As with any legal claim, you must prove the truck driver’s and trucking company’s negligence in causing your accident, and you do this by collecting evidence. Evidence is the building blocks of your case. The more of these individual blocks you have, the stronger your claim is. The time to begin this process is right after your crash. Unfortunately, this is when you may be overwhelmed by the stress of your wreck and suffering the effects of your injuries. However, if you delay in preserving important evidence, it could be lost or destroyed forever.
What Evidence Could I Need in My Truck Accident Case?
Truck accidents are very different than those involving only passenger vehicles, and the evidence you will need could be different. Of course, some of the evidence will be the same as in a car accident, such as pictures of the crash scene, witness statements, the police report, your medical bills, and documentation of your lost wages. However, truck drivers and trucking companies are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and required to complete and retain many documents that could be helpful to your case. Some of these documents include:
- Driver call-in logs
- Phone records, including records for the trucker’s cell phone
- Trip-monitoring documents
- Emails and other communications between the trucking company and the truck driver
- Bills of lading
- Trucker’s daily, pre-trip, and post-trip inspection records
- Maintenance records
- Insurance policies
- Truck’s black box data
How to Preserve Evidence Before it Is Lost
You need to preserve evidence before it is lost or destroyed by the trucking company. Certain data, such as from the truck’s black box, could be recorded over every 30 days or sooner. Witnesses who are not contacted until months after your crash could fail to remember important details as well. In addition, trucking companies are only required to keep records of their employees, truck inspections, truck maintenance, and other documentation of their operations for a certain amount of time—often six months to a year—under FMCSA regulations. Even worse, they could intentionally destroy evidence helpful to your case.
To avoid losing important evidence, you need to act soon after your accident. Your first step should be to retain an experienced truck accident attorney who understands the need to act promptly and the documents and other information vital to your case. He can take the following steps for you:
- Send a spoliation letter. Your attorney should immediately send a spoliation letter to the trucking company notifying it of your claim and the need to preserve evidence listed in the letter that could be important in your case. If the trucking company ignores this letter and destroys evidence, the judge could order strict sanctions against it if you must file a lawsuit to resolve your claim.
- File a temporary restraining order. If you retain your attorney soon enough, he may decide to file an immediate lawsuit if he is worried that the trucking company will destroy evidence, be uncooperative in the download of data from the black box and other recording devices, or refuse to let your attorney’s expert inspect the truck before it is repaired. When he files the lawsuit, he can ask the judge to issue a temporary restraining order stopping the trucking company from destroying evidence or repairing the truck before it is inspected.
- View the accident scene. Evidence at the crash scene will be lost quickly. However, an inspection by the attorney soon after the accident could give him a better sense of how the crash occurred and uncover evidence, such as skid marks or property strewn nearby, helpful to your case.
- Hire an expert. In some cases, your attorney may want to hire an accident reconstruction attorney right away to inspect the scene and take photographs and video footage. This expert could use this information if necessary to reenact the sequence of events leading up to your crash.
- Interview witnesses. Your attorney could want to locate witnesses before they move or otherwise disappear—while the crash is fresh in their minds.
Do not let delaying to retain an attorney or preserving evidence hurt your claim for compensation against the negligent trucker and trucking company who caused your injuries. Start an online chat today or fill out our online form to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.