What Evidence Do I Need for My Truck Accident Case?December 29, 2020
Trucking is a huge industry in the United States, employing more than 7.8 million people and shipping more than 11 billion tons of goods annually, according to the American Trucking Association. Unfortunately, trucking also plays a part in more than 150,000 accidents each year, with 5,000 of them being fatal, notes a 2108 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study.
Trucks and trucking in these statistics refer to heavy trucks such as semi-trucks, refrigerated trucks, tankers, and other commercial big rigs. Pickup trucks and similar vehicles are not part of these statistics. When a passenger vehicle is involved in an accident with a truck, it is critical to preserve evidence quickly, if possible. This evidence will play an important part in bringing a claim for damages, whether by the injured party or by the family of a person killed in a truck accident. An experienced truck accident lawyer will bring expertise in helping victims and their families.
What are the Common Types of Truck Accidents?
There are several types of large commercial truck accidents:
- Front and rear collisions: A head-on collision with a truck or a truck that hits a passenger vehicle from the rear almost always results in serious damage and injury to the passenger vehicle and its occupants.
- Blind spot accidents: Every driver of a passenger vehicle has experienced at least one close call because of the blind spot. Large trucks have an even bigger blind spot, so extra caution is always needed when passing or traveling behind.
- Jackknifes: Sometimes, when a truck driver brakes or swerves quickly, the trailer can swing in the opposite direction from the cab, causing a jackknife situation. Jackknifed trucks can easily roll over or overturn completely, causing extreme danger to other drivers.
- Rollovers: Trucks, with their heavy weight and cargo loads, are prone to rolling over when the driver loses control in various situations.
- Underride accidents: These accidents happen when a truck stops suddenly, and a car traveling behind gets stuck underneath the truck. The car almost always loses its roof completely or has serious damage, causing harm or even death to passengers.
- Blown tires: Large commercial trucks are especially vulnerable to having a tire blow out, often causing the driver to lose control.
What are the Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
There are various causes of truck accidents, including but not limited to these factors:
- Driver distraction, whether from a cell phone, radio, or other cause
- Driver fatigue or impairment, including from drugs or alcohol
- Insufficient driver training and experience
- Equipment or technical malfunction
- Improper loading, causing weight shifts and loss of control
What are the Common Injuries in Truck Accidents?
Injuries can include but are not limited to the following:
- Broken bones, loss of limbs
- Head/brain, spine, back, and neck injuries
- Loss of limbs
What Should I Do in a Truck Accident?
If able, a driver or passenger involved in an accident with a truck should do the following:
- Call 911 for help.
- Move car and self to a safe location to avoid collision with other drivers.
- Cooperate with authorities who arrive.
- Do not admit guilt or fault.
- Accept medical help from paramedics or seek medical attention after the accident if symptoms arise.
- Collect evidence at the scene if safe to do so, including photos and video of passengers involved, passenger injuries, the roadway, vehicle damage, property damage, bodily injury, and general background of the location.
- Get contact information for any witnesses who are near the scene and get statements from them if possible.
- Contact a truck accident lawyer immediately.
How can a Truck Accident Lawyer Help?
Accidents involving a truck are almost always more complicated and involve more entities than car accidents. The trucker’s and/or trucking company’s insurer will immediately investigate the accident to mitigate truck driver fault or establish truck driver innocence.
For this reason, a driver should contact their own insurance company immediately and then contact a truck accident lawyer. A truck accident lawyer can help a victim of a truck accident in the following ways:
- Navigate the complex process of accident investigation
- Negotiate with and respond to insurance companies
- Collect important evidence
- Find and interview witnesses
- Gather testimony from experts
- Calculate the damages a victim is entitled to, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and other expenses
- Prepare a case for an eventual lawsuit if needed
Having an experienced truck accident lawyer is crucial given the amount of time, expertise, and knowledge it takes to go up against insurers accustomed to investigating accidents involving a truck and driver.
What Evidence is Needed in a Truck Accident Case?
Preserving evidence quickly is crucial to helping establish negligence in a truck accident. Hiring a truck accident lawyer immediately after an accident can make a potential case stronger because more evidence can be preserved. In addition, a lawyer knows what evidence to look for based on federal guidelines that regulate truck drivers and trucking companies.
It is important to note that trucking companies are required to keep records and other information about their trucks and drivers only for a limited time; therefore, quick action in hiring a truck accident lawyer can help ensure a stronger case. Typical evidence a lawyer will collect includes the following:
- The truck’s black box contains important evidence. Many trucks have black boxes that provide detailed information about the truck’s operation at the time of the accident, including speed, application of brakes, truck’s mechanical condition, and how long the driver had been on the road without a rest break. Also, most trucks have other electronic devices that can capture useful information such as inclinometers, which record the slope a truck is traveling on; GPS devices; and on-board computers.
- Accident and inspector reports are critical. Police will prepare an official report of the accident. State police will also often call in a certified truck inspector to examine the vehicle before being removed from the accident scene. This inspector will look for defects, overweight loads or load irregularities, tire conditions, and technical or mechanical defects.
- Witness statements, photos, and videos provide important information. As noted above, if able, someone should document the scene with photos, videos, witness contact information, and statements. A lawyer will also work on gathering this evidence afterward. The sooner a lawyer can compile needed evidence, the better because it is easy for people to forget details.
- Traffic camera or security camera footage.
- Electronic logs that automatically record and transmit how long the driver has been driving and their rest breaks. These logs are federally mandated through Hours of Service regulations.
- Driver’s phone records, in-cab, and personal cell phone.
- Emails and other communications between the trucking company, truck owner, shipper, and truck driver.
- Bills of lading.
- Weigh station and loading dock records.
- Trucker’s daily reports as well as pre- and post-trip inspection reports.
- Truck maintenance records.
- Truck inspection reports.
- Truck service records.
- Insurance policies.
- Driver’s training and experience.
- Drug and alcohol tests taken at the time of or just after the accident.
- Truck driver’s driving records and citations.
How can I Preserve Evidence in a Truck Accident?
An experienced truck accident lawyer will work quickly to preserve evidence in a truck accident. He or she will do the following:
- Send a spoliation letter: This is a crucial step. A spoliation letter is sent to the trucking company to notify them of the claim and the need for them to preserve the evidence listed in the letter. Should the trucking company ignore the letter and destroys evidence, a court could order serious sanctions again them in a lawsuit.
- View and document the accident scene: This can give the lawyer and expert witnesses a better idea of how the accident may have occurred, tire tread or skid marks, gouge marks on the road, car or truck parts strewn nearby, or special road or other conditions that may have contributed to the accidents. The sooner this is done, the better the chances are of getting useful and unspoiled evidence.
- File a restraining order against the trucking company: Contacting a truck accident lawyer quickly is important because he or she may decide to file a lawsuit immediately. In this case, the lawyer can ask the judge to issue a temporary restraining order that will stop the trucking company from destroying evidence, repairing a defective truck, or otherwise not cooperate.
- Hire experts: A lawyer can hire people to reconstruct the accident, comment on technical aspects of the truck and its operation, or provide testimony on injuries, among other details.
- Interview witnesses: A lawyer is skilled in taking witness statements and uncovering needed information.
Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Fight for Those Injured in a Truck Accident
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, it is important to act quickly. Doing so can preserve important evidence needed in a claim for damages. The Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton offer free consultations to victims involved in truck accidents. We can build a case for all our clients, ensure that our clients understand the legal process, and represent anyone who lost a loved one in a trucking accident. Call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.