A fully-loaded large truck weighs about 80,000 pounds. Since many of these collisions occur at highway speeds, the amount of destructive force is almost unimaginable. As a result, little physical evidence remains, at least in many truck crash cases. The lack of evidence could be a problem for victim/plaintiffs, since they have the burden of proof in court.
Fortunately, a Kansas City personal injury attorney can look elsewhere for the truck crash evidence needed to establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Event Data Recorder
Even if the wreck virtually destroys the truck, a sturdy Event Data Recorder often survives. Capacity varies by make and model, but generally, these gadgets measure and store operational information like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Brake application,
- Engine RPM, and
- Steering angle.
A skilled attorney, often working with an accident reconstructionist, can put evidence like this together and present a compelling picture to the jury. It is sort of like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together.
Electronic evidence is often very compelling in court. It resonates well with tech-savvy jurors, and assuming the gadget was working properly, it is almost impossible for insurance company lawyers to discredit it.
That is assuming the EDR is available. Frequently, insurance companies destroy wrecked trucks a few days after an accident. Unless an attorney sends a spoliation letter, the EDR might disappear for good. Spoliation letters create a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR.
That is also assuming EDR information is admissible. Missouri has extremely strict vehicle information privacy laws. Attorneys normally need court orders before they can access an EDR, download its information, and present this data to the jury.
Safety Maintenance System
Many of these same privacy laws apply to SMS reports. This database is essentially a multi-state driving record which is maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Specifically, the SMS database tracks:
- Driver substance abuse issues,
- Crash history,
- HOS (hours of service) compliance,
- Vehicle maintenance history, and
- Prior traffic tickets.
Law enforcement sources usually provide SMS information. So, it is usually more reliable than judicial records. These reports are usually, but not always, admissible in court.
Electronic Logging Device
SMS reports and EDR information is often critical in all truck crash cases. ELDs are very useful in drowsy driving cases. Fatigue is a significant factor in many large truck crashes. Most shipping companies pay drivers by the load and not by the mile. So, drivers must stay on the road as long as possible to meet deadlines.
Before the ELD mandate took effect, truck drivers recorded their HOS records in paper logbooks. These records were easy to fake. But ELDs are connected to the vehicle’s drivetrain. So, if the truck is in motion, the HOS clock is automatically ticking.
Missouri and the federal government both have strict laws limiting work hours and requiring mandatory rest periods. If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated one of these laws and caused a crash, the tortfeasor could be responsible for damages as a matter of law. ELDs usually provide conclusive evidence on this point.
ELDs also provide circumstantial evidence of negligence. Time of day is a good example. Most people are naturally drowsy late at night or early in the morning, no matter how much rest they had the night before. Many truck drivers are on the road during these times.
Driving after 18 consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 blood alcohol content level. That is above the legal limit in Missouri for commercial operators.
Contact an Assertive Attorney
If you have been injured due to another person’s negligence, call Aaron M. House at 816-875-4260 today for a free consultation.
Tags: truck crash claims