Truck Accident Investigation
A truck accident is one of the most catastrophic accidents on the road. The size and weight of an 18-wheeler truck can be up to 80,000 lbs. This weight can be a disaster when a semi-truck collides with other motor vehicles. The question usually is, how did this accident happen. Often, it is the result of negligence. The negligence may be on behalf of the trucking company or the driver. However, sometimes the negligence is on behalf of truck product manufacturers.
If you are in a trucking accident, first take care of your injuries. After you are safe, it is imperative that you conduct a truck accident investigation. It would help if you got an investigation by someone with knowledge of truck operating procedures and laws. In the court of law, an authority on accident causes is required. You can not just rely on a police report. Walker Texas Lawyer has handled all sorts of truck accident cases. His Truck Accident Law Firm is more than ready to help you receive the compensation you deserve.
Is a Police Investigation Enough?
A police investigation is a good start in truck accident litigation. However, in a lawsuit, you need to realize that you are appealing your case to the courtroom and to juries. In personal injury law today, the plaintiff has challenges in holding a defendant liable. This is because of the need to show a jury how an accident happened and why. Additionally, defendants in truck cases often have the resources to litigate instances for a long time. This can make trials very expensive.
This is why you need a thorough accident investigation. Your case requires a complete understanding of the accident scene itself. Additionally, information on the truck company’s safety policies, training and procedures, and truck maintenance is beneficial. Also, information from the truck manufacturer could be essential to your case. You can’t rely on one piece of evidence. You need to paint a picture of the complete accident to win. This is why following an 18-wheeler accident, it is essential to get a truck accident lawyer to act on your behalf. A personal injury attorney can find any evidence. Evidence that shows not only what happened in the moments leading to the crash but also evidence in the history of the employer and driver. It’s not enough to show that a truck driver made a mistake. You must reveal a culture of negligent behavior within the trucking company.
Preserving Accident Evidence Is Key
If you have been injured in a truck accident, gathering and preserving evidence is the most crucial aspect of your case. You have only a short time to collect relevant information. Some people correctly believe that they have two years to file a personal injury suit, which is the term for the Texas statute of limitations. However, waiting even one month to have an attorney start on your case can hurt your claim. This is due to the potential lack of good evidence that will prove your claim. This is why performing a truck accident investigation immediately is key to your case. Waiting can only hurt the amount of evidence collected. You need all the evidence possible to fight for your compensation.
What Goes Into A Truck Accident Investigation?
Most believe the first thing needed in a case is the police report. Many attorneys and individuals inaccurately believe that all they need on their side to win a truck accident case is a police report in their favor. This is wrong in that these reports are usually incomplete.
Let’s consider the purpose of the police report. First, the police report is not designed for the purpose of establishing liability in civil court. Its primary function is for record-keeping and statistical analysis. Don’t wait for the police accident report. They are lacking in merit compared to other forms of evidence.
What is lacking in a police report?
One issue is that not all officers are trained and qualified to make a proper analysis of the scene. So, the report is not beyond reproach. The document is open to scrutiny. For instance, let’s say the defense calls the officer of the report to the stand. They could trip up the officer, which would lead to doubt.
Additionally, a police report does not provide testimony from an expert witness. This expert witness could testify to a product design flaw. This design flaw could be what leads to injuries. This is an expert witness that can also point out things missing in the report.
Issues of admissibility of a police report
The attorneys who represent the trucking company will often argue to have the police report disallowed from admission. This is occurring on the grounds that the officer who created the report was not qualified. Therefore, the opinions contained in a police report are not seen as facts. Rather, they have seen as opinions made by an alleged expert. If the police officer is expected to testify he will have to relate to the jury why the opinions were made and will have to make an articulate justification for his reasoning. However, the opposing counsel can produce an expert to counter his statements.
It will be up to the jury to weigh the evidence of expert testimony against that of the non-expert and make a decision as to who is more credible. The jury will probably find that an expert who holds a degree and has years of experience will be quite credible.
The case begins with preserving evidence by sending a spoliation letter. This is a letter drafted by a Truck Accident Law Firm to put all parties on notice that there is a potential lawsuit. This states that evidence relating to that lawsuit should not be destroyed altered, concealed, or otherwise tampered with. Any alteration to the evidence needs to get approval from the claimant’s attorney. This is a letter that has legal backing. Any trucking company that violates the conditions could be subject to severe penalties from the court.
Investigating the Accident Scene
In an 18 wheeler accident, you can bet that the truck company’s attorneys will be at the site of the crash as soon as possible. They will talk to witnesses and collect evidence and help the driver in their story. This will be a truck accident investigation favorable for the trucking company. You don’t want them to take advantage of you. You need your interest represented at the scene as soon as possible.
In a few instances, we are hired immediately and can go to the scene and conduct an investigation of the scene. Sadly, though in most truck accidents the injuries are so severe, or the accident results in death that grieving family members wait to contact a lawyer.
To be clear, delaying the start of your case is always ill-advised. The sooner you hire an attorney the better. However, we realize that is not always possible. So, in most cases, the first order of business is damage control. We are already at a disadvantage due to waiting to process the accident. So we must move as quickly as possible.
Once all parties are on notice, a truck accident reconstruction can begin. Evidence is key in a truck accident investigation. Witness statements of the accident are essential. Also, a vehicular expert may go to the site to measure skid marks of the accident scene. Inspections on your car and on the 18-wheeler could occur.
Witness statements are extremely valuable. They help in reconstructing the events of an accident. It is important to gather as much initial information as possible. You don’t want to miss a valuable eyewitness. If a witness has an interview, your attorney should have the mindset of the witness testifying under oath.
Reviewing the physical evidence is essential in the reconstruction of an accident. Reconstruction plays a key role in truck accident investigations. In reconstructing the accident, the grade of the street is important to the accident. Additionally, oils and substances found on the street are under consideration. These oils and substances are measured for distance, angle, and substance to confirm which vehicle they came from. This is to determine if either of the vehicles braked. Also, for their speeds of motion when they applied the brakes. This is all done to create a big picture of the accident. Gathering this evidence may help the jury decide where the fault may lie. All evidence that is important to a truck accident investigation.
Digital Evidence Preservation
Gathering and preserving electronic evidence is a relatively new strategy in litigating commercial trucking cases. However, it can immensely help a truck accident investigation’s case. The Electronic Control Module (ECM) is similar to the black box in an airplane. This device tracks all the vehicle’s information. Such as the performance of the engine. Data collected, such as engine RPMs, vehicle speed, and braking in a sudden stop. An expert has to review this ECM data. Walker Texas Lawyer has these experts. This information is only available when the plaintiff’s attorney acquires a subpoena. This compels the defendant to provide the data.
Another piece of data to consider is the GPS system. This is similar to the GPS in your car, it tracks all the truck’s movements. This important data can show negligence in driving habits. Additionally, some 18 wheelers have Qualcomm. This feature stores information on truck routes and performance.
It is possible that these data recorders become damaged, or even erased. However, they are important to your case. Walker Texas Lawyer will make every effort to preserve them for you.
Driver Records as Evidence
The truck driver’s qualification file will need to be reviewed. The qualification file is a collection of documents. This contains items such as the driver’s application for employment and driving record. Additionally, it has a medical history, test results for physicals, and medical examinations. This demonstrates if an individual is qualified to drive a truck.
The Department of Transportation maintains the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System (SAFER). This government website provides safety data and reporting for the public on commercial trucking companies. The information contained in SAFER includes crash information. Also, it has safety ratings, company identity information, and their safety record.
Other Driver Information
You also need information that displays if the truck driver complied with all trucking laws. This information may contain through driving logs. Also, fuel receipts, bills of lading, and information from weighing stations are helpful. This information is compared to the electronic data. It can paint a picture of the drivers driving habits. All of these records can help make determinations depending on the particular circumstances of the case.
Evidence from the employer will also need to be taken. Employee handbooks and training manuals could reveal various details. Information such as training, drug/alcohol tests, employer remedial measures, and reprimands can be important evidence. You want to know if the truck company knew they had a dangerous employee on hand and if they acted on it. Or whether the employee had prior accidents. Did the employer know of the danger and still continued to keep him on as a truck driver?
Have You Been Injured?
If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in a truck accident you will need to consult with a truck accident lawyer. A truck accident law firm will be familiar with 18 wheeler accidents and the particular laws that govern the trucking industry. Overloaded freight, driver fatigue and speed may be factors in 18 wheeler accidents, and a trucking accident attorney who knows the regulations and the industry can prove a driver was at fault.