Evidence in DC Truck Accident Cases

If involved in a truck accident and interested in filing a claim, the type of investigation that has to be undertaken is to establish all means of proving fault, and so there will be different parties that an attorney will be focused on in terms of trying to prove fault. Below a DC truck accident lawyer discusses the different parties that may be investigated for fault.

The Driver

First there will be the driver, and the driver can be found responsible for driver error by having violated the highway safety laws. Thus, an attorney will conduct a thorough investigation into the driver and the operation of the vehicle, especially how many hours that driver had been operating that vehicle without taking a break. Many times, drivers are pushed beyond the requirements set forth in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which have very specific limitations on how many hours a truck driver can operate the vehicle, as well as the breaks that have to be taken. Certainly, driver fatigue is one major reason for truck accidents because drivers fall asleep at the wheel due to the many hours that they are on the highway. In addition, truck drivers have been known to take medications or other stimulants to keep them awake, which can also affect their operation of the vehicle.

To summarize, when it comes to the truck driver, an experienced truck accident attorney will investigate whether or not:

  • The driver possessed a commercial driver’s license
  • The conduct of the driver was generally safe
  • The driver adhered to the laws of the highway
  • The driver adhered to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
  • The required breaks were taken, relative to the number of hours driven

The Vehicle Itself

Regarding equipment and the vehicle itself, there are maintenance and inspection requirements that must be followed, and so part of investigating and establishing fault is looking into whether any violations of the regulations with regards to maintenance and inspection of the vehicles contributed to the accident in any way. For example:

  • Were any mandatory vehicle inspections missed or skipped?
  • Was the person or entity who conducted the inspection certified?
  • Was there break failure?
  • Did any of the other safety equipment fail?
  • Were any of these failures previously documented or preventable?

Trucking companies can be found independently responsible for failing to properly maintain the truck and keeping it in good operating condition. If any responsibility for failing to maintain proper maintenance or inspections falls on the company who owns the tractor and the trailer, that’s something an experienced truck accident attorney can determine by conducting a thorough investigation.

The Trucking Company

In certain instances, the company can also have separate liability in terms of its responsibility for training the drivers because all commercial drivers need to be well trained and well qualified in order to operate large vehicles on the highway. Thus, the company can be found independently at fault if they failed to adhere to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations with regards to proper training of their drivers and hiring properly-qualified drivers.

There can also be liability or fault relating to the cargo being hauled, specifically in terms of proper loading and securement of those loads.  Liability, when it comes to the load, can extend to include the driver, the owner of the vehicle, and the trucking company, and even the individual or entity whose responsibility it was for loading, securing, and distributing that cargo. So, there are different entities, individuals, and companies that can be involved in the operation from start to finish of a particular route and delivery that the truck is making. These must all be taken into account when attempting to determine liability.

How Does An Injury Lawyer Go About Gathering This Evidence?

The earlier the truck accident lawyer is involved in a case, the better. This is because it’s important to go out to the scene of the accident and have the same kind of investigative ability that the insurance company has when they send out their rapid response team to these accident scenes. If contacted later, then a truck accident attorney relies on outside agencies, police, and safety agencies that will be called to the scene to investigate. These agencies produce records of their investigation that a personal injury attorney can access.

Once the information on the initial scene is compiled, there are filings at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to look into and all the rules, regulations, and policies of safety, maintenance, and training involved with the trucking company. This will involve the maintenance logs of the equipment, the personnel file of the driver, the training file of the driver involved, the logs kept by the driver, and data gathering equipment that are on the vehicle.

This is a very involved and complicated process, but that is what an experienced truck accident attorney knows in terms of obtaining this information-how to get to it and how to preserve it so that there is no issue of evidence disappearing and so that it can be used to help your case.