There were approximately 499,000 reported truck accidents in 2018, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). An injured truck accident victim may be entitled to compensation from the at-fault driver or the trucking company. However, the foundation of a strong personal injury claim is evidence. Certain evidence is crucial for a truck accident case and must be preserved.
It is important that truck accident victims act quickly to preserve evidence that might otherwise be destroyed or lost over time. The following contains evidence that is crucial for a truck accident case.
Photographs of the Scene and Traffic Camera Footage
Having photographs of the scene or camera footage from the time of the accident can help prove what caused the collision. Tire marks, objects in the road, and other forensic evidence as well as weather and road conditions can assist in building a clear picture of what happened before, during, and after the accident.
Police Accident Report
When police officers respond to the scene of a collision, they may create an accident report. Although the report does not prove fault at trial, it can be used during settlement negotiations and will provide important facts about the case.
Witnesses may be able to corroborate a victim’s account of how the crash occurred. However, it is imperative to contact these witnesses soon after the accident when their memory is fresh, and they are more likely to have the same contact details.
An examination of daily, roadside, and annual truck inspection reports can provide insight into whether a truck defect or malfunction caused the accident. However, trucking companies are only required to keep such records for the legally mandated minimum retention duration, which is usually just three months to a year. A truck accident plaintiff should obtain the records as soon as possible.
Data Storage Unit
The truck’s internal storage unit, also known as the black box, records valuable information, such as shifts in speeds and gears, how long the trucker was driving for, and communications between the trucker and trucking company. However, this information may only be kept for a certain length of time before new data is recorded over it. Therefore, these records should be requested immediately.
Other Electronic Devices
Other types of electronic devices may be helpful for a truck accident case as well. Trucks are often equipped with navigational devices, which includes driving history and inclinometers, which measures truck tilt.
Truck Driver’s Information
Information about the truck driver is crucial for the case, including:
Driving Logs: Those who operate commercial motor vehicles must comply with FMCSA regulations, including the Hours of Service (HOS) and the requirement to record their driving status each 24-hour period. HOS are recorded by an electronic logging device (ELD). Truckers who do not comply with these federal laws and cause an accident due to drowsy driving may be subject to liability.
Phone Records: Phone records can prove that a trucker was on the phone or sending a text at the time of the accident. Distracted driving is a common cause of car and truck accidents.
Insurance Policy: Both independent truck drivers and those who work for trucking companies must have insurance. Drivers and motor carriers who do not have adequate insurance may be subject to fines, criminal charges, and the loss of their commercial driver’s license (CDL), in addition to other penalties.
Qualifications: A driver’s personnel files may provide valuable information pertaining to their work history and experience. It may indicate whether they received adequate training, were involved in any other accidents, and if they received any disciplinary actions.
Drug and Alcohol Test Results: Employers may be required to perform drug and alcohol tests after serious crashes. The results of these tests may be crucial to proving that a driver was under the influence at the time of the accident.
What Causes Truck Accidents?
The FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted the groundbreaking Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) to determine the factors that cause truck crashes. After examining 141,000 crashes involving large trucks, the agencies found that an estimated 77,000 crashes were caused by the truck. The most common critical reasons for these crashes included:
- The driver was unable to adequately respond to the situation due to physical impairment, fatigue, or another disabling event.
- The driver was distracted or failed to adequately observe the situation.
- The driver made a poor decision, such as driving too fast for conditions, misjudging speed, or making incorrect assumptions about another motorist’s actions.
- The driver performed poorly, such as failing to exercise directional control or overcompensating.
- The top critical reasons for the truck accidents included braking capacity, tire or wheel failure, and cargo shift.
Truck accidents are typically complex and caused by more than one factor, according to the FMCSA. However, certain factors increase the risk of a crash, such as fatigue, drunk driving, and speeding.
There were approximately 1,000 associated factors coded during the LTCCS, many of which were attributable to the driver:
- Prescription and over-the-counter drug use
- Traveling too fast for conditions
- Unfamiliar with roadway
- Inadequate surveillance
- Unfamiliar with vehicle
- Under work pressure
- Illegal maneuver
- External distraction factors
- Aggressive driving behavior
- Brake failure
- Deficient lights
- Interruption of traffic flow
- Roadway problems
- Weather problems
How to Drive Safely Around Trucks
Due to their size and weight, commercial trucks can cause serious damage in accidents with passenger vehicles. Common truck accident injuries include broken bones, head injuries, back and spinal cord injuries, internal bleeding, and death. Many truck accidents can be prevented by driving safely around large trucks. Virginia drivers are advised to do the following:
- Be aware of the truck’s blind spots. Commercial trucks have more blind spots than regular cars. A driver should avoid driving 20 feet in front of and 30 feet behind the truck or on the left or the right side of the cab.
- Leave a safe following distance. Do not tailgate or cut in front of a commercial truck. Leave plenty of distance; trucks need more time to come to a complete stop or change directions.
- Use turn signals. Give truckers adequate time to slow down or change lanes by using turn signals earlier than usual.
- Drive attentively. Avoid eating, reaching for objects, texting, and other forms of distracted driving.
How can a Lawyer Help with My Truck Accident Case?
A qualified lawyer can help gather all necessary evidence. A lawyer may send a spoilation letter to the other party requesting that all evidence related to the accident be preserved, subpoena witnesses, conduct investigations, and hire various experts. A lawyer may also be able to help prove that the truck driver, trucking company, or other parties are at fault in order to win the case or negotiate a settlement.
Virginia Beach Truck Accident Lawyers Build Strong Cases Against Negligent Truck Drivers
If you were recently injured in a truck accident, contact a Virginia Beach truck accident lawyer right away. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we know what it takes to build a successful personal injury case and will fight to get you compensation. Call us at 757-352-2237 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.