How an Attorney Investigates a Truck Accident Case
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, about 145,000 people were injured in truck accidents in 2017. That was the highest annual total in about 20 years. If you are a victim of a truck accident, it is important to know how a truck accident lawyer handles investigative matters to help you achieve a favorable outcome.
A critical part of every personal injury truck accident case is analyzing the police report and information about the police investigation. Your attorney will look to see if there are clear indicators of the truck driver violating any driving rules or presenting any dangerous problems. There may be important pieces of information in the police records that work in your favor.
The Department of Transportation and related New Jersey government agencies may also investigate the accident. However, they usually investigate documentation and other aspects after the crash happens. Their goal is usually to determine if the truck driver or the company that employed the individual violated federal regulations or state laws. Attorneys know how to find important information from government agencies that may help your case.
Truck Company Investigations
If the driver worked for a company, the employer may conduct an investigation. Larger companies that have strong safety policies and uphold their commitments often do this. They may recreate accident scenarios, inspect vehicles or test the driver for drug or alcohol abuse. If this information is applicable and available, it may work in your favor for your truck accident injury case.
Attorneys often arrange for private investigations for truck accident clients. Trucking industry authorities may also be consulted for their help. One of the reasons why a private investigation is important in many cases is because clients may not otherwise obtain all the necessary facts or evidence needed to win a case. Private investigations can be comprehensive in what they include.
A PI may investigate the logbooks of the driver who caused the accident. Drivers are required to keep written records of their behind-the-wheel actions, and logbooks may reveal some habits, trends or other factors that support your claim. If the driver who caused the accident did not keep detailed records, that may also be helpful to your claim. Truck drivers face penalties for not keeping records and for going too long without breaks. While logbooks may not always produce helpful evidence, the onboard data recorders may provide some insights as to why the accident happened. Those can be analyzed as well.
Private investigators are also interested in digging up details about a driver’s past. If the truck driver has past violations that show safety concerns, that may be helpful to your case. If the operator was tested for alcohol or drug use at the time of the accident, the PI will obtain the test records. Four hours must have passed before a truck driver who has been drinking alcohol can get on the road. At the accident scene, a truck driver must be tested for alcohol and drugs if any of the following apply:
- Another person involved in the accident died.
- A citation was issued to the driver, and one or more people required medical care.
- A citation was issued to the driver, and one or more cars were damaged enough to require towing.
An investigator will look into the existence of a drug and alcohol test if any of those points applied in your case. If possible, a PI will collect phone records as well. A PI will also look for any signs or evidence that the driver was distracted at the time of the accident.
Another step that a PI takes is collecting eyewitness testimonies. PIs know how to track down any witnesses who were listed on the police report at the scene. They may speak with witnesses to ensure that their stories have not changed. If there were no witnesses listed on the report, the PI will look at the scene of the accident to see if there were any cameras. Although street or traffic light cameras may not be present in some places, some businesses have private surveillance systems. If a PI finds a business near the scene with cameras that covered the accident area, the PI will attempt to obtain footage. Camera footage can be helpful whether there were witnesses or not.
A PI may try to obtain information about the truck that was involved in the accident. This includes any available maintenance records. In some cases, this can be helpful. For example, imagine that a driver had his truck inspected and was told that he needed new brakes. If he ignored the mechanic’s suggestions and caused a serious accident because of brake failure, the existence of a maintenance record with those recommendations would support the accident victim’s claim. The truck itself may also be inspected to see if any undocumented issues caused the crash.
Investigators will usually visit accident scenes to take measurements or look for other clues. Skid marks, road condition issues and other factors are considered. There may be other contributing factors, such as the time of day and the position of the sun. Investigative teams often recreate accident scenarios with the on-scene information that they collect. In some cases, this can help reveal missed details that support your case.
Why You Need a Personal Injury Attorney
These are the main reasons why you need an attorney on your side after being injured in a truck accident:
- You’ll have someone who is knowledgeable about personal injury law.
- You’ll have a better chance of obtaining a more reasonable settlement.
- You’ll have access to extensive investigative services.
Although insurance companies often try to pressure people into accepting direct settlements, it can be detrimental to accept their initial offers. The payouts are usually mediocre and will not cover all long-term expenses that arise from the accident. When you work with an attorney, you have the assurance that your counselor knows the provisions of applicable laws and how to use them in your favor. Also, there are laws designed to protect victims, and personal injury attorneys know them well.
With large truck accidents, access to private investigations is a top reason to work with a lawyer instead of accepting a direct insurance settlement. The information or evidence that a private investigator finds could determine the outcome of the case. Attorneys know how to find the right investigators and collect a portion of the settlement later on instead of billing clients in advance for the fees of hiring meticulous investigators or respected industry authorities. This is beneficial if you are struggling to cover your bills but want to ensure an optimal outcome.
If you were hurt in a truck accident in New Jersey, the full extent of your injuries may not be evident at first. Attorneys will consider your injuries and your past, current and future financial needs for you and your family. If you’re ready to speak to a truck accident lawyer, please call Rebenack Aronow & Mascolo at 732-247-3600 for a free consultation. If you prefer to speak with us in person, we have multiple office locations in New Jersey. Our offices are at 31 West Main Street in Freehold, 21 North Bridge Street in Somerville and 111 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick.