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Call a truck accident lawyer in any catastrophic truck accident case – before the motor carrier legally destroys critical evidence – Part 7

March 12, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Trucking companies can dispose of log books, which can prove your case, after six months!

Last scenario from my “Do you need an injury lawyer?” series of blogs, listing instances where you really do need to hire a lawyer right away: truck accidents that cause serious personal injury or death.


Critical evidence – evidence that can prove liability and add millions of dollars in settlement damages – can be legally destroyed by trucking companies within months of truck accident – no matter how serious that truck accident was.

There are specific guidelines that motor carriers must follow for how long they must retain certain records. But what most truck accident victims don’t realize is that the first day after that period in which records must be retained passes, those records are destroyed – especially when they prove wrongdoing. As past-president of the truck accident litigation group for the American Association for Justice, I’m personally aware of cases where defense lawyers and insurance company adjusters have been on site overseeing the shredding of documents.

In truck accident cases – especially the ones involving catastrophic personal injury or death – the message is simple: when it comes to obtaining the best result, the faster you contact a truck accident lawyer to begin the legal investigation, and send letters to preserve crucial evidence, the better.

A dirty tactic pioneered by the trucking industry

Ironically, what started this list of seven blogs about when you really do need a lawyer was a tactic that has been pioneered by the trucking industry. The trucking industry was the first to really act on the insurance industry’s own data showing that where a lawyer is involved, the average personal injury settlement is at least four times larger. Keep in mind, this is averages, and does not reflect the even higher settlement amounts when specialists are involved. Nevertheless, it was the trucking industry that began to send “early-resolution” teams to victim’s homes, sometimes as early as 24-48 hours after a truck accident, to try to settle these cases cheap.

And cheap it is. I recently blogged about a TRUE story of one insurance company claims adjuster settling a truck accident death case by purchasing a new car for the victim’s family.

I’m all for trucking companies and insurance companies taking responsibility for catastrophic injury accidents that they cause, but taking responsibility means paying the full and fair amount of what you owe. Unfortunately, the cases I’ve personally been involved in – and which the trucking industry brags about at seminars frankly – involve the opposite of responsibility. These motor carriers are trying to get out of what they owe for what they’ve caused, because the data shows they can do so cheap if they can try to settle before a lawyer- especially an experienced truck accident lawyer – gets involved.

Insurance company delay

And there is one other motive – delay. At the same time that claims adjusters are contacting seriously injured accident victims or their families, they are often at the same time preparing for litigation with unethical defense tactics, including sending rapid response teams to the site to prepare for defending the case. This can sometimes involve making helpful evidence “disappear.”

Many large trucking companies instantly employ an array of defense tactics following a truck accident to avoid taking responsibility. The biggest is destroying critical records that prove negligence on the truck company’s and the truck driver’s behalf.

For example, many truckers are forced to drive for longer hours than permitted by law, and as a result, become seriously fatigued. Fatigued drivers can become as impaired as intoxicated drunk drivers, and these drivers cause serious accidents. Upon examination, the truck driver’s log records, receipts and pre-trip inspection documents can show these violations.

But by law, trucking companies can dispose of these records after a certain period of time. That’s why it’s imperative that a truck accident victim retain an experienced Michigan truck accident lawyer, who can assist in obtaining and reviewing these records to prove there was negligence. Some of these critical records can be destroyed within days or even months of the truck accident. In the example above, log books that can prove wrongdoing can be destroyed within six months of a serious crash.

How truck accident lawyers can hold unsafe trucking companies accountable

This only works if a truck accident victim, or the family of someone killed by a truck accident, can hire an experienced truck accident lawyer right away to begin an investigation into the crash. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Rule 49 CFR ? 395.8(k)(1) requires a motor carrier to retain all supporting discovery documents at its principal place of business for a period of six months from the date of receipt. Read here on what truck accident lawyers must know about the preservation of supporting documents.

When you need to speak with a lawyer:

Do you need an injury lawyer?

Do I need to hire an injury attorney? When the adjuster sends you a legal release – Part 2

Do I need to hire a car accident lawyer? Uninsured motorist coverage – Part 3

Involve an accident lawyer in any claim with auto insurance “policy limits” – Part 4

When to consult an insurance attorney? Any claim involving Michigan attendant care benefits – Part 5

Contact an auto accident attorney when the defendant is disputing fault – Part 6

Steven Gursten is a partner of Michigan Auto Law and one of the most renowned truck accident lawyers in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported trial verdict in Michigan for truck accidents. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his efforts in promoting national truck safety.

Related information:

Truck driver fatigue

Michigan truck accident FAQs

I never expected such kindness from a truck accident law firm in Michigan

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit to better serve you. Call (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation from one of our truck accident lawyers.

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