Does a spoliation letter stop evidence destruction?

Categorized: General

Does a spoliation letter stop evidence destruction?

Being involved in a truck accident is complicated for many reasons, one of the largest being that the trucking company can legally destroy records pertaining to your accident. To stop the trucking company from destroying accident evidence, you can send a spoliation letter.

Generally speaking, a letter of spoliation is a document requesting that a trucking company preserve any evidence that might impact the subject matter of ongoing litigation. A letter of spoliation also usually requests that if the company has previously destroyed any document, that it gives the reason and nature of destruction. 

Types of Evidence you Should Look to Preserve

There are many different types of evidence that the letter of spoliation may preserve. If you are sending a spoliation letter, you should request that the trucking company maintain evidence of any kind that would have an impact on your case. If in doubt, preserve it. Documents you may want to preserve as evidence include:

  • The driver’s logbooks
  • The driver’s personnel file
  • Any drug or alcohol test results
  • The trucking company’s list of protocols
  • Any maintenance records for the truck involved in the accident

You should also request that the trucking company preserve the truck itself. It is important to note that you must require the company preserve specific pieces of evidence (e.g., driver’s logbooks from 6/15/16-6/21/16) or it may be able to destroy necessary evidence. 

What evidence can the trucking company legally destroy? 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) creates regulations that drivers must abide by. For example, all companies must retain the following records for certain periods of time. 

Driver logbooks (§ 395.8)

Because of the higher standard of duty, FMCSA only allows truck drivers to stay on the road for a certain period of time. A driver must log all the times he takes a break, how long the breaks last, and how long he was driving without a break.

Drivers must also log how often they check their cargo, etc. 

Even though FMCSA is very strict about logging hours, once a driver turns in his logbooks, the trucking company only needs to keep logbooks for six months. 

Anything pertaining to a driver’s drug or alcohol tests 

Generally, per § 382.401 each employer must “maintain records of its alcohol misuse and controlled substances use prevention programs.” Trucking companies must keep the following records for a minimum of five years:

  • Driver alcohol tests with an alcohol content of .02 or higher
  • Driver verified positive controlled substance test results
  • Refusals to take drug or alcohol tests
  • Driver evaluations and referrals
  • Calibration documentation
  • Records related to administration of alcohol and controlled substances testing

Trucking companies must keep any records related to alcohol and controlled substance confiscation for two years. They must keep any records of negative and canceled controlled substances test results and alcohol test results with concentration of less than .02 for a minimum of one year.  

Maintenance records (§ 396.3)

Because long drives put a lot of wear and tear on trucks, FMCSA requires that employers perform regular maintenance on their fleets. FMCSA also requires that employers keep the records of any maintenance performed on the truck. Employers must keep maintenance records for one year while they are housing the vehicle and for six months after the vehicle leaves their control.

Will a spoliation letter stop a trucking company from destroying evidence?

Technically, no. But it creates consequences if the trucking company ignores your request. If the trucking company destroys any records you specified in your spoliation letter, it may face sanctions, such as fines. 

While this will not stop every trucking company from destroying records, it helps. In addition, the trucking company’s destruction of any documents may lead a judge or jury to believe that the documents contained incriminating evidence, which may sway its decision. 

For help writing a spoliation letter or any aspect of a truck accident case, call Cordisco & Saile LLC today: 215-486-8196. 

 

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