How An Attorney Works A Trucking Case: The A to Z Basics
Though it is impossible in one short article to outline everything you need to know about a trucking case, an outline of the basics is necessary so you can understand how your attorney will be pursuing your claim.
Every year, about 5,000 people die and over 100,000 people are injured in large truck crashes. Despite only making up 3 percent of all registered vehicles, large trucks represent 9 percent of all of vehicles involved in crashes and are responsible for 12 percent of all crash fatalities.
If you or a loved one have been in a trucking accident, it's important to retain an attorney who has some experience dealing with the trucking companies and their insurance companies. If you are reading this you are on your way to making a good choice. A trucking case is not worked the same way as a regular auto accident case.
Here are some of the first steps your attorney will take to make sure they get a head start on insurance and trucking companies.
Your Attorney Will:
1. Get a crash team involved;
2. Preserve all evidence;
3. Send out a spoliation letter;
4. Get all pertinent EOBRD and computer downloads from all vehicles immediately;
5. Make sure all relevant documents are preserved and obtained;
6. Obtain all information in spoliation letter – and all other relevant docs;
7. Your attorney will already be aware of all “IDD SOL” (internal doc destruction statutes of limitation). These documents will be obtained or preserved within these time periods.
Some of or all of these steps may not mean anything to you, but they are the most important first steps for your attorney to take to ensure a maximum recovery for you or your loved one.
The crash team may be the most important asset we have in a trucking case. A crash team is composed of:
1. An accident reconstructionist.
2. An investigator (preferably a retired Highway or State Patrol Officer to collect witness statements, etc.)
3. A professional photographer and videographer.
4. A towing company (preferably one with the ability to plastic wrap and preserve the vehicles involved, especially the client's vehicle).
It is, of course, extremely important to preserve all evidence immediately. Not just the vehicles involved, but all black boxes from all vehicles, EOBRD and computer downloads (especially from the at-fault truck), drivers' logs (including hours of service), and the most recent physical done by the driver as required by state and federal CDL licensing departments. Most of these records can be preserved and obtained by sending a spoliation letter to the trucking company, the parent company, their insurance companies, and the driver of the vehicles themselves. Your attorney will be aware of this and be very active in obtaining all of the above materials.
The Trucker and His Employer
In addition to preserving the evidence held by the trucking companies, there is also evidence about the truck driver himself. Here are some examples:
One of the biggest problems on the highways today is fatigued truckers. Truckers who have surpassed their hours of service as allowed by 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) are a hazard to themselves and every other driver on the road with them. Your attorney should make sure to pay special attention to the drivers' log books as well as the on board computer systems. There are weekly as well as daily restrictions on how many hours a driver can spend behind the wheel. A driver may fall within their daily limit, yet exceed their weekly or their 60/70 limit. Also a careful review of medical records of the drivers often show problems of weight, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic spine problems, and depression. Your attorney will get a list of all healthcare providers the driver has seen for two years prior to the collision. Often, your attorney will find multiple physicians prescribing multiple medications without notice of care by other providers or prescriptions. When these findings come to light, your attorney will then hire physicians to testify as expert witnesses.
Also, motor carriers (the employer of the driver) are liable for hours of service violations if they should have had the means by which to detect the violations. This means deeper pockets with which you or your family may be compensated for your tragedy. Carriers are liable for the actions of their employees. Neither intent to commit, nor actual knowledge if, is a necessary element of their liability. Carriers “permit” hours of service violations by their employees if they fail to have in place management systems that effectively prevent such violations.