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How defective semi truck parts cause accidents

Accidents between cars and semitrucks often cause serious injuries. Discovering and preserving evidence of the events leading up to and during the accidents sequence is important.  Hiring an experienced personal injury firm as early as possible is necessary to ensure that critical evidence is not lost or destroyed. An attorney handling truck accident cases should take the following initial steps to help make sure the injured client is treated fairly and that all the important evidence is available to support the claim:

A well-prepared attorney will become familiar with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Paying particular attention to these sections:
  • 383 (regulates driver’s license requirements, drug testing, and carrier responsibilities)
  • 390 (sets forth carrier requirements, drug testing, and carrier responsibilities)
  • 391 (establishes driver qualifications)
  • 395 (governs driver’s hours of operation)
  • 396 (covers inspection, repair, and maintenance of vehicles)
1. Send a letter to the trucking company by certified mail. In that letter, you need to include:
  • That you are representing the plaintiff
  • Basic accident facts (date, time, place, people & vehicles involved)
  • A demand to the company to refrain from destroying any documents and evidence of the case

Some trucking companies have a document retention policy. This policy may be more concerned with the company’s liability exposure than preserving evidence related to the accident. Trucking companies must  keep logbook for only six months according to the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations. Document destruction is an ongoing process for trucking companies. Documents will be destroyed unless someone notifies them to preserve the evidence for a claim. If not, there’s a high chance that drivers’ hours of operation logs, fuel receipts, weight tickets and other evidence will be destroyed once the six-month deadline passes.

These records often show that driver may have been keeping two sets of hours of operation books, driving without taking the necessary rest stops, or exceeding speed limits. Failure to pursue the case quickly and preserve the evidence can result in the destruction of crucial documents. Those documents will prove logbook violations and violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations which can help corroborate a negligence claim against the driver or trucking company.

2. Demand that the documents be preserved for the 30 days prior to the accident. 

If you have reason to believe that a longer time may be relevant, demand that documents be preserved for that period. These documents include:

    • The driver’s log books
    • The co-drivers logbooks if there is a co-driver, trip reports
    • Vehicle and equipment inspections
    • Fuel
    • Lodging and food receipts
    • Requests for reimbursement and the supporting documentation
    • Bills of lading and payroll records
    • Training materials
    • The driver’s qualification file and the results of any drug or alcohol testing performed on the driver before or after the accident
Demand that all information from any onboard tracking, computer, and/or communication devices be preserved.

Many companies now utilize onboard recording and tracking devices that operate via satellite to monitor the location of drivers. Preserve all information from any onboard tracking, computer, and/or communication devices by demanding it.

  • Demand the preservation of any onboard video.
  • Remind the trucking company in writing that destruction of this evidence or any other evidence relevant to the accident is prohibited. These sanctions could undermine the trucking company’s ability to present a defense to the claim.
3. Steps for Investigator/Accident Reconstructionist to Take
  • An investigator and/or accident reconstruction expert should visit the scene, take photographs, videotape, and measurements, and examine the vehicles as soon as possible after the collision.
    • If you were fortunate enough to be hired shortly after the collision, you have the opportunity to go to the accident scene and gather and safeguard evidence such as:
      • skid marks
      • tire marks
      • bend guardrails
      • broken median barriers
      • pavement gouges.
    • Check the scene for any possible video sources from traffic control lights, neighboring businesses, etc.
  • Locate the tractor-trailer and any other vehicles involved in the collision and gain access to all the vehicles.
  • Take pictures and videotape everything including the inside of the vehicles.
    • Pay careful attention to items in the cab area such as prescription and over-the-counter medications, empty containers for medication, and anything indicating that the driver might not have been paying attention to the road at the time of the collision such as papers, books, magazines, food wrappers, maps, a cell phone, or pet supplies.
  • Obtain All Law Enforcement Records Including Narratives and Photos
  • Interview the witnesses listed on the police report and inquire whether they know of other witnesses.
    • In almost every tractor-trailer accident, the police report doesn’t include some witnesses who either saw the collision or stopped to help the victims. To clear the traffic from the scene and avoid additional collisions, law enforcement officials often ask witnesses to get back in their cars and leave the scene of the accident without getting names and addresses. Don’t overlook tow drivers and 1st Responders!

When an injured person hires an experienced personal injury attorney early on, it increases the chances of discovering and preserving crucial evidence. This evidence often makes the difference in getting a fair settlement or judgment.