A letter of spoliation is a document sent by an injured party (or his or her legal representative) to the trucking company that employed a trucker involved in a crash. This letter notifies the trucking company that it must preserve specific evidence pertinent to any pending litigation. The recipient of the letter must takes steps to ensure that no evidence mentioned is lost or discarded.
Preserving key evidence from the scene of a truck accident is necessary to help the injured party recover compensation. Evidence such as photos or videos of the crash, police reports, or eyewitness testimony can be invaluable in a subsequent accident claim.
Similarly, any information relating to the truck driver’s driving history, maintenance reports regarding the truck involved in the crash, or even a driver’s driving log can help shed light on possible elements that might have led to the wreck. But the trucking company may destroy certain evidence after a period of time. Preventing destruction of evidence (a process known as spoliation), hinders the injured party’s ability to recover compensation.
In order to prevent the trucking company from tampering with or destroying evidence, the injured party can send a letter of spoliation.
What information should be included in a letter of spoliation?
Within a spoliation letter, the injured party must list all evidence he or she wishes the trucking company to preserve. The evidence may help prove the cause of the crash and ultimately liability for the truck accident.
The following is a list of evidence that may be pertinent to an accident claim, and that the letter should mention.
- Any available information about permits or licenses
- The driver’s driving logs, which should include how many hours were spent on the road or resting
- Any inspection or maintenance reports on the truck
- Videos or photos documenting the damage the truck sustained after the crash
- Results from alcohol or drug tests
- Any data from recording devices on the truck
- The driver’s qualification files
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and any other evidence you believe to be useful to your claim should be included as well. Discuss it with your attorney to make sure you include any and all evidence that might be in the motor carrier’s possession that might be relevant to your case.
Does a letter of spoliation actually prevent the trucking company from destroying evidence?
In reality, a trucking company can still destroy evidence, even after being sent a spoliation letter. In doing so though, the trucking company risks serious sanctions imposed by the court.
When do I have to send a letter of spoliation?
If you have been injured in a truck accident, it is in your best interests to send the letter as quickly as possible. The company may destroy evidence after a certain amount of time has passed. For example, it may destroy truck driver log records after six months.
So sending the letter shortly after the accident can help ensure the company receives the letter before legally destroying certain evidence. This can ensure you have access to all necessary information should you choose to file an accident claim or lawsuit.
Should I consult an attorney before I send a letter of spoliation?
It is in your best interests to speak with a legal professional before you send a letter of spoliation. An attorney can help you draft a letter that includes all necessary information, and can ensure that you begin the process of filing a claim within the two-year time limit afforded by Pennsylvania law.