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Obtaining Maximum Compensation in Truck Wreck Claims

— May 21, 2021

In ye olden days, drivers used paper logbooks to record their hours. These books were easy to fake. But an ELD is connected to the truck’s power train. So, it provides conclusive evidence in this area.

Since 2009, the number of large truck wrecks has increased 48 percent. The ongoing truck driver shortage probably has much to do with this increase. There are fewer trucks hauling more goods, which means these drivers, and the companies which send them out, often take dangerous shortcuts. Furthermore, although the people behind the wheels of these massive vehicles usually do their best, they are often inexperienced.

When these vehicles cause crashes, they usually cause catastrophic injuries, such as serious burns and massive head injuries. 

The medical bills alone from such a crash often exceed $100,000. So, these victims need as much financial compensation as possible, so they can move on with their lives. To obtain it, a Philadelphia car crash lawyer must build a strong, evidence-based claim. Furthermore, an attorney must skillfully fit these pieces together, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, so they form a compelling picture for jurors.

The Big Three

A combination of witness statements, medical bills, and the police accident report often form the foundation of a successful truck crash case. Frequently, this foundation is all that’s necessary. Sometimes, however, an attorney must go the extra mile.

The police accident report is a good example. As mentioned, large truck crashes are often gruesomely catastrophic. Frequently, after the smoke clears, only wreckage remains. So, it’s sometimes difficult for investigators to piece together what happened. Even the most experienced first responder is not an accident reconstruction professional.

There’s usually a direct relationship between the quality and quantity of evidence that a victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of damages that jurors award. So, if the Big Three are inadequate, an attorney must fill in the gap. Otherwise, the victim might end up settling for less.

Electronic Evidence

Almost every vehicle on the road has an Event Data Recorder. The EDR is a lot like a commercial jet’s black box flight data recorder. Both gadgets automatically measure and record certain operational data. For their part, EDRs usually track information like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Engine RPM (acceleration or deceleration),
  • Brake application, and
  • Steering angle.

Any one of these measurements could be critical in a vehicle collision claim. EDRs do more than preserve this information. Legally, such computerized evidence is usually bulletproof in court. Unlike people, computers are always disinterested and never wrong.

There are some obstacles to overcome. Most states have extremely strict vehicle information privacy laws. So, the EDR is not available for the asking. Furthermore, these gadgets are quite sophisticated. A Philadelphia car crash lawyer needs the right tools, and the right know-how, to access the information they contain.

These same legal and technical hurdles usually apply to a truck’s Electronic Logging Device. These gadgets track HOS (Hours of Service) compliance. So, an ELD is often critical in a drowsy driver claim.

In terms of your claim for damages, ELDs could support either an ordinary negligence case or a negligence per se claim. 

Ordinary negligence is basically a lack of care. Extended driving has the same effect on the body and brain as drinking alcohol. For example, driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit in most states.

Image by Michal Nevaril, via
Image by Michal Nevaril, via

Non-ELD evidence is also admissible on this point. Circadian rhythm fatigue is one example. Most people are naturally drowsy at certain times of the day, such as early morning, particularly if they recently changed work shifts. Many truckers are behind the wheel at these times.

Negligence per se is the violation of a safety law. All states, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, have strict HOS rules. These rules include things like daily and weekly driving limits and mandatory rest periods. If a trucker violates one of these laws or rules and causes a crash, the trucker could be liable for damages as a matter of law.

In ye olden days, drivers used paper logbooks to record their hours. These books were easy to fake. But an ELD is connected to the truck’s power train. So, it provides conclusive evidence in this area.

SMS Report

The tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) driving record is often admissible in damage claims, and this proof is often compelling. The problem is that most long-haul truckers have drivers’ licenses in several different states. Out-of-state records were hard to obtain, until the FMCSA rolled out the Safety Measurement System. The SMS database resembles a multi-state driving record. It includes information in areas like:

  • Crash history,
  • Citation background,
  • Prior substance abuse issues,
  • HOS compliance,
  • Vehicle maintenance history, and
  • HazMat (hazardous materials) compliance.

As a bonus, the SMS database usually pulls information from law enforcement records instead of judicial records. If Susan took defensive driving to take care of a speeding ticket, that citation probably won’t show up in a judicial records search. But it probably exists in law enforcement records.

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