Truck accidents, by their nature, often involve a more complex legal investigation than the average car accident. Frequently, truck accidents involve multiple liable parties, sometimes including the trucking company. With more than 4,100 people dying in truck accidents each year and thousands more suffering severe injuries, it’s critical to take a look at liability in truck crashes to determine how to proceed next.
However, finding the evidence to establish who bears liability for the accident can prove essential to the process of filing an insurance claim. Working with a lawyer often offers your best chance of going through all relevant evidence from the truck accident to put together a compelling, effective claim.
Just what evidence is a truck accident lawyer going to look at, and how does it impact your claim? Consider these factors that may help establish liability in a truck accident.
The Police Report from the Accident
Frequently, the police report from the accident serves as an initial indicator of liability. The officer that responds to the scene of the accident will often take an initial look at the accident, collect statements from witnesses, and issue a report based on that information. The police report may help show that a specific individual, including the truck driver, bears liability for the accident, often because of violations like speeding, tailgating, ignoring the rule of the road, or a blind spot accident in which the truck driver failed to check his blind spots before changing lanes or pulling out into traffic.
The Truck Driver’s Driving Record
Sometimes, a truck driver may have a rich accident history. Even if that history involves only relatively minor collisions, it could add up to evidence that the truck driver does not exercise adequate caution on the road–and that could serve as the evidence you need to help prove that the truck driver bears liability for the accident. In addition, a trucking company that continues to employ a driver who causes accidents regularly may share liability for further accidents caused by that driver.
The Trucking Company’s Policies and Records
Sometimes, in big truck accidents, the trucking company may share liability for an accident caused by one of its drivers. Trucking companies bear a strong duty of care to the people who share the roads with their drivers. They must:
- Have policies that adhere to federal regulations.
- Check their drivers’ histories and actions on the road regularly.
- Keep up with maintenance and repairs on company-owned vehicles.
If a company violates its duty of care in any way, the company may share liability for an accident caused by the company’s negligent actions. For example, if a company pushes its drivers to exceed the federally-mandated number of hours they can spend on the road each day, and a tired or distracted truck driver causes an accident, the company may share liability for the incident.
The Trucker’s Records
The truck driver may have clear records about everything that goes on in his vehicle. He may have cargo records that indicate what type of cargo he was hauling and who loaded the cargo, which may prove particularly valuable when a shifting load causes an accident or something falls out of the vehicle and causes an accident. Furthermore, the truck driver’s records may help show how far he has driven and when he last stopped, which could help determine whether the driver was speeding at the time of the accident.
The Truck’s “Black Box”
Most people are familiar with the concept of the “black box” on an airplane that stores vital data and can help determine the cause of an airplane crash, but you may not realize that most big trucks are equipped with the same data recorders. The data recorder can offer vital information about what took place in the moments leading up to the crash:
- Did the truck driver step on the brakes?
- How fast was the truck traveling?
- Was the truck driver engaging in other dangerous behavior, including swerving, that could indicate drowsiness or distraction?
While black box evidence cannot offer definitive information about exactly what caused the crash, it can provide more information about what may have contributed to the accident, including steps the truck driver may have taken to avoid an incident. Furthermore, it can help establish if the truck driver otherwise engaged in reckless or dangerous behavior, which could indicate other problems behind the wheel. For example, it may provide GPS coordinates for the truck driver’s most recent stops, which can provide more information about how fast the truck driver was moving. Furthermore, in some cases, the black box may offer dash cam recordings, which may show exactly what caused the accident.
Vehicle Maintenance Records
Keeping a big truck running may mean substantial maintenance, especially as the truck gets older. In order to adhere to safety standards across the nation, trucking companies must take care of vital maintenance on a regular basis. Furthermore, truck drivers and mechanics may need to inspect the vehicle before and after every trip. Truck drivers often get to know their trucks very well, and they may note problems based on a change in engine tone long before they become more serious. Vehicle maintenance records, including maintenance requests, can serve to establish whether the truck was taken care of in a timely manner–and any skipped maintenance that might have led to an accident.
Witnesses who saw the truck accident may have had a better perspective on exactly what led to the accident than either driver involved in the accident. In many cases, lawyers and insurance companies may want to talk to the people who observed the accident to learn more about its potential causes.
In some cases, it can prove very difficult to establish exactly what led to a truck accident. The insurance company that covers the truck driver may heavily dispute liability, and it may turn into a case of competing witness views. Sometimes, an expert witness can provide additional insight into what may have caused the accident. An expert witness can look over the vehicles involved in the crash, the damage done to them, and any signs of mechanical failure to help establish liability for the accident.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
After a truck accident, trying to handle the claim on your own can leave you struggling with a pile of evidence–or even suffering from difficulty as you struggle to access the evidence you need to establish your claim. A lawyer can help. Contact Allan Berger & Associates today at 504-526-2222 to schedule a free consultation.