If youâ€™ve been injured in a truck accident, a thorough investigation is necessary to determine all factors that led to the crash. A meticulous investigation is necessary for an attorney to build a case for compensation.
- Investigating a Truck Accident
- Reviewing Trucking Company Records
- Electronic On-Board Recorder
- Examining the Truck
- Interviews and Depositions
- Investigating the Accident Scene
- Whoâ€™s at Fault in Truck Driving Accidents?
To ensure your case is properly investigated, you should have an experienced truck accident investigator on your side.
The truck accident attorneys and investigators at Fried Rogers Goldberg are nationally known for building and winning truck accident cases. We know how to investigate these accidents. If you or someone you loved has been injured in a trucking accident, contact us today at (404) 591-1800 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Investigating a Truck Accident
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations mandate that every trucking company maintains a driver qualification file, commonly called a DQF, on all drivers. For truck accident lawyers, this information is often crucial in their truck accident investigation.
The following must be included in a DQF:
- Driving records, which include any accidents a driver or truck has been involved in
- The driverâ€™s employment history
- Results of road tests
- Results of drug and alcohol tests
- Records for service hours
- Training certificates
- Vehicle maintenance records
- Copies of licenses
- Records of annual reviews
- Any medical certifications
- Employment applications
- Personnel records
An experienced truck accident attorney will look beyond this information to other factors as well. We will look to see if the driver meets all the qualifications required to drive a commercial vehicle. Drivers must:
- Possess a valid commercial driverâ€™s license
- Have passed a recognized driving test
- Be at least 21 years old
- Read and speak English
- Be able to safely operate a vehicle
- Be able to properly load and secure cargo
- Be in good health
- Possess a valid medical certificate
If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident and the truck driver does not meet every one of the requirements listed above, your attorney can hold the driver and his or her employer accountable. Failure to meet these requirements may fit the definition of negligence under the law, meaning you may be entitled to substantial compensation.
To obtain a DQF, you will likely need help from an experienced truck accident lawyer. Trucking companies are very reluctant to hand over DQF files, especially if those files could contain information that proves negligence or liability on the trucking company or the companyâ€™s driver. A skilled truck accident attorney with experience handling truck accident investigations will be able to get a copy of a DQF, even if it means getting a subpoena forcing the release of the document.
An experienced truck accident attorney will investigate to determine:
- If the driver had consumed drugs or alcohol
- How much time the driver was on the road since his last break
- Information recorded by the truckâ€™s black box, like the truckâ€™s speed when brakes were applied, velocity changes, sudden braking, changes in RPMs and gear shifts
- A GPS device that can show the truckâ€™s precise location and speed
Reviewing Trucking Company Records
Trucking companiesâ€™ own records often expose them to negligence claims.Â For example, a trucking company may be negligent if it:
- Keeps unqualified drivers on staff after flagrant mistakes, like drug or alcohol abuse or unsafe driving
- Hires drivers without performing thorough background checks
- Inadequately or improperly trains drivers or hires inexperienced drivers
All of this information can reveal whether the company sufficiently investigated a driver’s driving record and background before the hire. Company records can also show if trucking companies performed mandatory drug and alcohol tests.
Electronic On-Board Recorder
Information from an electronic on-board recorder (EOBR), or the truckâ€™s “black box,” can be crucial to proving your case. On-board recorders track events before, during and after an accident, storing the information so police, employers or insurance companies can access the data.
If you do not have an experienced truck accident lawyer, however, you may not be able to obtain the vital information necessary to prove your case. You may find your future in the hands of insurance companies that donâ€™t have your best interests in mind. That is why itâ€™s essential that you speak to an attorney as soon as possible after your accident.
Examining the Truck
All truck accident investigations should include a thorough examination of the mechanical condition the truck was in, as well as data and evidence that show how the accident unfolded. Truck accident attorneys work with accident reconstruction experts, vehicle inspectors and mechanical engineers to help get all the facts necessary for a successful case.
Accident reconstruction experts help determine the truckâ€™s speed and pinpoint a time-distance relationship between the truck and the other vehicles when the crash happened. Data from black boxes or electronic on-board recorders will help reinforce the findings of the reconstruction and investigation.
Interviews and Depositions
A professional accident investigator arrives to the scene quickly and knows what types of witnesses to interview to help build your case. The most important witnesses are typically:
- The truck driver
- Law enforcement or safety officers
- Other witnesses, such as bystanders or passengers in the truck or car
It only takes a few hours for the trucking company’s insurance company to have its investigators on the scene. This is because all of the information eyewitnesses provide is often crucial in developing a case against the truck driver and the driverâ€™s company.
Eyewitnesses, for example, often help paint a complete picture of what occurred. They can describe the road, surface conditions, weather, markings, traffic lights or sign positions, visibility and lighting. They can say who they believe caused the accident and where the crash occurred. Eyewitnesses are also valuable in being able to provide details about whether a truck driver appeared intoxicated or fatigued. Besides describing what they say, eyewitnesses can tell investigators what they heard, such as brakes screeching, or what the drivers said to each other after the accident. Witness statements are important because, unlike drivers or insurance companies, witnesses have no stake in the outcome of the investigation.
When statements are recorded, they can be admitted in court. They then help show how the accident unfolded.
Investigating the Accident Scene
After our accident investigators have interviewed key witnesses, our skilled truck accident investigators then comb the scene for evidence. There are several key pieces of evidence we will look for, including:
- Accident debris
- Stains from oil, fluid, or gas
- Skid marks or yaw marks on the road
- Gouge marks on the vehicle
We also demand in-writing requests that the trucking companies preserve evidence. We write these requests as soon as possible to prevent companies from destroying evidence.
All vehicles involved in the accident must be preserved so that we can take photographs of the impact from specific angles. Itâ€™s part of our process of fully documenting the crash.
Whoâ€™s at Fault in Truck Driving Accidents?
When a trucking accident occurs, there are often other people at fault than just the truck driver. How the driver was hired, trained, the hours he or she was working, what condition the truck was in and more can all contribute to a crash and are the responsibility of parties other than the driver. Parties that can be held liable beside the driver include:
- The owner of the truck and/or the trailer
- The owner of the truck
- The person or company that loaded the truckâ€™s cargo
- The person or company that leased the truck
- The manufacturer of the vehicle, tires or other parts
Trucking companies will always try to avoid liability. They may claim the driver was not working for their company or that they donâ€™t actually own the equipment, meaning they would not be responsible for the operation, maintenance, repairs or regular inspections of the truck or trailer. You should have an attorney fighting for you.
Why Act Quickly?
When you or a loved one is injured in a truck accident, itâ€™s essential that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible. The law limits the amount of time you have to seek compensation after an accident, and you may lose your chance to get justice if you delay.
Additionally, accident investigations are most thorough when conducted shortly after the crash. The longer after the crash an attorney investigates your accident, the less likely they will be able to examine the scene as it was at the time of the crash.
Witness statements need to be obtained as soon as possible because accident witnesses may not be not available as more time passes. Their memories can also fade â€“ and so can yours.
The sooner you speak with a truck accident attorney, the sooner a lawyer can get to work building the strongest case possible.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
Truck accident cases can be complex. You will want the best truck accident investigators on your side, as well as a team of experienced truck accident attorneys who have the passion and proven track record to win you the settlement you deserve.
At Fried Rogers Goldberg, we have developed a nationwide reputation for handling trucking cases. They represent at least 75 percent of our caseload. Call us today at (404) 591-1800, or contact us online for a free consultation.
Consultations are always free and without obligation.