Electronic Evidence in Truck Crash Claims

On Behalf of | Nov 26, 2020 | Truck Accidents

Safety regulators, who are supposed to guard victims, routinely take actions which prioritize corporate profits over individual safety. The recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours of Service rules changes are a good example. At least according to many, the FMCSA used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to relax some safety rules which the industry fought very hard to block.

When federal watchdog groups drop the ball, it’s up to Lexington personal injury attorneys to protect victims by obtaining fair compensation in court. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in extreme cases.

Event Data Recorder

Victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Therefore, evidence is the foundation of all successful damages claims. Increasingly, at least some of this evidence comes from a large truck’s Event Data Recorder. Much like the black box flight data recorders in commercial airplanes, EDRs measure and record operational information like:

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

An EDR could make the difference in your claim for damages. But this information is not always available in court.

Kentucky has very strong vehicle privacy laws. So, to access and download EDR information, most attorneys must obtain court orders. Inexperienced lawyers might be blindsided by this requirement. If there is any delay, it could be very costly.

Following catastrophic crashes, most insurance companies destroy wrecked vehicles in a few days. That’s much cheaper than storing them. However, if that happens, any physical evidence the truck contains, including the EDR, is lost forever.

To avoid this outcome, most attorneys send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence in the claim, including the EDR.

One other note. Large truck EDRs are very sophisticated devices. An attorney needs a lot more than a screwdriver and a laptop to access, download, and effectively present EDR information.

Electronic Logging Device

ELDs are often compelling in drowsy truck driver claims. Largely because of the aforementioned FMCSA rules changes, truckers are on the road for longer stretches of time. Biologically, driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That figure is above the legal limit in Kentucky.

ELDs conclusively establish HOS-based claims. Way back in the day, drivers used paper log books to track their hours of service. These log books were easy to fake. Early ELDs were more reliable, but they were also easy to hack. Today’s ELDs are much more robust.

The above mentioned punitive damages are often available in HOS claims. These drivers know full well that they are too tired to stay behind the wheel. Yet they drive anyway and intentionally disregard the health and safety of other people.

Circumstantial evidence is also admissible in drowsy truck driver claims. The time of day or night is a good example. Most people are naturally drowsy at these times, no matter how well-rested they are. And, many truck drivers are on the road during these times. Tour bus drivers are even more likely to be on the road during these periods.

Safety Maintenance System

The SMS database is not electronic like an EDR or ELD. But it is electronically stored. And, largely due to privacy laws, much of this vital information is inaccessible to most people. The database is like an interstate driving record for commercial operators. This database is valuable because most truckers are licensed in several different states. So, an attorney can obtain a Kentucky driving record rather easily, but this report only shows part of the picture.

Generally, SMS reports contain information on:

  • Alcohol and substance abuse issues,
  • HOS compliance,
  • Crash history,
  • Citation background, and
  • Vehicle maintenance history.

The SMS database usually draws on law enforcement sources instead of judicial sources. So, the SMS is more accurate. For example, if a trucker got a speeding ticket and took defensive driving, the citation would probably not appear in judicial records, because the court dismissed it. But, the infraction would probably pop up in a law enforcement records search.

Successful truck crash claims are built on solid evidence. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Home, virtual, and hospital visits are available.