Why It is Important to Act Immediately After a Catastrophic Truck or Bus Crash
When there is a catastrophic truck or bus crash, the insurance and trucking companies have investigators on the scene almost immediately. No matter the time of day or night, they immediately deploy a “rapid response team” nominally directed by a defense lawyer.
We had a case in which the trucking company’s defense attorney appeared in wreck scene photos. More often they are present but are careful to avoid being photographed. In one of our cases, the truck driver logs went missing when an insurance investigator had access to the truck cab while state troopers were preoccupied with traffic control on the interstate.
Some lawyers who do not specialize in truck accident cases seem comforted by the idea that they can send a detailed “spoliation letter” demanding preservation of records and data, and federal regulations that require preservation of certain records for set periods of time. However, we have seen that trucking companies often prefer a modest fine and an “adverse inference” jury instruction over disclosure of the truth. We have even seen a trucking company remove a tractor-trailer from policy impound without permission and put it back in service, thereby erasing crucial electronic data, the day before their attorney was scheduled to meet us for a joint inspection by agreement. We arrived at the impound lot and the truck was gone.
Because of such experiences with deception, cover-ups and loss of crucial evidence, our preference when we are hired early enough in a catastrophic crash case is to immediately ask a court for an injunction for preservation and inspection of evidence.
In one recent case, a real estate lawyer close to the victim’s family called us while the victim was still on life support in the local hospital. We immediately filed a petition for temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent moving the truck or tampering with electronic evidence until we could have our expert do an inspection and download data. That gave us access to a treasure trove of evidence that could have been “lost” or destroyed if we had delayed.
The long list of items we seek to preserve under a temporary restraining order is constantly evolving. Generally, however, it includes everything in and on the truck and trailer, including a wide variety of electronically stored information. Examples include “black box” data about movements of the truck, forward-facing and driver-facing video, records of communications with the dispatcher, shipper and consignee, shipping documents, and mechanical inspection of the truck and trailer before they can be altered or put back in service.
If we do not get this kind of crucial evidence early, it may be lost forever.
Time is of the essence. If a family member is killed or catastrophically injured in a truck or bus crash, call us immediately at 404-253-7862. If it is outside normal office hours, please specify that this is a catastrophic truck or bus crash needing immediate response.