Truck Accident Evidence:
A Vital Part of Winning Your Truck Accident Lawsuit
With any kind of truck accident, preservation of evidence is very important. The truck accident scene is one of calamity and hysteria where the prime consideration is one of saving lives and attending to the injured. In the past priority, was getting the truck and other vehicles off the roadway in order to let the traffic flow. This kind of thinking destroys powerful evidence that might take hours and days to assess.
The Large Truck Crash Cause Study (LTCCS) has set standards for collecting and preserving evidence. It has been documented in preceding crash investigation efforts that large trucks tend to be moved from the crash site in a relatively short time frame. This is particularly evident in circumstances where a national or regional carrier owns the commercial vehicle and the units tend to be moved to regional repair centers either for repair to placed back in service or to be stripped for parts.
"Given these issues", says Jim Ronca, "it was critical to initiate investigation activities relatively quickly following a large truck accident crash."
The legal term is spoliation which is the destruction of records which may be relevant to ongoing or anticipated litigation, government investigation, or audit. Courts differ in their interpretation of the level of intent required before sanctions may be warranted.
There were a number of issues/concerns associated with the proposed large truck crash causation study. It has been documented in preceding crash investigation efforts that large trucks tend to be moved from the immediate vicinity of the crash site in a relatively short time frame. This is particularly evident in circumstances where a national or regional carrier owns the commercial vehicle. These units tend to be moved to regional repair centers either to be repaired and placed back in service or to be stripped for parts. Given this tendency, it was critical to the success of the program to initiate investigation activities relatively quickly following the crash occurrence.
An on-scene investigation response procedure was developed, as opposed to a follow-up investigation to meet the large truck study requirements of gathering in-depth crash related data in a timely manner. Since the start of LTCCS, experience demonstrates that the availability of crash data often diminishes with the passage of time. This is another reason to retain a truck accident lawyer quickly.
When the case investigation is initiated one to several days after the crash, vehicles towed from the scene tend to be more difficult to locate, and when located, frequently are undergoing repair, have been repaired, or have been processed through salvage. In the case of interstate trucks, this situation is further complicated by the transient nature of these vehicles, as the potential for them to leave the area before being inspected is high.
On-scene presence by the National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) truck researcher and State truck inspector provides the ability to obtain vehicle and interview data that may not have been available in a post-crash environment.
Another advantage of on-scene presence is the opportunity to establish a rapport with the interviewee at the scene, which makes it possible to conduct a more in-depth follow-up interview. It is noteworthy that the on-scene investigative approach signifies the first time in NASS history that police investigators, certified Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Level 1 State truck inspectors, and NASS truck researchers have combined their efforts and agreed to simultaneously respond to a crash scene. This arrangement, although initially thought to be difficult to achieve, has developed into a first rate network among on scene responders, yielding several important results.
These results include a higher rate of participation by crash victims, a higher quality of interview and vehicle information, and a better understanding of the crash events.
Interviewing crash participants is clearly the most important aspect of the LTCCS. During an on-scene investigation, the NASS truck researcher conducts interviews with the truck driver(s), the other driver(s), and any witnesses to ascertain pre-crash events. NASS truck researcher has also been trained to observe driver behavioral patterns for indications of fatigue (e.g., speech pattern, the driver’s posture, bloodshot eyes).
After all the data have been electronically entered into the LTCCS database, the case information is forwarded to the Zone Center where experienced staff determine the crash event assessment for the crash occurrence, injuries sustained by occupants of all involved vehicles, sources for those injuries, and speed reconstructions.
The crash event assessment for a crash occurrence consists of three elements for each vehicle involved in the crash:
1. the critical pre-crash event - what makes the crash inevitable
2. the critical reason for the critical event – immediate reason for the crash and last in the chain of events
3. associated factors – driver condition, driver action, traffic flow, and vehicle condition, and many more
More required truck accident evidence includes:
1. Black box data
2. Personnel file and driving history of truck driver
3. All statements obtained from investigation of the truck accident
4. Truck drivers log for the last two years
5. Truck driver's qualification file
6. GPS and/or other tracking data
7. Truck's maintenance and repair history.