Investigating a Truck and Tractor-Trailer Accident
Any semi truck accident lawyer Atlanta GA trusts can tell you that trucking accidents are different. A commercial truck weighs upwards of 10,000 pounds, which means extensive vehicle damage and serious bodily injuries are more likely. In addition to the truck driver, the trucking company or truck manufacturer may bear some of the blame for the accident. The attorneys at Butler Law Firm know how to conduct a thorough investigation, secure expert witnesses, depose the right people, and prevent trucking companies from destroying valuable evidence. We know because we’ve done it.
Truck Accident Investigation
After a truck driver collides with another vehicle, the first thing the truck driver is trained to do is call his company. Responsible companies then investigate the collision to determine whether its driver could have “prevented” the wreck. In reality, many truck companies call their team of defense lawyers who start working on ways to avoid responsibility. That is why it is so important you consult with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. When we get hired we want to look for as much evidence as we can. Depending on how soon our firm gets hired, we often begin by sending a spoliation letter to the trucking company and the trucking company’s registered agent. Then we follow up by acquiring evidence of the truck company’s internal investigation and whether the collision was “preventable.”
Once we’ve gathered enough written evidence, we’ll start preparing the semi-truck accident case for trial. We cross-examine the truck company’s executives, usually including the company’s “Safety Director,” by taking their depositions. We’ll prepare medical evidence to be used at trial, including medical illustrations and video depositions of your doctors that we can play for the jury. We find witnesses who can testify in front of the jury. We prepare our opening statements and closing arguments.
What we do is no secret. Truck companies, insurance companies, and their lawyers know that if the case has to go all the way to trial, our firm will be ready—so they usually settle with our clients. If they don’t, we’re ready for court. For example, after extensive investigation and case preparation, we were able to settle a fatal truck crash claim for the $2 million policy limits long before trial.
Preservation of Evidence
Trucking companies often remove parts from damaged trucks and use those parts in other vehicles. Removing the electronic control module after an accident can erase valuable crash data, which is why we warn the trucking company not to destroy evidence. Any semi truck accident lawyer Atlanta GA relies upon understands the importance of preservation-of-evidence, or “spoliation,” letters. We act fast. We write to the truck companies and demand that they preserve all evidence. This spoliation letter notifies the trucking company of its obligation to preserve accident-related evidence, and we send it as quickly as we can. If a trucking company ignores this letter, we may be able to prove that they destroyed evidence intentionally, which can strengthen your case.
We may retain an accident reconstruction expert to determine how the wreck occurred. A reconstructionist’s investigation often begins with visiting the scene of the wreck to examine skid marks, look for debris, and take measurements with electronic surveying equipment. It’s all part of building the case.
Reconstructionists often inspect the vehicles involved in the accident, including the truck. It may take hours to inspect the truck’s brakes, suspension, steering, lights, carriage, GPS system, and tires.
After a collision, a truck company should preserve all evidence that relates to the collision, especially data from any tracking device that the truck company installed on the tractor-trailer. That electronic or GPS data can show how fast the truck was going and how long it had been driving. But some companies allow the evidence to be destroyed.
Driver Qualification Files
Trucking companies rarely release maintenance records, driver logs, and other documents to accident victims, but the semi truck accident lawyer Atlanta GA drivers turn to may know how to make them give us the evidence.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) requires trucking companies to maintain a driver qualification file (DQF) for every driver. The DQF includes employment applications, driving records, road test results, vehicle maintenance records, hours-of-service logs, training certificates, and drug test results. The information in the DQF is essential to building a case against the driver or the trucking company.
We take that evidence, we study it carefully, and then we use it to show the driver’s qualifications—or lack thereof—to the jury.
A smart truck accident lawyer studies not only the collision, but also the truck driver.
Truck Driver Qualifications
Truck drivers must meet certain qualifications before they are allowed to operate commercial vehicles. For example, a driver must be at least 21 years old, have a valid commercial driver’s license, possess a valid Department of Transportation (DOT) medical certificate, and be able to read and speak English. He or she must also be in reasonably good health and have a good driving record. If the driver involved in your accident does not meet all of these requirements, the trucking company that hired him may be responsible.
Once we get the DQF from the trucking company, our attorneys review all of the documents to determine if the driver was qualified to be on the road.
Information From Data Recorders
Like airplanes, many trucks are equipped with data recorders. These recorders are an important source of information in a trucking accident case. A truck’s electronic control module typically records average speed, time spent in gear, and other data related to vehicle operation. Control modules also record data during a crash, which is valuable when trying to determine if a driver is at fault for an accident. For example, the electronic control module can confirm whether a driver was speeding in the seconds before the crash. Not every truck has this equipment, and sometimes the trucking company fails to preserve this important evidence. But if we’re able to obtain it, our team of experts knows how to download and analyze this data.
Interviews and Depositions
Over time, memories fade, making it difficult to determine what really happened at the scene of a crash. That’s why the semi truck accident lawyer Atlanta GA drivers rely upon may interview accident witnesses and first responders as soon as possible. We will meet witnesses wherever we can find them. Witnesses may have noticed the truck driver driving aggressively, running a red light, or changing lanes without using a turn signal just before the accident occurred. We find out as much as we can about the case so that we can win it when the time comes.
We also take depositions from the witnesses involved in your case. During a deposition, the witness testifies under oath about what happened before, during, or after the crash. Our attorneys have extensive experience taking depositions and getting the information needed to build a strong case.
When you are involved in a trucking accident, time is of the essence. Almost as soon as a crash occurs, the trucking company has investigators on the scene looking for ways to blame the accident on someone else. Not only do we review accident reports, interview witnesses, and take depositions, we also front all of the costs of the case. We only get paid back if and when we win the case. This allows you to focus on your medical recovery while we fight on your behalf.