Spoliation of Evidence in Truck Accident Cases
Evidence can be gathered from a variety of sources following accidents involving cars. A judge might consider statements from both drivers, the investigation report from the police officer, and testimonies from nearby witnesses as evidence. For accidents involving large semi-trucks or tractor-trailers, the sources of information for potential evidence increases tremendously.
Large commercial trucks are often equipped with sophisticated reporting devices and technology that can be instrumental in determining fault in an investigation. A judge will consider the same statements, testimonies, and police reports for a truck accident as they would for an auto accident. However, evidence linked directly to the truck and the technology within the truck can also be valuable sources of knowledge.
A professional truck accident attorney will take steps to ensure that the trucking company’s reports and evidence following an accident are preserved so it can be used in an investigation to determine fault. A common way that a truck accident attorney will do this is by sending a spoliation of evidence letter to both the trucking company and the insurance companies involved.
WHY WOULD A TRUCKING COMPANY WANT TO HIDE EVIDENCE?
If a trucking company was operating illegally, they might be inclined to allow specific evidence against them to go missing or be destroyed throughout the ordinary course of business. If the information is unfavorable to the trucking company’s operations, they won’t want this information to be considered in court as evidence to prove they were a liable party. With this in mind, a trucking company might let valuable records become destroyed while making it look like an accident.
WHAT INFORMATION CAN A TRUCKING COMPANY HIDE THAT MIGHT BE SPOLIATION OF EVIDENCE?
Trucking companies keep a plethora of information on their drivers and the routes taken by their drivers. Data indicating how fast the truck driver was going, how long he or she was on the road, and driving behavior patterns can usually be found in a trucking company’s records. Some other information that a trucking company might hide which can be used to establish liability include:
The physical truck: The truck might be towed or placed out of commission after an accident. Images of the truck’s condition can be useful in determining fault. A dishonest trucking company might hide this damage by quickly repairing the truck and putting it back on the road before a truck accident attorney can attain these photographs.
Data on the truck: Semi-trucks are equipped with technology that shows relevant information and behavioral patterns of the driver’s actions on the road. For example, data might include dash cameras and GPS coordinates, showing the location of the truck. Data can also be found on the driver’s speeding and braking techniques that might indicate whether the driving actions were safe or not. Accident reconstruction experts can use data found on the truck to form an opinion on how the accident occurred, which can be instrumental in finding fault.
Reports from the trucking company: By law, under the rules of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), trucking companies must keep detailed records of their trucks and their truck drivers. For example, drug test results, driver logs, and the driver’s personnel file are all records that the trucking company must keep on hand that can be useful in determining liability.
This information can be extremely telling in determining who caused the accident and how it happened. If a dishonest trucking company destroys or loses this evidence, the results can be worse than merely allowing a court to examine all of the accurate data.
WHAT HAPPENS IN COURT AFTER SPOLIATION OF EVIDENCE?
If your truck accident attorney sends a spoliation of evidence letter, but the information gets destroyed anyway, then a judge can still allow the evidence to be permissible. A judge might advise a jury to presume that the destroyed evidence or information was automatically damaging to the truck company or the spoliating party. In Florida state courts, it’s not uncommon for a judge to impose sanctions on a company for allowing the destruction of evidence. Common penalties that Florida courts have imposed include excluding expert testimonies or the striking of pleadings – which would then automatically place fault on the spoliating party (or trucking company).
CALL ON THE TRUCK ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS IN DAVIE TO HELP
Accidents that involve semi-trucks or tractor-trailers tend to be the most severe. Having expert legal counsel on your side to conduct thorough investigations to ensure that no evidence is lost can be significant for your personal injury case.
The Davie truck accident attorneys at the Law Offices of McCullough & Leboff, P.A. have the knowledge and experience to fight for you and negotiate the most favorable outcome possible. Both partners have worked previously in larger firms that defended companies accused of neglect – this puts them in a uniquely advantageous position to handle your claim against a trucking company. They are available to discuss your claim at any time. For a free case evaluation, fill out an online contact form, or call today.