Being involved in a car crash is nerve-wracking, but it’s worse when you’ve been injured. Dealing with physical pain and emotional trauma at the same time isn’t easy. Unfortunately, injuries caused by traffic accidents are a reality for 50 million people in the U.S. each year.
Just like passenger vehicle accidents, truck accidents are mostly caused by the truck driver’s error, including negligence. Common forms of negligence include distracted driving, fatigue, and being under the influence of drugs.
You probably know what to do after an accident with a passenger vehicle: gather contact and insurance information, see a doctor, and have your property damage assessed. You’ll talk to an insurance claims adjuster, and hopefully reach a reasonable settlement.
The process is slightly different when an accident involves a commercial vehicle. When a truck driver is operating a company vehicle, that company is legally liable for the actions of the truck driver. You can’t just file a claim with your insurance company. If you were injured in a crash involving a semi-truck or an 18-wheeler, you don’t want to pursue the claim on your own. You need a lawyer to navigate the complexities of the legal process.
You need to act fast to preserve evidence
Contacting a lawyer is urgent when you’ve been injured in a crash involving a commercial vehicle. Investigating a commercial vehicle accident is more involved than a passenger vehicle accident, and it’s not something you can easily do on your own.
To determine fault, a lawyer needs to obtain evidence from the truck involved in the crash before it’s lost or destroyed. A lawyer will ask the court to order the owner to preserve whatever evidence they need.
Many commercial trucks are required to carry a “black box” type device to record data prior to and during a crash.
The Serious Injury Law Group lists several types of data collected by these boxes:
- Date and time of the crash
- Vehicle speed
- Engine speed
- Brake status
- Clutch status
- Throttle (gas pedal) position
- Cruise-control status
- Steering angle
- Forward collision warnings
- Lane-departure warnings
- Last stop
- Incident Event Report (e.g., sudden deceleration/acceleration, quick stop, hard brake event, etc.)
- Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) snapshots of truck system sensors reporting data outside normal values
- GPS-based positional data
Another important piece of evidence a lawyer will recover from the truck driver is their Hour of Service (HOS) logs. HOS logs are where a driver records details about their day including breaks, sleep time, and time driving.
HOS rules were established in 1930 to safely regulate a balance of rest and work for truck drivers. The rules have been modified several times – most recently in 1995 – to reflect the current understanding of fatigue and alertness.
The sooner a commercial truck company is required to preserve and provide evidence, the less chance there is for that evidence to be lost, destroyed, or tampered with. For instance, if a truck driver has enough time to obtain a new driver log, they might recreate a year’s worth of entries in an attempt to cover up the truth and evade responsibility.
You need access to accident reconstruction specialists
A lawyer will work with accident reconstruction professionals who use engineering and physics to examine wreckage and other evidence. You need an accident reconstruction professional on your case as soon as possible. Some aspects of an accident scene might change and make it harder for you to prove your case.
For example, if you ran a stop sign obscured by a bush, the city gardener might come out next week and trim it, along with the rest of the street, as part of their regular job duties. Your evidence is gone if that happens. You can probably get verification from the city that a worker trimmed the bush, but without visual evidence, it will be hard to prove how much of the stop sign was covered.
Investigating a truck accident is time-consuming
Extensive resources are required for investigating a truck accident, so it’s best to call a lawyer as quickly as possible. Get a head start on the investigation so nobody has to scramble at the last minute. To get maximum compensation, you need a lawyer on your side.
Image credit: Car Crash via Piyawat Nandeenopparit/Shutterstock