The Importance of a Proper Truck Accident Investigation
Over 4,600 large trucks were involved in accidents that included fatalities in 2017. Some victims of commercial trucking accidents in New Jersey think that recovering damages for their losses will be relatively straightforward; it often feels like determining fault should be simple and obvious. However, these types of claims can be complex and technical, requiring the help of attorneys who have a thorough understanding of investigating trucking accidents.
How Are Truck Accidents Investigated?
Because of the complexity of truck accidents and the substantial amount of damages that might be involved, a thorough investigation is crucial. The information gathered will have a direct impact on the plaintiff’s compensation. Most people, including many lawyers, do not understand how a truck accident should be investigated. However, there is a right way to go about investigating a collision with a large truck. Investigating a truck accident properly will require the following steps:
- Finding the right lawyer
- Sending investigators to the accident scene
- Hiring an accident reconstruction expert
- Working with other experts
- Sending letters to prevent spoliation
- Sending subpoenas to secure electronic and digital evidence
- Getting ELD data
- Securing copies of maintenance and repair records
Why Getting Help From the Right Lawyer Is Important
Truck accident defendants (commercial transportation companies) normally have significant resources so that they can absorb the ongoing costs of litigation. Under trucking laws, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires commercial trucks that carry general freight to have minimum liability coverage of $750,000. Trucks that transport hazardous substances must carry minimum liability coverage of at least $1 million. Most carriers choose to carry at least $1 million in liability coverage even for general freight, and some of the companies carry coverage with higher liability coverage amounts.
These high policy limits mean that insurance companies often aggressively litigate against truck accident claims. Since the injuries tend to be more severe, the potential losses are generally much higher in truck accident cases than they are in other types of motor vehicle collisions. Insurance companies and trucking carriers often have teams of defense lawyers who are ready to fight claims that are filed by injured victims.
Juries are increasingly skeptical of claims involving personal injuries. To increase the likelihood that your claim will be successful, the accident investigation must be thorough. As the plaintiff, you will have the burden of proving the fault of the defendants by a preponderance of the evidence. This will involve showing how and why the accident happened. It won’t be sufficient for you to rely on a single piece of evidence to prevail in your case against a trucking carrier. An experienced attorney should conduct an investigation to uncover the carrier’s safety policies and training procedures along with other factors that could have led to your collision.
When you’re searching for a trucking collision attorney, you need to find the right professional to handle your claim. It’s best to find an attorney who has the experience and skills necessary to try and lead you to a successful result. Your attorney should understand how to identify and preserve the many different types of evidence that can show what happened in the moments leading up to your accident. He or she should also be able to recover evidence of the recent history of the driver and the employer. Your claim will be strengthened if you can show that the driver was negligent and that the culture within the company is also negligent.
The key to building a strong claim is to gather and preserve all of the evidence. Knowing what types of evidence might be important and keeping that evidence preserved can make the difference in whether you ultimately succeed with your claim.
How the Accident Scene Is Investigated
Since truck accidents can cause extensive injuries, there might be hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses. Because of the high damages that might be at issue in your truck accident claim, you should expect the opposing insurance company and trucking carrier to defend against your claim aggressively. It’s common for these companies to send investigators to accident scenes as soon as possible.
Your legal team should also thoroughly investigate the accident scene. Your attorney may have investigators contact all of the witnesses to complete interviews. The investigators might also take photographs and video recordings of the accident scene. Your lawyer could even hire an accident reconstruction expert who can take measurements and analyze data to find out what occurred during the period immediately before the accident. This type of investigation at the scene can help juries understand everything better. It can also help you show that the truck driver is clearly liable for your accident.
Why Experts Are Necessary
You cannot simply rely on a police report to prove the trucker driver’s liability. This will be true even if the police officer wrote that the truck driver caused your accident. You cannot simply admit a police report into evidence. Unless you can get the police officer to testify and have him or her qualified to testify as an expert, what is written in the report will simply be treated as if it is a non-expert opinion instead of a fact. This means that you must have experts who are qualified by the court to testify about your accident’s causes instead of simply relying on a police report and the police officer.
Spoliation Letters to Preserve Evidence
After your truck accident, you may need to seek medical treatment. Once you’re healthy enough to do so, you should retain a highly experienced and reputable lawyer so that you can prevent the spoliation of evidence. Some truck companies destroy evidence when they think that lawsuits might be filed against them. Your attorney can send a spoliation letter directing the company to preserve the evidence so that it will not be destroyed or lost.
Preserving Digital and Electronic Evidence
Your lawyer should be someone who knows the importance of gathering electronic evidence. Like airplanes, commercial trucks have electronic control modules that function like black boxes. These modules keep track of data about the performance of the engine, the revolutions per minute, the speed, and whether the brakes are engaged. If your lawyer does not act quickly, this information might be lost. Your lawyer can get a subpoena and court order to compel the trucking carrier to turn this information over to your attorney.
Trucking companies are now required to have electronic logging devices in their trucks under the federal mandate. ELDs have replaced the physical logbooks that drivers formerly used to track their hours. Getting the truck’s ELD data is important because it can allow your attorney to see whether the driver violated the hours-of-service rules. Some drivers are exempted from having ELD devices. For those drivers, your attorney will secure logbook copies for the truck that was involved in your accident. Your attorney should also secure copies of the maintenance, inspection, and repair records for the truck.
Contact the Attorneys at RAM Law
The attorneys at RAM Law are experienced in investigating and handling truck accident claims for injured victims in New Jersey. We understand trucking law as well as the types of evidence needed to enhance a claim. Schedule a free consultation today by calling our office in New Brunswick at (732) 247-3600 or our office in Somerville at (908) 448-2560. You can also reach us by email at email@example.com.