What is Involved in a Truck Accident Investigation?
Auto accidents can be devastating, especially when they involve a commercial truck. Injuries sustained can be severe and even life-threatening. While identifying liability for the accident is imperative, there are additional steps you and your lawyer must take for a truck accident investigation to help improve your chances of winning your case.
A thorough investigation following any accident involving a big rig is complex. It requires the expertise of a qualified truck accident attorney, like those at the Michigan law firm of Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. If you or a loved one have been injured in a semi truck accident, or died; as a result, a good legal team can take the steps needed to get you the compensation you deserve.
An investigation for a truck accident case starts right away and includes collecting crash scene evidence, reviewing truck driver records, and evaluating maintenance records.
Collection of Accident Scene Evidence
As with any accident, one of the first steps is to collect evidence relating to the accident. This includes taking multiple photographs or videos of the crash site, vehicles involved, and any injuries.
Try to take pictures from multiple angles to ensure you capture everything at the scene. If the road is icy or poorly maintained, document it. Depending on the location, your lawyer might find surveillance photos from security or municipal cameras that show nearby structures and debris, road signs, and traffic signals.
Your lawyer will need a copy of the police report, although it is not the most efficient evidence in proving a case. If possible, collect witness statements immediately after the accident. As weeks go by, witnesses’ memories may fade or become confused. Try to record statements from other drivers involved and first responders.
When the involved truck is part of a fleet management system, your lawyer may get evidence such as GPS tracking and black box devices.
The truck owners will have their investigators combing over every piece of evidence involving the crash scene, looking for any way to deflect liability away from their driver. An experienced truck accident attorney can handle all communications with the truck company’s lawyers, ensuring your rights are protected.
Review of Truck Driver Records
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires drivers of commercial trucks to provide a duty of care by following certain guidelines, including strictly adhering to all rules of the road. During a truck accident investigation, both your lawyer and the opposition will thoroughly review the driver qualification file or DQF.
The DQF is a requirement under the FMCSA, and all trucking companies must maintain one for each driver. Included in this file are:
- Training records
- Employment history
- Personnel records
- Alcohol and drug test results
- Driving Record and any safety violations
- Licenses and certifications held
- Hours of service
In addition, the truck driver’s logbooks contain hours driven and rest taken. The FMCSA has restrictions on the allowable drive times and required rest for drivers and requires them to avoid driving when tired or feeling drowsy. Your attorney may look for trip records to compare with entries in the logbook to confirm hours of service.
Investigations may also include cell phone records to show whether the truck driver used his phone during the accident. Additionally, weight records may provide clues to any load issues.
Reviewing these records can provide your truck accident attorney with needed information and evidence to determine potential causes for the accident.
Evaluation of Truck Maintenance Records
The DFQ files contain records relating to the truck’s maintenance along with the driver’s information. Reviewing these maintenance records can provide insight into how well the truck has been maintained and any issues experienced in the past.
Failing to maintain a truck properly can often result in equipment failures, while improper loading can lead to unbalanced cargo, causing an accident. A confident truck accident attorney knows how to gain access to these files, usually with a subpoena, so that they can conduct a full review.
While the investigation may initially focus on the truck’s driver, others may share the liability for the accident. The truck’s owner, the driver’s employer, and others may have had a part in negligent and unsafe hiring procedures, training, supervision, or delivery requirements.
Besides the records, the truck will be examined to identify any defective or failing equipment as well as record the truck’s overall condition.
Taking Additional Steps When Necessary
Additional steps may include bringing onboard specialty consultants, such as accident reconstruction experts and medical personnel, to add strength to your case.
While Michigan is a no-fault state, insurance alone may not cover full medical expenses, and any lost wages suffered because of the accident. Your attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit. After filing, your lawyer must send notice to the other side to preserve evidence relating to the case.
Hire a Michigan Truck Accident Investigation Attorney
Discovering who is liable in a motor accident with a commercial vehicle requires diligent and thorough attention, starting with the trust accident investigation. Our specialized truck accident lawyers at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. know what to look for and how best to pursue the compensation you deserve, including filing a wrongful death lawsuit if appropriate.
Trust the truck accident lawyers with Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. to represent your interests and conduct a thorough investigation into your truck-related accident. Call our law office today at 1-888-MICH LAW (1-888-642-4529) to schedule a free consultation.