You need evidence when you have a truck accident claim after suffering injuries or vehicle damage in a crash. Your evidence could prove the truck driver’s or trucking company’s fault for the accident and help your attorney calculate the losses you’ve suffered.
Preserving and collecting evidence for a truck accident claim can become complicated and time-consuming, especially when you have already focused much of your time and energy on your treatment and rehabilitation. Fortunately, a Bakersfield truck accident lawyer can secure documents and information that will help prove your right to compensation for your injuries and losses.
What Types of Evidence Get Used in Truck Accident Claims?
State and federal laws require truck drivers and trucking companies to keep records of their operations so that regulators and law enforcement can ensure compliance with the law. However, these records can also provide proof of fault for a truck accident.
Examples of evidence unique to truck accident claims include:
- The truck driver’s hours-of-service logs. Truck drivers must electronically record their hours on duty and behind the wheel. Federal regulations limit truck drivers’ on-duty hours and how long they can operate their trucks. The hours-of-service logs may show that a truck driver had exceeded their limits during the crash and may have caused the accident due to drowsy or fatigued driving. Your lawyer may also work with forensic computer analysts to review the hours-of-service logs’ metadata for evidence that the truck driver or trucking company altered the records.
- The truck driver’s pre-trip inspection reports. Federal regulations require truck drivers to inspect their vehicles and cargo at the beginning of their shift and before returning to the road. Drivers must note any safety issues on the report and, in some cases, may not put their vehicle into service until those issues get resolved. The pre-trip inspection reports may provide evidence that a problem with the truck/trailer or cargo caused the accident.
- The truck’s cargo/freight manifest. Improper cargo loading can also cause a truck accident. The cargo/freight manifest might reveal that the truck involved in the accident had a cargo weight exceeding the truck’s capacity or that the trucking company failed to balance or secure the load.
- Inspection and maintenance records for the truck or trailer. Trucking companies must regularly inspect their vehicles, perform manufacturer-recommended maintenance, and repair any faults. The truck’s or trailer’s inspection and maintenance records may show that the vehicle suffered from an uncorrected problem that led to the accident.
- Logs from the truck’s event data recorder. Many trucks have an event data recorder that functions much like the black box on an airplane. The event data recorder logs will provide information about the truck’s operation, including how long the engine had run, the truck’s GPS position and speed, driver inputs, or footage from an in-cab camera. These logs can help investigators piece together what happened in the truck accident.
- The truck driver’s employment and driving records. Reviewing the driver’s driving and employment history might reveal prior accidents or safety incidents the driver caused. This evidence may help in a negligent hiring/supervision claim against the trucking company, as it can prove that the company knew about the risk of accidents when they hired the truck driver.
- Results of a drug/alcohol test performed on the truck driver after the accident. Truck drivers may undergo a drug/alcohol screen after an accident, including when the accident results in serious injuries or death. A positive result will serve as conclusive evidence of negligence by the truck driver.
- Post-accident vehicle inspection and repair reports. An inspection of the truck or trailer after the accident might reveal a mechanical failure caused by a defect or inadequate maintenance that led to the crash.
Other kinds of evidence used in truck accident claims include:
- Accident scene photos and videos. Photos and videos taken immediately after the crash can document details such as vehicle damage, skid marks on the road, traffic controls at the scene, visual obstructions for drivers, and the weather/lighting/road/traffic conditions at the time of the accident.
- Surveillance/traffic camera or dashcam footage. Surveillance cameras, traffic cameras, or drivers’ dashcams may capture the collision.
- Eyewitness testimony. Bystanders who witnessed the truck accident can provide an unbiased account of what happened in the moments leading up to the crash.
- Police accident reports. Crash reports written by law enforcement often serve as crucial evidence in motor vehicle accident cases. Police officers may offer their conclusion on the cause of the accident in their report, which provides a reliable opinion from a neutral party with training in investigating auto accidents. The accident report may also contain other helpful information, such as a diagram of the crash scene or photos.
- Accident reconstruction reports. Your truck accident lawyer may hire an accident reconstruction expert to review evidence from the accident and provide a written report containing the expert’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. Your expert can also testify at trial if necessary.
What Steps Should You Take After a Truck Accident to Preserve Evidence for Your Claim?
You can also take steps after a truck accident to help your attorney preserve evidence for your claim.
To secure evidence for a truck accident lawsuit:
- See a doctor as soon as possible after the crash.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s treatment recommendations and instructions.
- Request copies of medical records from your treatment and of any police accident reports.
- Keep all bills, invoices, and receipts of expenses from the crash.
- Gather your income records if you miss work or have reduced earnings due to injuries.
- Start a diary or journal for a contemporaneous record of your recovery.
- Avoid posting about your injuries or accident on social media.
Finally, speak to a truck accident lawyer as soon as you can following the crash to have your attorney begin securing and gathering evidence to support your legal case.
What You Need to Document After a Truck Accident
Your truck accident lawyer will help you gather and preserve documents and records that may serve as evidence in your case.
Things your lawyer can document after suffering injuries in a truck accident include:
- Your expenses and losses. You should keep copies of any bills, invoices, or receipts for medical treatment, vehicle repairs, and other costs you incur due to the truck accident. Gather your pay stubs or income statements if you miss time from work or need to go on part-time/light duty that pays less than you earned before the accident.
- Your injuries. Remember to obtain copies of your medical records from treating your injuries. It would help if you also photographed any visible injuries you suffered in the crash.
- Vehicle damage. Take photos of your car after the accident to document crash damage. Keep copies of records you receive from the auto shop that repairs your vehicle. If the insurance company declares your vehicle a total loss after the accident, you should look up vehicle value guides to confirm the value of your car.
- Pain and difficulties with daily activities that you experience. Consider starting a diary or journal after the accident to document the physical pain and emotional distress you suffer due to your injuries and medical treatments (such as surgeries). You can also document physical limitations, difficulties performing work or personal tasks, or activities you previously enjoyed that you cannot participate in due to your injuries.
- Communications with the trucking company or insurer. Remember to keep copies of all written correspondence from the trucking or insurance company. Take notes of any phone calls with an insurance adjuster or trucking company representative, including the date and time of the call, the name of the person you talk to, and a summary of the call.
Mistakes to Avoid When Pursuing a Truck Accident Claim
Your truck accident lawyer can also help you avoid making mistakes while preparing your case. Mistakes or errors can jeopardize your right to recover compensation or the outcome of your truck accident claim.
During your truck accident case, avoid:
- Failing to document evidence. You should take every opportunity to document things that may later serve as evidence supporting your truck accident claim. For example, take photos or videos of the accident scene, visible injuries you suffered, or damage to your car. Remember to keep copies of critical documents such as bills/invoices/receipts of expenses, your pay stubs/income statements, medical records, and police accident reports.
- Failing to seek prompt medical attention. Not seeking medical attention immediately after an accident may jeopardize your financial recovery. Getting a prompt diagnosis of injuries after the truck crash will help you argue that those injuries occurred in the crash rather than from a preexisting injury, degenerative condition, or a subsequent accident or trauma.
- Failing to follow your doctor’s medical advice or treatment instructions. Once your doctor has diagnosed the injuries you suffered in the truck accident, you should follow their recommended treatment plan. By putting off treatment for weeks or months, you may give the trucking company or insurer a basis to argue that you failed to mitigate your injuries by not treating them and allowing them to aggravate or worsen.
- Agreeing to give a recorded or written statement to the insurance company. The insurance company may ask you to provide a recorded or written statement about the truck accident, claiming they need a statement to process your claim. However, providing a statement allows the insurance adjuster to ask you questions designed to elicit an answer the insurer may construe against your interests.
- Signing a medical release form for an insurer. An insurance adjuster may also ask you to sign a medical release to give the insurer access to your medical records. However, this allows the insurance company to comb through your medical history for any sign of a preexisting injury or degenerative condition that the insurer can claim caused your injuries.
- Discussing the accident, your injuries, or the truck accident claim on social media. Finally, you should refrain from posting about the accident or your injuries on social media. You should also avoid posting or tagging yourself in photos and videos. Insurance companies sometimes monitor injury claimants’ social media profiles to see if they post something that contradicts their claims about the accident or their injuries. You also don’t want to post negative statements about the truck driver, the trucking company, or the insurer, as those statements can cast you in a bad light and hurt your credibility.
Hiring a Lawyer Can Help You Secure the Evidence You Need to Prove Your Right to Compensation After a Truck Accident
Truck accident cases often involve many pieces of complex evidence. Working with an experienced truck accident lawyer can help make the investigation and preparation of your legal case much more manageable.
Your truck accident lawyer will know what evidence you may need to prove the truck driver’s or trucking company’s fault for the crash. Your attorney will also know what steps to take to secure, preserve, and obtain evidence for your case. Reach out to a Bakersfield personal injury lawyer.
Your lawyer can also help you gather information and records to prove your injuries and losses. Finally, an attorney can provide legal advice to help you avoid mistakes or pitfalls that may negatively affect your financial recovery.