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Key Evidence in Truck Accident Cases

Offered by Smith & Hassler

Make sure your rights are protected after a truck wreck

Personal injury cases are won and lost based on evidence, and that’s especially true of cases involving heavy trucks. The trucking companies work very hard to protect their interests, and plaintiffs need rock-solid cases supported by evidence to get full and fair compensation for their injuries. That’s one of the reasons you need legal representation as soon as possible after a truck accident.

An experienced attorney will launch an immediate investigation into the crash. Here are some of the key pieces of evidence we look for when we investigate a trucking accident.

The hours of service (HOS) log

Truck drivers in the United States are required to abide by federal regulations that govern the number of hours they can drive in a given period of time. For cargo-carrying drivers, these restrictions include:

  • May drive at most 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • May not drive beyond the 14th hour after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • Must take a 30-minute, non-driving break after any period of 8 cumulative hours spent driving without a 30-minute break.
  • May not drive beyond 60 or 70 hours on duty in a period of 7 or 8 consecutive days, respectively. The consecutive period restarts after taking 34 or more hours off duty.

These regulations are meant to prevent truckers from driving while fatigued or falling asleep at the wheel. In order to show they are in compliance, truck drivers must record their hours of service in a log. Your attorney should review the log for evidence that the trucker may have been tired at the time of the crash, or that the log may have been falsified when cross-referenced with other documents.

The “black box” GPS data

A truck’s “black box” shows its speed and direction of travel in the time leading up to the accident. Reviewing the information in the black box could show that the truck was traveling at an unsafe speed. In addition, the black box data can be cross-referenced with other information – for instance, if the HOS log says the trucker was taking a break at a particular time, but the black box says the truck was in motion at that time, the log may have been falsified.

Hiring and supervision records

Trucking companies are responsible for making sure their drivers are qualified for the job and safe to be on the road. Truckers need to hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in good standing and pass a background check. Unfortunately, some trucking companies do not take this seriously. They have even been known to falsify background checks in order to move the hiring process forward, leading to dangerous situations when a driver with a dangerous record is put back behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound vehicle.

Likewise, trucking companies are expected to supervise and manage their drivers with safety as the top priority. If we can show that the trucking company, for instance, failed to dismiss a driver who had a known history of drunk driving, we may be able to file a claim for negligent retention – that is, keeping someone employed as a driver even though they clearly shouldn’t have been.

Cargo and maintenance records

The trucking company is responsible not only for the driver, but also for the truck itself. The truck needs to be properly maintained, and the load needs to be a legal weight and properly balanced within the truck. Your attorney should obtain records indicating that the truck was maintained and that the cargo was properly loaded. These records may show a safety hazard in themselves, or they may prove to be inaccurate when compared to the actual physical evidence from the scene of the accident.

Witness testimony

Perhaps the most important pieces of evidence in a truck accident case come from people who saw something. That includes people who witnessed the accident itself. It also includes people who may have seen the truck driver prior to the accident. If someone noticed the trucker appeared tired or under the influence of alcohol shortly before the time of the accident, that is critical information.

Of course, witnesses often disagree on what they saw, especially when accidents happen at intersections or on on-ramps and off-ramps where there are many moving vehicles. An experienced truck accident attorney knows how to get witness testimony and how to cross-reference stories from multiple witnesses to get to the bottom of what happened – and identify who was responsible.

An experienced truck accident lawyer makes all the difference

The trucking companies understand the value of evidence, and they know an accident represents significant possible exposure to their bottom line. That’s why they spring into action as soon as possible when a crash occurs. They send rapid response teams to the scene soon after a wreck, often within 24 hours. Their insurance carriers, too, invest resources into defending these cases, with their most experienced attorneys and adjusters working hard to build a case that protects their interests.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s quite important for victims to get an attorney on their side as soon as possible. Remember, much of the evidence in a trucking case is the trucking company’s property – for example, they can legally destroy the HOS log merely six months after the accident if an attorney doesn’t intervene before that date. The sooner you get a lawyer involved, the sooner your lawyer can take legal action to preserve and obtain this critical evidence.

When you’re hurt in a truck accident, you need and deserve answers. An experienced lawyer can help you understand what happened, and more importantly, find your path forward. If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident, schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney in your area today.

Smith & Hassler, Attorneys at Law is a personal injury law firm in Houston, TX.

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Founded in 1989 by attorneys Michael Smith and Al Hassler, Smith & Hassler is a personal injury law firm dedicated to fighting for injured Houstonians. We have decades of experien...