Our Texas truck accident attorneys urge anyone who has been involved in a crash with a tractor-trailer to contact us right away. The reason: The sooner we can investigate the crash, the better chance we will have of securing full and fair compensation for you.
As an example, Tate Law Offices recovered $3.7 million for clients who were injured in a collision with an 18-wheeler. We believe our ability to gain access to the crash scene and witnesses played a pivotal role in reaching that outcome. We were able to uncover and document evidence that, otherwise, would have been lost.
To help you to get a clear picture of why it is so important to get to work on a truck accident case as soon as possible after a crash, it may help you to know more about what goes into a truck accident investigation. Key elements include:
Accident Scene Evidence
As we stated above, the crash scene itself contains crucial evidence. This is why insurance companies often send adjusters and experts to the scene within hours after a truck accident is reported to them. Your legal team needs to get there, too.
At the scene, you can get photographs of the vehicles, tire marks and road conditions. Much of this evidence will be removed not long after a crash. For instance, vehicles will be moved or towed, and debris will be cleared. So, getting there at the right time is essential.
In some cases, your legal team may arrive at the crash scene on time to speak with witnesses and collect their contact information before they leave. If not, however, your team should get witnesses statements as soon as possible.
Witnesses can provide important information. They can describe what they saw, heard and even smelled. However, the longer you wait to speak with them, the fewer details they will remember.
Witness information can help with evaluating a case’s merits. Later on, witnesses can give sworn written statements (called affidavits) or oral statements (called depositions).
Inspection of All Vehicles Involved
A full inspection of the vehicles should also take place quickly after a truck accident. This inspection will reveal the point of impact and many other key details.
Photos should be taken from all four sides of the vehicle exteriors.
From a plaintiff’s perspective, it is also crucial to get photos of the interior of the truck involved in the wreck. The cab of the truck may contain beer cans or other alcohol containers, illegal or prescription drugs or items that may have distracted the trucker such as a cell phone, iPad, GPS device, DVD player or TV.
Again, if you don’t move fast, all of that evidence may be removed.
Electronic Data Recorder (“Black Box”) Data
An electronic data recorder contains information that can be downloaded by an accident reconstruction expert. This data can show the truck’s speed right before the crash and indicate whether the trucker applied his or her brakes, along with other useful information.
However, if the truck is operated again, this black box data may be overwritten or deleted. So, an attempt to access this data must be made promptly after the accident.
Cell Phone Records of Texas Truck Driver
A request for cell phone records can be sent to the trucker or trucking company. However, in most cases, these records must be obtained by serving a subpoena on the cell phone service provider.
Cell phone records can show whether the trucker was texting or talking on the phone at the time of the crash. It may also indicate whether the trucking company was aware of the trucker’s cell phone use. For instance, one of the numbers dialed could be a supervisor.
Texas Truck Driver Toxicology Test Results
The truck driver will undergo drug and alcohol testing immediately after the crash. The tests usually are conducted by police officers who respond to the scene. These test results can be obtained early in a case.
A commercial motor vehicle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 or higher exceeds the legal limit in Texas. However, any trace of alcohol or drugs can serve as evidence that a driver was too impaired to safely operate a massive 18-wheeler rig.
Logbooks and Other Company Records for Texas Driver
This evidence – along with the next three types of evidence we will discuss – could end up being concealed by a trucking company. For this reason, an attorney should send a notice letter to the trucking company right after an investigation begins, warning the company that any destruction of evidence could be grounds for a “spoliation of evidence” claim.
Logbooks are important. They should indicate how long a trucker was on the road and whether he or she was in violation of state and federal regulations that limit truckers’ driving hours. The logbooks may also raise red flags and reveal attempts to falsify a driver’s hours.
Other important records concern the inspection, maintenance and repair history of the truck involved in the crash.
Records that indicate when cargo was picked up and delivered – and what it was – can play a key role in an investigation as well. These records are called “bills of lading.”
For example, if a trucker picked up a shipment at one end of the state, and the crash took place at the opposite end, it may indicate that the driver had been on the road for far too long.
The Driver’s Background
The trucking company should have a personnel file for the truck driver. This file will show whether the company conducted a driving history and criminal background check before it hired the driver and whether the driver was physically and mentally fit to be behind the wheel.
The Trucking Company’s Rules Compliance History
There is not much of a risk that this evidence will be lost. It is obtained by contacting state and federal transportation officials. If a trucking company has a history of violating safety regulations – these are called “out-of-service violations” – it may reveal a pattern of negligent or reckless conduct.
Police Accident Reports
Finally, the police accident report should be obtained in the early stages of an investigation. The report can provide the law enforcement agency’s assessment of how the accident occurred and whether any criminal charges were filed. It can also provide insurance information and information about who owned the truck (and whether it was leased) and information about the cargo being transported.
Contact a Texas Truck Accident Lawyer Today
So, as you can see, much goes into conducting a thorough investigation of a truck accident. As your lawyers, Tate Law Offices would need to begin this investigation as soon as possible in order to prepare the strongest case on your behalf.
If you would like to discuss your truck accident case with our firm, please feel free to contact us today. We can provide a free consultation. If we take on your case, we won’t charge you any legal fees or costs – including the costs of an investigation – unless we obtain a financial recovery for you.