Injured victims must take immediate action after an accident, follow all steps to collect and preserve crucial evidence that protects their right to compensation.
When pursuing financial compensation for a truck accident, establishing negligence is one of the most important steps. The process of gathering and indexing evidence for a truck accident is usually much more complex than with any other type of motor vehicle accident, mostly because there tend to be several parties involved.
Truck accidents are not an unusual sight in Texas. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that in 2019, 2020, and 2021, 579, 568, and 716 people were killed in Texas truck accidents, respectively. In fact, Texas’ truck accident-related deaths are almost twice as high as California, which has the second-highest number of fatal truck accidents. When pursuing financial compensation after a trucking accident,
a Dallas truck accident lawyer will use strong evidence as the cornerstone of their legal case.
Truck Accidents Are Complex
Accidents involving commercial trucks are infinitely more complicated than accidents involving other types of motor vehicles. The immense weight and size of a truck often result in serious injuries and, in more tragic cases, deaths. Additionally, trucking accidents often involve several different liable parties: the truck operator, the freight company, the vehicle manufacturer, and other drivers.
Each party will have varying levels of liability for the crash, which will be determined by studying the evidence. For example, did the truck’s brakes malfunction, implicating the manufacturer? Or was the driver fatigued from being on the road too long, implicating the freight company for not enforcing the Hours of Service rule? Clear, properly preserved evidence can provide definitive answers to these questions.
Preserving Black Box Data
Although there are numerous forms of evidence that need to be collected and indexed after a truck accident, black box data is inarguably the most crucial. The black box is the primary information source about not only the crash but the truck itself. Almost all modern commercial trucks are equipped with a black box, which provides vital evidence in the event of an accident. The black box records all operational data and supplies information regarding:
- Whether the truck’s brakes were applied
- The truck’s speed and direction at the time of the accident
- How long the trucker driver has been behind the wheel
- All steering wheel movements and gear changes
Black box data should also include the vehicle’s daily inspection reports along with any reports filed by the driver to the freight company. Since black box data is so valuable in a trucking accident case, the victim should work with an experienced truck accident attorney to download and preserve black box data before the truck driver or their employer tampers with or destroys the box.
Other Evidence To Preserve After a Truck Accident
Along with securing black box data, truck accident evidence also includes other electronic and physical records that freight companies are required to keep on file for a specified length of time. For instance, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration requires all freight companies to maintain their drivers’ records of duty status along with any supporting documentation for at least six months. Freight companies are also required to keep a copy of the black box records separate from the original data for at least six months. Other forms of evidence that a truck accident lawyer will need to preserve after a trucking accident include any records of:
- The driver’s hiring and commercial training
- The driver’s daily logs
- The truck’s daily inspections
- The truck’s inspection and maintenance records
- Tests and repairs performed on the truck
- Any other accidents the driver has been involved in
The plaintiff’s attorney will need to collect and preserve the black box data as well as the records listed above to prevent the spoliation or destruction of these important bits of evidence. It is not uncommon for freight companies to go to great lengths in an attempt to circumvent liability for an accident involving their drivers and their fleet. A freight company might try to erase specific data from the black box, reset the device, fabricate records, or basically destroy evidence. The victim may find that working with a reputable Dallas truck accident lawyer is helpful when tracking down and preserving vital evidence related to their accident.
How To Preserve Truck Accident Evidence
Preserving evidence after a truck accident can seem like an overwhelming task, especially if you are trying to concentrate on your physical recovery. As daunting as it may seem, failing to prevent the destruction of vital evidence is an expensive mistake. Hiring a skilled attorney to help with accessing and saving necessary reports, records, and documents in a timely fashion will give you an advantage over the driver and their employer.
Preserving truck accident evidence is usually a five-step process involving:
Sending a Spoliation Letter to the Freight Company
Once they receive a spoliation letter, the freight company is legally obligated to preserve every piece of evidence named in the document. Any freight company that violates a spoilation letter by tampering with or destroying evidence will face steep penalties.
Filing a Temporary Restraining Order
If there is a reasonable risk of evidence being destroyed, a temporary restraining order may be filed against the freight company. This restraining order will prohibit the company from destroying or altering the named evidence while its case is pending.
Collecting Evidence at the Scene
Even without undue interference, any evidence at the scene will disappear or be destroyed within days or even a few hours after the accident. A thorough investigation is necessary to gather and record all available evidence from the scene of the crash. This evidence typically includes pictures of spillage and skid marks, damage to the vehicles, and road signs.
Hiring Expert Witnesses
The testimony of an expert witness will play a pivotal role in establishing fault for a truck accident and helping the victim receive the full financial compensation to which they are entitled. Accident reconstruction experts can study the accident scene and examine any available evidence to form an accurate conclusion about how the accident happened and who caused it.
Eyewitness statements are often included as critical evidence in truck accident cases. If anyone witnessed your accident, be sure to get their names and contact details so your attorney can speak with them at a later date.
The importance of gathering and preserving truck accident evidence cannot be overstated. Injured victims must take immediate action after an accident, follow all steps to collect and preserve crucial evidence that protects their right to compensation. It is also wise to seek the help of a qualified Dallas truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.