Truck accidents take the lives of thousands of innocents each year. Many of these accidents are the result of reckless truck drivers and motor carriers who ignore safety standards and state and federal regulations in an effort to maximize profits. (See myaccidentlaw.com/blog for August, September and October 2011 where we discuss the factors involved in truck crashes and the applicable regulations). As Cicero and Chicago Truck Accident Lawyers advocate for the victims of these tragic and avoidable accidents are charged with the task of conducting an aggressive and thorough investigation of each truck accident case entrusted to your firm. Exhaustive litigation of these cases serves not only to compensate your client but also to discourage negligent and reckless practices.
Motor carriers and their insurance carriers send investigative teams within minutes of the crash to gather evidence and interview witnesses. Their agile response time may allow them to slant evidence or in some instances conceal or destroy evidence crucial to the victim’s claim. It is imperative that any lawyer representing a victim of a truck accident must act quickly in 1) gathering facts, 2) documenting the scene and vehicles, and 3) downloading data and obtaining documents.
It is necessary to make a truck accident the number one office priority meaning there should be delay in meeting and interviewing the client and then meeting your investigative team at the accident site. Lawyers focusing on truck accident litigation should have a crash investigation team of experts on standby. The team should include a 1) a private investigator with a law enforcement background, 2) an accident reconstruction engineer who is experienced in commercial truck cases and 3) an electronic control module (ECM) expert.
THe private investigator should contact all witnesses and take detailed and recorded statements. There is also the potential to take the statement from the truck driver who may be ready to talk if he was fired as a result of the accident.
Immediate investigation of the accident site is crucial. Skid marks, yaw marks and scuff marks can disappear as a result of weather or subsequent traffic. At the scene, your team should interview the investigating officers to determine their investigation and findings and your accident re-constructionist can confirm his understanding of tire impressions, points of impact and rest and vehicle speeds. Request a copy of their report and any written or recorded statements from the drivers or witnesses as well as photographs of the wreck site.
The contents and condition of each vehicle should be recorded by photos and logged. Items found in the truck trailer like blood pressure monitors, urine jugs, log books and insulin syringes will help you develop the theory of your case. Incriminating evidence should be documented as to location and condition and every effort taken to preserve it for trial.
All electronic data devices including the ECM data (which can include speed prior to braking, speed at impact and the delta-v can mean the difference between tenuous liability and punitive damages. An electronic date recorder (EDR) or a GPS tracking device may record a driver’s hours or service and speed of travel.
A thorough document review should be made of all reports regarding the motor carrier for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This includes documents from the Compliance-Safety-Accountability (CSA) program. The new Safety Measurement System (SMS) calculates the safety of drivers and carriers based on seven behavioral and safety categories(BASIC) including unsafe driving; fatigued drivers, driver fitness, drugs/;alcohol, vehicle maintenance, improper loading/cargo issues and crash indicators. Each time a driver undergoes a roadside inspection, he or she will be evaluated on the BASIC system. Any violations will be recorded and used to determine the carrier’s Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) which is updated on a monthly basis.
Your Cicero and Chicago Truck Accident Lawyers at Grazian and Volpe have litigated truck accident cases in Chicago and South Chicago for over 25 years. We understand that victims of these accidents are often at a disadvantage because motor carriers and their insurers act quickly and aggressively in defending these cases. We also understand the importance of a thorough and timely investigation in pursuing these claims to assure a maximum outcome for our clients. Please follow our blog for our series of articles discussing truck accidents and the first Tuesday of every month on WCIU, You and Me in the Morning where we answer your question concerning all areas of personal injury law and workers’ injury law and compensation.