If you’ve just been in an accident caused by a commercial truck, you probably have a million thoughts racing through your mind. You’re injured, shaken, and on your way to the hospital. Your car is totaled. In the worst case scenario, someone has died. The last thing you’re thinking about in the moment is the lawsuit that will follow.
But the trucking company is. Before the smoke clears, they’re already planning their defense. You need someone on your side to protect your interests and to immediately take steps to gather and preserve all of the evidence.
As I’ll explain in this article, it’s a critical early step for you and your attorney to preserve the evidence and legally protect it from tampering. If you don’t, you risk the trucking company “accidentally losing” key data, like the driver’s phone records or vehicle log, which could keep you from receiving the compensation you deserve.
Preserving the Truck Accident Evidence
The first step you—or more accurately, your attorney—should take after an accident is to preserve the evidence.
As a trucking accident attorney, as soon as I’m on a new case (as in the same day I’m hired), I send what is called a “preservation of evidence” letter to everyone who might be involved. That includes, but is not limited to, the truck driver and the trucking company; the logistics company, if applicable; and the insurance company.
This letter expresses our belief that litigation is imminent and that we have reason to believe the recipient has evidence in their possession that will be critical to the prosecution of our case. Most importantly, this letter admonishes the recipients to hold on to that evidence or face the legal consequences.
The goal of the letter is to make sure that potentially telltale items—like the dashboard camera videos, cell phones, electronic control modules, semitruck internal computer systems, and/or the semi tractor-trailer itself as well as any driver’s logs, photographs, or incident reports—are not tampered with or destroyed.
The experts will need to examine these things so they can get to the truth of the accident and build your case, so it’s imperative that the evidence stays intact.
Send the Preservation of Evidence Letter ASAP
If you think sending a preservation of evidence letter doesn’t sound like an urgent matter, don’t be fooled. I know from experience how essential it is to get this letter out right away.
I once represented a young woman who suffered a catastrophic brain injury because her car ended up underneath a semitruck after its underride guard malfunctioned. Obviously, the underride guard was a key piece of evidence that we were anxious to have our experts examine.
Immediately after being retained, I sent a preservation of evidence letter to the trucking company; but, lo and behold, that underride guard went missing, nevertheless. After producing the preservation letter to the judge and explaining what happened to the court, the judge made some favorable rulings that helped our case.
By sending out the letter as soon as possible, you discourage the trucking company from hiding or damaging evidence. If they try something anyway, some state laws allow the victim to sue an individual or company for “spoliation,” which is the act of destroying or tampering with evidence.
Protect Your Interests by Protecting the Evidence
A piece of evidence like data from the truck’s electronic control module or a download of the trucker’s cell phone log could be instrumental in proving fault in your accident lawsuit, but you need to take steps to protect it. Some trucking company’s first priority is to protect their profits, and some will have no qualms about tampering with evidence if it hurts your case against them.
Your attorney should send out a preservation of evidence letter as soon as possible to prevent the trucking company from tampering with any evidence. You probably have a ton on your mind in the immediate aftermath of an accident, but it’s critical that you don’t wait. That one piece of correspondence has the potential to make or break the entire case, and it can be the difference between you getting compensated for your injury or not.
For more advice on trucking accidents, you can find Semitruck Wreck on Amazon.
David W. Craig is the managing partner at the law firm of Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC. He is board certified in Truck Accident Law. David sits on the board of regents for the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA) and has over 30 years of experience representing truck accident victims. David is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and a proud recipient of the Thurgood Marshall “Fighting for Justice” Award. He was also named a top 10 trucking trial lawyer in Indiana by the National Trial Lawyers Association. To connect with David, visit ckflaw.com.