence from the truck company to prove fault.
Below we review some of the basics about obtaining evidence from trucking companies. For help with your particular accident case, consult a truck accident attorney from the Montero Law Center about what evidence you may need and how to obtain it.
Why is the evidence from the trucking company so important?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes strict regulations on the trucking industry. The agency provides rules and guidelines for various aspects of the trade, including the number of consecutive hours a driver can work, maintenance requirements, driver education, and rules regarding cargo checks, amongst many others. The law states that the company must retain these important records for a certain period of time. Note: This period is usually very short (often between six and 12 months).
There is a good chance that you need some of these records to substantiate your claim or lawsuit. Anytime a driver or carrier violates an FMCSA regulation, they not only put themselves at risk of receiving citations and sanctions, but they also put other road users’ lives in danger.
If you can obtain proof from the company records that indicates that the driver or carrier violated a standard or otherwise acted carelessly, you can use that as evidence to support – and hopefully win – your claim.
What types of important evidence might a truck company have?
You want to obtain any related supporting evidence that the carrier may have. Each case is different, but some of the types of evidence that are usually very helpful in truck accident claims include the following.
The driver’s logbook, which may be paper or electronic, will show any violations in the FMCSA’s hours of service rules truckers have to follow. If the driver drove more hours than allowed, for instance, it could have caused fatigue and contributed to your accident.
Records in the driver’s personnel file could also prove useful in your case. Did the driver have a history of accidents? Did he receive adequate training? Did he have any health issues that affected his ability to drive safely? If the company did not uphold its duty to investigate drivers for competence prior to putting them behind the wheel of a huge rig, victims may hold it liable for any injuries the.
Maintenance records and DOT inspection reports may indicate gaps in required maintenance checks or failures to fix known problems and safety hazards. They also show whether the driver performed the mandatory periodic cargo checks to ensure he properly secured the load. If a mechanical or other truck component issue (blown tires, burned out breaks, cargo that broke away, etc.) caused the accident, these records can be instrumental in proving negligence.
Post-accident drug/alcohol testing
The FMCSA mandates that all commercial truck drivers submit to drug and alcohol testing after an accident (if the accident meets certain criteria). You need a copy of these results because any presence of drugs in the driver’s system at the time of your accident is almost an automatic stamp of negligence.
Cell phone records
FMCSA regulations strictly prohibit commercial truck drivers from talking on the phone, texting, or surfing the internet while driving. If the driver’s phone records show he was using his phone when the accident occurred, you can hold him liable.
How do I obtain evidence from the company?
When you initiate a legal action against the truck company, you have a right to request and obtain certain records during the discovery period. At the onset of your case, your attorney will need to send a spoliation letter or preservation letter to the trucking company.
This letter politely but firmly informs the company that there is a pending action against it and reminds the company that it must retain certain records for that purpose.
There is no one-size-fits-all template for a spoliation letter. Rather, your lawyer will craft one requesting the company preserve documents specific to your case. A good spoliation letter will spell out what information, documents, or files you need, and in what format. There is a science and art to crafting a solid preservation letter, so you certainly want to retain a lawyer that is well-versed in handling truck accident cases.
“A preservation letter that demands the moon and paralyzes your opponent’s operations won’t see compliance or enforcement… Remember: all you’re trying to do is keep the other side from destroying relevant evidence, and just about any judge will support you in that effort if your demands aren’t cryptic, overbroad, or unduly burdensome,” explains forensics expert and electronic discovery consultant Craig Ball.
Once you have filed your claim or lawsuit, your attorney can submit a Request for the Production of Documents to the truck company, and then proceed to subpoena any records the company refuses or does not provide.
As aforementioned, the law requires truck companies to keep certain records on file for a certain amount of time. But that does not mean they will. If they destroy or “lose” key evidence despite having received the spoliation letter, your attorney can take legal measures to hold them accountable.
Who can help me obtain the evidence I need to prove my accident case?
For help obtaining the evidence you need and for preparing, filing, and fighting your claim, you should speak to a personal injury attorney in your area that specifically handles truck accident claims.
If you reside in Florida, our truck accident attorneys from the Montero Law Center would be happy to review your case at no charge and explain how we can help. Contact us today at 954-767-6500 and schedule a consultation.