A spoliation letter instructs a trucking company that there is a pending claim against it due to a truck crash. After receiving a letter, the company may not destroy or misplace evidence that might be pertinent to the case. If a trucking company receives a spoliation letter and fails to preserve the evidence, the party who sent the letter can file an action or request sanctions in the existing case.
Without a spoliation letter, a company has no duty to preserve their records indefinitely. This is because physical and electronically stored documents are the property of the business. A company has the right to dispose of its own property, unless there is some duty to preserve the evidence, such as notice of a probable or pending lawsuit.
If you were in a Florida truck crash, the Montero Law Center can help. We can examine your case, send a spoliation letter to get evidence from the trucking company, and help you pursue compensation for your injuries. Call 954-767-6500 for a free consultation.
Why Is It Important to Preserve Evidence in a Truck Accident Case?
Although federal law requires truckers and trucking companies to keep specific records, they do not have to retain those documents for long. Trucking companies can usually dispose of records after six months or a year. A personal injury claim, particularly one that involves severe injuries, can drag on for much longer. You do not want to be in the middle of a lawsuit and discover that the company you are suing got rid of the evidence that proves negligence.
What Will the Trucking Company’s Records Prove?
The records of the trucking company can be vital to show the cause of your crash and establish negligence on the part of the truck driver or the trucking company. The company may be the best source for the evidence to prove that:
- The trucker violated federal law on the number of hours driven;
- The trucker or company tampered with automatic monitoring devices within the vehicle;
- The trucker failed to comply with federal law on the frequency of vehicle inspections;
- The trucking company knew the driver lacked adequate training;
- The company knew the trucker had a bad driving record, yet still hired him;
- The company did an inadequate background check before hiring the driver and missed relevant information, such as DUIs, speeding tickets, or reckless driving citations;
- The company knew or should have known about dangerous driver behavior, such as moving violations, arrests, or substance abuse, but failed to take action and discipline or fire the driver;
- The company was guilty of negligent vehicle maintenance that directly contributed to the crash; or
- The trucker was talking, texting, or otherwise using a cell phone shortly before or at the time of the crash.
What Types of Evidence Do Spoliation Letters Request From Trucking Companies?
Every case is different, but spoliation letters frequently request some or all of these records:
- The driver’s logbook, either paper or electronic;
- The company’s personnel file on the employee;
- Vehicle maintenance records;
- Any drug or alcohol test results performed after the accident; and
- Cell phone records.
What If the Trucking Company Does Not Preserve Evidence?
You can hold the trucking company responsible if it failed to protect evidence in your case. However, you must meet these six elements before you can file a claim of spoliation of evidence.
Potential Civil Action
You cannot force the trucking company to preserve records if you do not have a valid case against it. For example, if you waited too long to bring an action against the company and the statute of limitations expired, you cannot claim the company failed to protect evidence.
A Legal or Contractual Duty to Preserve Relevant Evidence
Once your lawyer sends the spoliation letter, the company has a legal duty to preserve the evidence.
Destruction of or Failure to Preserve the Evidence
You must establish that the company destroyed or did not preserve the evidence you sought. The business may claim that it lost the documents, or that it never had the documents. If the company cannot produce the documents requested in the spoliation letter and it should have such papers in the ordinary course of business, it has either destroyed the documents or failed to preserve them.
Significant Impairment in Your Ability to Prove Your Case
Imagine your case involves a trucker who fell asleep at the wheel. You suspect that the driver violated the laws restricting the number of hours truckers can drive. Your lawyer sent the company a spoliation letter, but the company claimed it does not have the driver’s records on the number of hours worked. Keeping this evidence from you will make it extremely difficult to prove your claim that the driver broke hours of service regulations.
A Link Between the Unavailability of the Evidence and Your Impaired Ability to Prove Your Case
There is a clear nexus between a driver’s log of hours worked and proving how long the trucker had been on the road.
If you cannot prove your case, then you could suffer the loss of the compensation that you would have received had you been able to present the evidence to the court. On the other hand, if the judge would not have awarded you damages even with the evidence, then you do not have a claim for spoliation. For example, if the judge dismisses your case for lack of jurisdiction or some other reason unrelated to the missing evidence, you cannot show the withheld evidence caused you damages.
How Can I Get Legal Help With My Truck Accident Claim?
You need an experienced truck accident lawyer on your side. At the Montero Law Center, we have a wealth of experience handling these cases, so we know what evidence we need to build your case. We will not stop until we get you the compensation you deserve. Give us a call at 954-767-6500 and let us help you and your loved ones. There is no charge or any other obligation for the consultation.
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