Auto accidents involving semi-trucks and eighteen wheelers are extremely dangerous as large trucks can be several times heavier than the average passenger vehicle. In addition, truckers often drive long hours which can lower their alertness, increase inattention, and slow reaction time and lead to serious accidents. Getting the right evidence in a truck accident case can make the difference between recovering for your damages and receiving a case denial.
What do I need to prove?
In order to recover for damages, you must first show that the other driver was negligent and that the driver’s negligence caused your injuries. Negligence occurs when a driver owes a duty of care to another person and breaches that duty by failing to act in a reasonably prudent manner.
Because of the size of the vehicle, a commercial driver has a heightened duty of care to keep all other drivers on the safe road from undue harm. If they do not do this, victims may be able to hold them responsible for any injuries.
In order to prevail, an injured plaintiff must not only show that the other driver was negligent, but she must also prove that the other driver’s negligence was the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
Common forms of negligence that lead to accidents include:
- Drug use
- Speeding or traveling too fast for conditions
- Over-the-counter drug use
- Inadequate surveillance
- Illegal maneuvers
- External distraction
- Cell phone use (The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits texting, hand-held cell phone use, and using more than one button to dial a number)
- Distractions from a GPS or radio
What evidence do I need to prove the truck driver’s negligence?
If you have been injured in an accident involving a commercial truck you (and more importantly your legal team) should know what type of evidence to look for. The following are common types of truck accident evidence.
It is important to collect and record the statement of all available witnesses, including emergency response personnel. Eyewitness testimony is best taken either at the time of the accident or right after. Be sure get the contact information of all witnesses so you can call them to testify if it becomes necessary.
Eyewitness statements can be especially helpful as they come from an unbiased, third party. An eyewitness can testify that she saw the driver texting or driving recklessly right before the accident occurred.
If you are unable to talk to witnesses at the scene, you can request a copy of the police report at a later date.
The Driver’s Own Admission
Pay special attention to the statements of the other driver. Statements like, “I’m so sorry I was distracted,” or “I never saw you,” could be potentially be the central fact of the case.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires all drivers to keep logbooks of their routes. These logbooks should include the hours they worked and how often they stopped to rest.
Because driver fatigue is a common cause of truck driver accidents, the driver’s logbook can be one of the most important pieces of evidence. For example, FMCSA rules only allow a driver to stay on the road for 11 hours at a time. If evidence in the log suggests that the driver has violated the 11-hour daily driving limit, that is evidence that driver fatigue may be the cause of the accident.
In addition, drivers must also inspect the loads they are carrying. If improperly loaded cargo led to an accident, the inspection logbook could prove that the driver skipped an inspection or okayed the cargo when it could prove to be a hazard.
The Driver’s Employment File
In addition to the driver logs, the driver’s driving history may also be important. Companies must keep records of an employee’s driving history, his history of drug and alcohol tests, and any educational courses or training the driver has attended for a specific period of time.
Drug and Alcohol Test Results
It is against the law for any commercial driver to operate a truck under the influence of drugs or alcohol (a driver is under the influence if his blood alcohol content is above .04). An employer must conduct drug and alcohol tests after an accident if the accident results in:
- Bodily injury requiring medical treatment
- Disabling vehicle damage
- A citation
The employer must conduct the alcohol test within two hours and the drug test within 32 hours.
Pictures and Video
Make sure you take pictures of anything that could be potentially important to the case. Look for any tire marks and hazards and be sure to take pictures of your injuries. These pictures can make or break your case.
For example, an accident reconstruction expert will generally look at photographs taken of the scene. The length of tire marks along with the known characteristics of the vehicles involved may enable an expert to tell the jury that the defendant was speeding or veered out of his lane. Similarly, a mechanical expert may be able to inspect the brakes of the defendant’s truck to tell whether the company neglected to maintain the vehicle.
Once your attorney from Cordisco & Saile LLC has identified all the necessary evidence, he will send a letter of spoliation to the trucking company to ensure that it does not destroy any evidence.
All of these pieces of evidence are just a small portion of the potential sources of information that are available to a trained professional who knows where to look.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, it is essential that you have a Cordisco & Saile truck accident attorney help you with your case. Our firm has the experience, training, and expertise to ensure everything possible is done to get you compensation for your loss.