Evidence in Truck Crash Claims

| Jun 29, 2020 | Truck Accidents

All personal injury claims are built on firm foundations of solid evidence. Victim/plaintiffs must establish liability by a preponderance of the proof (more likely than not). Additionally, there is generally a direct relationship between the amount of evidence the victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of compensation a Fayette County jury awards.

Because large truck accidents are often catastrophic, evidence is sometimes hard to come by in these cases. Fortunately, a Lexinton truck crash lawyer, usually working with a private investigator, has a number of options. Many of these options did not exist at all a few years ago. 

Event Data Recorder

EDRs are much like the black box flight data recorders in most commercial jets. Aviation investigators rely on black boxes to help them determine the cause of a plane crash. Likewise, Lexington truck crash lawyers rely on EDRs to help them determine the legal basis for a damages claim.

Capacity varies by make and model. Generally, however, most EDRs measure and record information like:

  • Engine RPM,
  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle, and
  • Brake application.

Electronic evidence is often quite compelling. Tech-savvy jurors often respond very well to such proof. Additionally, eyewitnesses could be unpersuasive or incometent to testify, for some reason. But a computer, assuming the gadget is working properly, is never wrong and never biased.

As a result, it’s almost impossible for insurance company lawyers to successfully block an EDR’s use in court.

However, these gadgets are not always available. Kentucky has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. Moreover, some insurance companies “accidentally” destroy physical evidence, including the EDR, before a lawyer can inspect it.

A skilled and hard-working attorney can easily overcome these obstacles. Once an attorney obtains a court order, the insurance company or other custodian must allow access. To ensure that the EDR remains available, attorneys send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters create a legal duty to preserve any physical evidence in the recipient’s custody.

Large truck EDRs are usually very sophisticated devices. An attorney needs a lot more than a screwdriver and a laptop to tap into these machines.

Electronic Logging Device

EDRs are often critical in all manner of truck wreck claims. ELDs are often critical in fatigued driver claims. Drowsiness is a factor in about a fifth of all large truck accidents.

This problem has economic and medical roots. Most shipping companies pay drivers by the load. So, they must stay on the road as long as possible to make money. Additionally, because they sit for long periods, many truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea. This condition robs people of deep, restorative sleep.

In the late 2010s, the trucking industry fought the ELD mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. Industry insiders understand the game-changing nature of these gadgets. ELDs are time clocks connected to the vehicle’s drivetrain. So, there is almost irrefutable evidence regarding things like hours of operation and mandatory rest breaks.

Kentucky and the federal government have strict HOS (Hours Of Service) requirements. Drivers who violate these rules and cause crashes could be responsible for damages as a matter of law.

Safety Maintenance System

HOS is also a component of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new SMS database. This database is like a multi-state drivers’ license which tracks things like:

  • Vehicle maintenance background,
  • Crash history,
  • Driver citation background,
  • Medical issues, such as sleep apnea diagnosis, and
  • Hazardous materials compliance.

Many of the same privacy laws mentioned above also apply to SMS records. Once again, attorneys must often obtain court orders to access this information.

The extra effort is worthwhile. SMS records usually draw on law enforcement sources instead of judicial sources. If a driver took care of a fix-it ticket due to bad brakes, the citation probably won’t show up on a driving record. But it probably will show up in the SMS record.

Typically, the transportation or shipping company which owned the truck is financially responsible for damages. The respondeat superior rule holds employers liable for the negligent actions, or inactions, of their employees. Kentucky law defines all these key terms in broad, victim-friendly manners.

These damages normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Solid evidence could be the difference between fair compensation and settling for less. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.