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Michael Phelan
Michael Phelan
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Traps and Pitfalls in Representing Truck Accident Victims

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Truck accident insurance investigation teams and defense lawyers are some of the most competent adversaries a plaintiff lawyer will encounter. The truck company investigators are often at the scene of the accident before the vehicles are removed from road. They know there is valuable information to be retrieved not only from the scene, but also from the vehicles. They are trained to remove the driver’s logs from the truck cab and to download the data from the truck’s electronic data systems. These systems include black boxes, GPS, satellite communications systems, and on-board computers. Obviously, much useful information about the truck driver’s driving hours and statements about the cause of the accident, as well as the truck’s speed, movements, and location may be gleened from the combination of the driver logs and the electronic data. For example, the GPS can show driver location during the course of the driver’s trip. Combined with the driver logs, this information could establish that the driver exceeded legal driving hours, which leads to fatigue, sleepiness, and sometimes amphetamine use. The problem some lawyers do not appreciate is that most, if not all, of this data can be legally destroyed by the truck company six months after the accident. Attached is a December 2008 memo from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration which outlines the requirment that truck companies maintain GPS data from truck accidents for six months. I downloaded this memo from an excellent blog by a prominent truck accident lawyer in Tennessee.

Over the years, I have been asked by other lawyers to assist with truck accident cases and have found that in many instances necessary evidence from the truck had not been preserved. Sometimes this is because the victim did not realize the importance of hiring a truck accident laywer right away. Other times it was because the lawyer did not realize that much of the important evidence could disappear six months after the accident. It is crucial to send a preservation letter to the trucking company and get a professional investigation team on the case as soon as possible.