When a big-rig truck is involved in an accident, there is a lot more involved with securing evidence, then when it is just two or more automobiles involved in a crash or impact. The trucking industry has a lot of safety regulations and compliance standards, which play a significant part in handling the crash of a semi-truck.
The evidence needed to be collected is divided into three categories- the load being hauled, the vehicle information, and the driver’s history and records. This evidence can be challenging to find if you are unsure what to look for in means of proof. Whenever an accident occurs involving a semi-truck, legal help is needed to secure the evidence required to file a claim. Contact the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney as we know the laws and industry standards to ensure all proper evidence is secured.
Driver Information Needed as Evidence in Truck Accident
When an accident has occurred involving a semi-truck, the driver's records will be required as evidence in the crash. The documents needed include:
- The driver’s qualification file - This file contains specific pieces of information about the driver, according to FMCSR (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) regulations. Every motor carrier has to keep a driver qualification file for their drivers in their employment. The data includes the driver’s application for employment, any inquiries made to previous employers in the past three years, annual review of driving records, annual certification of violations, road-test certification, and the medical examiner’s report for recent medical physical.
- The driver’s training file - The training file is similar to the qualification file and may have additional certificates or documents about any specialized driving records or achievements.
- The driver’s logs or hours of service documentation - The FMCSR requires that all motor carriers (semi or big-rig truck drivers) maintain a record that documents they comply with safety regulations. There are varying lengths of time these documents must be kept depending on the applicable rules.
- Drug and alcohol testing information must be kept for at least five years. These tests include BAC test results of more than .02, verified positive controlled substance results, refusals to test, substance abuse professional evaluation reports
- For at least two years, drivers must keep the file of any random selections, reasonable suspicion testing, and medical evaluations for shy lung or shy bladder conditions
- For at least one year, drivers have to keep files of any negative or canceled drug tests, alcohol test results below .02 reading
- The driver’s log must be current up to the current date and time of the driver’s trip. It contains the date, name of the carrier, truck number, and a total number of miles driven within 24 hours. The driver should have indicated the start time of their trip, the name of all co-drivers, and shipping documents specifying what is being hauled. All activities should be listed in the log that the driver encountered from the start of the trip, including when they were off-duty or sleeping, when they were driving and when the co-driver was at the wheel. The hours of service or logbooks differ according to the type of commercial motor vehicle, and it’s contents the truck driver is driving.
- The driver’s inspection records. A driver’s vehicle inspection record is their formal record that confirms they have completed an inspection on a commercial vehicle. These inspections are a legal requirement in the United States and include inspection of:
- Air and brake systems
- Reflectors and light systems
- Windshield wipers
- Emergency and safety equipment
- Rearview mirrors
- Rims, wheels, and tires
- Fifth wheels and coupling equipment
- Steering mechanism
- Any trailer or power unit if they are involved with the vehicle
Truck Information Needed as Evidence in Truck Accidents
When a commercial or semi-truck is involved in an accident, the information needed for evidence on the vehicle includes:
- A download of the onboard systems related to the brake module, engine control module, and other specifics on the overall systems of operations. Built-in systems have evolved with technology and are now able to provide data concerning brake applications, throttle position at the time of an accident or incident, the direction of the truck’s travel, the exact location of the truck and a lot more.
- A documented history of the truck’s maintenance
- A documented history of the truck’s inspections
Cargo and Load Information Needed as Evidence in Truck Accidents
The evidence required from the cargo or load being transported at the time of an accident involving a big-rig or semi-truck include:
- The bill of lading
- Weight tickets received as the truck passed through various weigh stations
- Trip envelopes
Trip envelopes are a driver’s way of keeping track of their expenses while carrying a load or shipment. It’s the driver’s backup system to getting paid listing information about the trip and truck they are using.
- Dispatch instructions
- Delivery documents
Some of these evidence pieces are required by the FMCSR and will only be kept by drivers for a specific amount of time, so it is recommended that if a semi-truck or commercial vehicle are involved in an accident, these documents concerning the truck, the driver, and the load be kept preserved to risk spoliation sanctions. It is vital that Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney be contacted as soon as possible following the accident, so there is no risk of relevant documents being disposed of by the driver or their company.
Why Evidence is so Important from a Truck Accident
The main reason evidence is gathered from a trucking accident is to find out if the driver or the company they are working for are following proper industry regulations and are in compliance with safety laws. By collecting and piecing together all the evidence regarding the driver and their truck, it is possible to know what was happening precisely during the minutes, hours, and even days before the crash occurred.
When a commercial truck or big-rig is involved in an accident, you have to prove somehow that the driver or the owner of the truck was somewhat at fault to receive compensation for any damages to your vehicle or injuries you or your passengers suffered as a result of the accident. It may be possible to show either the trucking company, the loading company, or even a parts manufacturer played some part in the crash depending on why and how the incident happened.
The evidence can pinpoint specific reasons that could have played a role in the accident such as the driver or company failing to perform routine maintenance, or the truck was overloaded or perhaps was loaded improperly, or it could be the driver was distracted by texting as they drove. All evidence is needed to build a complete picture of what was occurring at the time of the accident.
Adequate Evidence is Chief Priority in Trucking Accidents
If you are going to be seeking restitution from a truck accident, the settlement you receive will be deducted or reduced depending on your degree of fault. There are some instances where both parties are partially responsible for the crash. Responsibility is not always easy to establish, and that is the reason the more evidence you collect, the stronger your case will become.
Contacting Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney as soon as possible will enable you to work with them in collecting other pieces of evidence:
- Checking for any traffic camera footage if it is available in the area the accident occurred
- Accident reconstructionist testimonies or expert witness reports
- Witness reports
- Pictures of the scene where the accident occurred, including all vehicles and their damage, as well as the surrounding area. You want the images to show any skid marks, road conditions, weather conditions, and anything related to the accident.
Companies in the trucking industries are only required to keep their records for a short time; in fact, the FMCSR states they legally need to keep some of them for six months. For you to preserve evidence and make sure it is not disposed of, you and your attorney will need to draft a letter of spoliation. This letter informs the trucking company they are required to preserve all evidence that may relate to your accident.
California Trucking Accidents and Evidence Proving Negligence
Much of the evidence collected by your attorney will help to determine fault for the accident and who was negligent. California is an ‘at fault’ state, so this means that as a victim, you can seek compensation through a personal injury claim. California is also a ‘pure comparative negligence’ state.
- At-Fault State- California is a tort state, which means a person has to prove fault if they are planning to file for legal liability. When this is in reference to a truck or auto accident, anyone injured must show the party responsible for the accident acted with negligence, and that is why the incident happened.
- Pure Comparative Negligence State- In the State of California, there is a system of pure comparative negligence, which will award compensation to victims of auto accidents and other tort cases. In regards to truck accidents, you are still able to recover damages in a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction, even if you played a part in causing the accident.
Truck drivers are typically more careful than an automobile driver; however, semi-truck crashes are still responsible for thousands of fatalities and more than 100,000 injuries across the country. Numerous factors play a part in these accidents, including negligence of other drivers, road conditions, and the variety of loads that are being transported. Dangerous cargo and flammable materials can cause more severe injuries and damages when a collision occurs.
Your attorney will work hard to make sure reasonable care was taken to prevent injuries in an accident, and if shown it was not, will do everything in their power to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve. It will need to be investigated how many defendants are responsible for the accident, such as the trucking company, employers, contractors in addition to the driver. There are situations where responsibility extends to equipment manufacturers or parts manufacturers. Examples where an accident occurs and fault could be found with certain manufacturers include a tire blowing out, brakes failing, or other mechanical problems, the blame could fall onto those responsible for making them safe in big-rig vehicles.
Additional Evidence to Look for in Truck Accidents
There are many truck accidents that can be related to driver error, road hazards, fatigue, but there are other dangers that face truckers. A large semi-truck can jackknife if the brakes are applied to suddenly or the driver attempts a quick turning move. The driver might or might not be responsible for a jackknife accident. The deciding factors will be what the evidence shows as to why the jackknife happened.
Factors that will be taken into consideration of a jackknife are the road conditions. If the roads were slippery, and the driver was forced to make a sudden turn or stop to avoid hitting another vehicle, it may not be considered negligence. Another example is how hard it is to turn a big rig, and it sometimes requires the use of both lanes to make a wide turn. Depending on the courts, this action may not be considered negligence.
To determine liability, your attorney can look at many different factors. One of those is whether or not the driver has had any employment relationships with a trucking company. There are a lot of independent contractors in the trucking industry and a lot who are in some degree controlled by a trucking company. If involved in a vehicular accident while working for a trucking company, that company becomes liable for the driver’s actions depending on the level of supervision used. This situation may mean your attorney will have to work with several insurance companies to resolve compensation and liability issues.
Suffering body injuries is also a common occurrence when involved in an accident with a semi-truck. If the truck is hauling dangerous cargo, it can add to how severe those injuries can become. When seeking compensation, it is often for work loss, medical expenses, damage to your vehicle, and claims associated with personal injury lawsuits. When there is a loss of life involved, the survivors can seek loss of companionship, loss of inheritance, loss of guardianship, funeral and burial expenses, lost income, and medical expenses.
Personal Injury Compensation involved with Truck Accidents
Personal injury is a complex and extensive portion of the California code, and it takes a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney to help you through this type of case. In the State of California, there is a two-year time limit for filing claims under the Personal Injury Law. If the claim is being filed against a government agency, the time limit is only six months from the date the accident occurred. By not filing within these time limits, you face losing the opportunity to gain fair compensation.
Commercial or semi-truck accidents are often horrific as they most often cause extensive injuries. Due to the size of the vehicle, the accident can tie up traffic for hours, and the truck cannot be moved until federal investigators gather evidence. If there are high speeds or weather conditions involved such as fog, there could be more than one vehicle involved or even hundreds. These conditions will impact the length of time it will take to gather evidence and what type of evidence you or your attorney will have access to.
Contacting a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney at your first opportunity is your best chance of gaining compensation for any damages or injuries suffered during an accident with a semi-truck. Compensatory damages are an option for you and your attorney to seek and are intended to compensate you for losses that include both non-economic and economic costs.
Economic damages would include those that have a dollar value. These are financial costs you have spent or will have to pay in the future. In a trucking accident, the expenses could include:
- ER treatment
- Medical supplies
- Vehicle repairs
- Pain and suffering
- Future medical treatments
- Court costs
- Medical bills
- Prescription drugs
- Lost wages
- Loss of spouse or partner
- Lost earning capacity
Non-economic damages often are more challenging to attach a dollar value to and can include emotional and physical injuries. Non-economic damages which can occur in a truck accident include:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Physical disfigurement or disability
- Emotional distress
A California wrongful death law may also apply if a loved one died as a result of a truck accident.
Where Can I Find A Truck Accident Attorney Near Me?
Personal injury laws in California are complicated and stressful, and when a semi-truck is involved, it becomes even more challenging. The Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer is ready to take on this challenge as you recover from the emotional and physical injuries you are dealing with from the accident. Call us at 424-231-2013 and let our legal team handle your personal injury case, and you focus on healing from the truck accident.