In order to obtain compensation for your injuries in a truck accident, you must present sufficient evidence that the truck driver or trucking company was negligent in some way. Such evidence in a truck accident case can be significantly more complex than in a standard auto accident case, and the types of evidence required will depend on the specific circumstances of the accident. The following are a few examples of the evidence that can be presented in a truck accident case.
Truck Event Data Recorders
Following an airplane accident, much attention is paid to retrieving the “black box” from the plane. This is because such device can provide you information as to what was occurring directly before the crash. Most commercial vehicles have some version of a black box. Depending on the make and model of the engine in the truck, these devices can record a lot of data regarding the operation of the truck and can provide information such as the speed of the truck prior to the collision or whether the driver applied the brakes before the crash. This information can be critical in determining whether the driver was violating traffic laws or was otherwise operating the truck in a careless manner.
A new safety trend in the trucking industry involves trucking companies installing video cameras in the cabs of their trucks. There may be cameras facing forward and recording the road in front of the truck, cameras facing the driver, or both. The forward-facing camera can show whether a truck driver was following a vehicle too closely or engaging in other dangerous behaviors. The camera facing the driver can show whether the driver was distracted, drinking, or doing anything else that could have led to the collision.
Many drivers have complained that such cameras violate their privacy, however, trucking companies believe the cameras increase safety and deter dangerous behavior behind the wheel. If there was a camera, the footage can be extremely important evidence in the event of an accident.
Traffic Citations from Law Enforcement or the FMCSA
Interstate truck drivers are not only required to follow the traffic laws of the state in which they are driving, but also all regulations set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is a federal agency.
There are many regulations regarding the following and more:
- Hours of service (requiring that drivers take certain rest breaks);
- Driving while intoxicated;
- Pre-shift safety inspections of the truck;
- Ban on texting or using handheld devices;
- Driving with serious health conditions.
If a driver breaks the law and causes an accident, the driver may receive citations for violating state and federal laws. Under certain circumstances, these citations can be used as evidence of negligence or carelessness on the part of the driver.
Post-Accident Drug and Alcohol Testing
The FMCSA regulations also require that drivers undergo post-accident drug and/or alcohol testing if a crash resulted in bodily injury, death, serious damage, or moving violations. These tests can indicate whether the truck driver had illegal drugs in their system or if their blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit, which is 0.04 percent for commercial drivers compared to 0.08 percent for regular drivers. Knowing whether drugs or alcohol played a roll in a collision is extremely helpful.
Following many commercial truck accidents, the federal agency called the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) may conduct an investigation into the cause of the accident. If this is the case, NTSB accident reports and findings can be important evidence for injured accident victims.
Independent Accident Reconstruction Analysis
If the NTSB is not involved after your accident, you can still receive investigation results from an independent accident reconstruction expert. Such experts will analyze the scene of the accident, the type of collision, the road and weather conditions, the tires and brakes on the vehicles, and much more to come to a conclusion about what caused the accident and who was at fault. These experts can then testify regarding their conclusions in court. While you may not have access to any of these experts, an experienced truck accident lawyer should have the resources needed to obtain expert analysis whenever necessary.
Documents and Logbooks
Truck drivers and trucking companies are required to keep many different records, many of which may be helpful as evidence in your truck accident case. Records that may be requested and examined can include:
- Shift logs showing hours of service on the road;
- Dispatch records;
- Truck inspection and maintenance records;
- Truck driver accident history or driving records; and
- Health evaluations of drivers.
Obtaining such records from a trucking company may be difficult though attorneys have specific legal methods of doing so on your behalf. In addition, an experienced truck accident lawyer will look for signs that certain records may have been falsified or altered in an attempt to cover up the cause of a truck accident.
These are only a few examples of the types of evidence that are unique to truck accident cases.