Truck Accident Investigation
6 Steps to Help Attorneys Preserve Information Vital to Proving the Case
The evidence-gathering process of the legal investigation must start immediately, to preserve information vital to proving the truck accident case. Below our attorneys discuss several important steps in the truck accident investigation:
- The preservation of evidence letter
- File a temporary restraining order
- Visit the truck accident scene
- Document the scene
- Interview witnesses
- Inspect the truck
The plaintiff truck attorney must immediately send a preservation of evidence letter to all potential defendants. This letter puts defendants on notice to retain all records, as required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulation 385.8.
These records are used by the trucking company to verify the information on the truck driver’s record or log book concerning on- and off-duty status. They need to be preserved, especially since trucking companies are only required by law to maintain records of driver duty status for a period of six months from the date of receipt.
If you get the case in time, file a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the defense from reviewing the truck, and altering or removing important evidence. If you get the case too late for this, and most likely a defense insurance team has already reviewed the truck, they may still have missed something. You will want to address the items that were in the truck at the time of the wreck to determine what has been moved or removed. You will need inspection reports, repair information, driver logs, maintenance logs and any other relevant information. Identify visibility issues; determine if there was lighting failure, and inquire what computer and communications equipment was installed or attached.
Visit the truck accident scene. It will have evidence that can be lost over time. Having knowledge of the scene allows the truck accident lawyer to appreciate the devastation and tragedy caused by a fatal crash. You may find items not listed on the police accident report, but these items add a touching human element to the case. For example, a pair of crushed glasses, a blood-soaked hat or a shredded stuffed animal that a child was holding before she was killed.
Consider photographing or videotaping the crash scene. Get a qualified truck accident expert to the scene as soon as possible. Here’s information about truck accident expert witnesses. Aerial photographs can be extremely helpful in giving a bird’s eye view and should be taken immediately to preserve evidence of the devastation. Visit websites that have aerial or satellite pictures of the area.
Interview everyone who was at the scene the day of the truck accident to determine who has knowledge about the crash. To ascertain who was at the scene, make a list of all of the names that appear on the accident and ambulance reports (including law enforcement), and interview them. In a truck accident, it’s common to have officers from the state, city and county appear, even though it’s the state trooper who completes the report. If the accident occurred near a business, visit the business and speak with employees to see if they can provide additional information.
Truck accident attorneys must do a personal inspection of the truck. Keep in mind, a large commercial truck is a dangerous weapon. This weapon caused the crash — all information available must be obtained about the truck. For example, bumper stickers that display a lack of concern for public safety should be captured for trial. Carefully examine the entire truck, checking under the seats, glove box, sleeper unit and in the back. Here is a list of important discovery documents regarding the truck and the truck driver.
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