When a 3,000 pound economy car is struck at highway speeds by a fully loaded tractor-trailer weighing as much as 80,000 pounds, the results often are catastrophic for occupants of the passenger car. The massive weight disparity between large trucks and passenger vehicles increases the likelihood that occupants of a car, pickup or SUV will suffer debilitating injuries that necessitate spiraling medical expenses, prolonged treatment and/or rehabilitative therapy, and permanent mental and/or physical disability. Given the severity of injury associated with trucking accidents, victims of negligent truck drivers and indifferent commercial carriers rely on maximizing recovery in a personal injury claim to get their lives back on track. However, unique evidentiary challenges involved in trucking litigation make these personal injury lawsuits qualitatively different than typical car accidents. This blog post outlines some of the evidentiary issues that must be successfully dealt with in Mississippi trucking accident cases. These are as follows:
- Falsification of Records: Although drivers operating big-rigs and the commercial carriers for whom truckers work are required to keep detailed records, these documents often are unreliable. Commercial drivers are required to maintain logbooks that provide evidence of hours of service (HOS), rest breaks, off-duty periods, and inspections. The most important function of this logbook is to monitor drivers who violate anti-fatigue rules. Since drowsy or fatigued driving is considered a leading cause of trucking accidents, these logs are designed to provide a record that can be reviewed in the wake of a collision. Unfortunately, these logbooks are so routinely falsified that they have become derisively referred to in the trucking industry as “lie books.” An experienced Mississippi trucking accident attorney will be very familiar with the industry practice of keeping two sets of logs or manipulating the information in such logs. Our Mississippi trucking accident law firm routinely investigates and conducts discovery to obtain evidence that can expose misleading driver logs, including receipts for gas, motel bills, on-board data recorder information (“black boxes”), and similar evidence to ferret out attempts to cover up HOS violations.
- Preservation of Black Box Data: When an 18-wheeler is rushed back into service following a crash, the black box, which records critical information like speed immediately prior to a collision, sudden braking, shifting of gears, hours of service, vehicle location, maintenance issues, and more, can be erased. The black box on a tractor-trailer will have limited recording capability, such as thirty days of storage. When the memory becomes full, the black box typically records over prior data. This means that critical information might be erased if immediate action is not taken to ensure the black box data is preserved.
- Repair of the Tractor-Trailer: When a big-rig is involved in a collision, the cab or trailer might have body damage. Alternatively, faulty brakes that have not been properly serviced might fail. If the trucking company or an independent repair facility fixes physical damage from the impact, an accident reconstruction expert might be deprived of important evidence that could be used to interpret fault, causation, or other issues. If faulty brakes or other malfunctioning components or systems are repaired, this can impede the plaintiff’s ability to prove negligent maintenance or vehicle defects.
- Spoliation of Evidence: Our Mississippi big-rig accident attorneys address the issue of preserving black box data and post-crash damage by sending the commercial carrier a notice regarding spoliation. This letter will inform the commercial carrier that the truck and its black box are the subject of litigation. The notice will warn the trucking company that the evidence must be preserved in an unaltered condition. The letter will also warn that a violation of the notice will result in a motion for sanctions in the form of attorney fees and/or an adverse finding regarding an issue or the evidence at-issue.
If you or someone you love has been injured in tractor-trailer collision, the compassionate and knowledgeable Mississippi trucking accident lawyers at Porter & Malouf, P.A. are here to help. Call our office today at (601) 957-1173 to schedule your free initial consultation.