Truck accidents are very different from typical car vs. car auto crashes. Why? Well, here are just a few reasons:
- Truck accidents are usually much more severe than car accidents, and more often fatal.
- Truckers are employees on the job, which impacts how a case is handled legally.
- Federal, state, and local laws that don’t apply to non-commercial drivers are critical in truck accident cases.
- There are usually multiple involved parties, which could include an employed truck driver, a subcontractor, a trucking company, a truck owner, a freight shipping company, and more.
- There are numerous insurance policies covering trucking operations, complicating how claims are filed.
- Truck companies pay powerful legal teams to protect them from liability, making obtaining compensation an uphill battle.
With all this in mind, it’s easy to see why truck accident investigations are complicated matters. Most people don’t have the knowledge or experience to conduct an in-depth investigation into a truck crash on their own—especially when recovering from serious injuries.
The good news is you don’t have to. Truck accident attorneys like us spend years in education and practice, so we can handle these difficult legal matters for you.
Below is a brief answer to the question: How are truck accidents and injuries investigated? This article is only meant to provide a general overview of the steps that may be involved in a commercial vehicle crash investigation.
We encourage you to get in touch with Golden Law Office personally if you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident. Our team can provide more individualized information about how your case can best be handled during a free consultation at our Lexington law office.
Steps in a Truck Accident and Injury Investigation
The goal of the truck investigation is to:
- Determine liability (who is at fault?),
- Secure evidence to prove liability, and
- Calculate exactly how much compensation you deserve for current and future medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Speaking in general terms, the typical truck accident investigation will follow these and other steps:
Lawyers must begin by gaining a full understanding of what happened. There are various forms of evidence that can provide facts, create a timeline, and tell the story of how and why things unfolded the way they did.
Some of the most valuable sources of evidence in a truck accident investigation often come from:
- Police reports made at the scene
- Photos of the crash site
- Physical damage to involved vehicles
- Driver drug and alcohol test results
- Traffic citations issued by a responding police officer
- Video footage taken from a nearby dashboard camera or traffic camera
- Information recorded by the truck’s event data recorder (EDR) or “black box”
- Witness testimony (including yours)
- Repair bills and reports made by auto mechanics
- Skid marks and road damage
Additionally, it is often necessary to further investigate the actions of the driver, their employer, and other involved parties that were committed long before the crash happened. This deeper level of investigation can provide a backstory of the circumstances that allowed the collision to transpire.
Examining Driver and Company Records
Truck accidents are seldom accidents. In other words, collisions don’t come out of thin air. They come out of a bad decision—or a series of bad decisions—that happened perhaps seconds, weeks, months, or years prior to the actual crash.
To get a complete picture of the circumstances that ultimately led to the crash, lawyers like ours explore the backdrop against which the event occurred.
We ask questions like: Was the driver properly trained and licensed to drive the truck? Did the driver have a record of reckless driving? Had the company been cited for safety violations in the past? Did the company create dangerous conditions for drivers?
To answer these and other questions, we need to acquire certain documents from the motor carrier. If the company is unwilling to hand over this evidence, we can ask for court help in obtaining the records. When a company is reluctant to comply with requests for information, it’s often an indication that they’re hiding something.
Some of the documents we analyze in truck accident investigations may include:
- Company hiring records and disciplinary actions
- Federal safety inspection reports
- Driver qualifications, commercial driver’s license (CDL), and endorsements
- Pre- and post-trip truck inspection reports
- Records of federal trucking law violations committed by driver or company
- Electronic logging device (ELD) records showing how long the driver had been on duty and behind the wheel
Analyzing Applicable Laws
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for governing the commercial trucking industry at the federal level. Each state also has its own system of legislation for truck transport, and many cities have municipal laws that truck operators must follow while driving within city limits.
To successfully handle a truck accident case, investigators must know, interpret, and fully understand the laws that truckers and motor carriers are obligated to follow. Without this understanding, we wouldn’t be able to identify when a trucking entity broke a law—an action which may have fully or partially contributed to the crash.
For example, without knowing the city weight limits for trucks traveling on Lexington streets, we wouldn’t be able to identify a trucker who violated weight restrictions and thus lost control of the vehicle due to overloading.
Just a few of the areas covered by trucking laws include:
- How much weight can be carried based on the number of axles
- Which streets and lanes a commercial truck is allowed to use
- How many hours a trucker can drive without a break
- The physical and health requirements truck drivers must meet
- Truck inspections before, after, and during trips
- Where a truck is allowed to park and rest
- Requirements for equipment and fueling standards
- Emergency response protocol
Breaking even one of these laws can have devastating consequences when such large and powerful vehicles are involved.
Eyewitness accounts from those who saw the crash are key pieces of evidence in a truck accident investigation. Testimony may come from you, your passengers, the truck driver, other involved motorists, and bystanders in the vicinity at the time of the incident.
If possible, it’s a good idea to gather names and contact information for any witnesses you encounter at the accident scene. Ask an eyewitness if they would be willing to supply testimony. Your lawyer can later contact these witnesses to take down an official statement. Names of eyewitnesses can also sometimes be found in the police report made by a law enforcement officer at the scene.
Determining Your Current and Future Medical Condition and Treatment Needs
When filing a truck accident claim, you need to know how much money to request. Calculating the full value of what you are owed is important, because there is typically no opportunity to ask for more money at a later date.
If you undervalue your claim, you may be stuck with a multitude of medical expenses you can’t afford out of pocket. Therefore, investigating your injuries is as essential as investigating the cause of the accident.
A thorough investigation into your injuries can both connect your physical condition to the crash and ensure that the full extent of your medical-related financial losses is covered in your compensation award. To accomplish these things, your lawyer may need to look at:
- Medical bills for hospital visits, doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, and more
- Prescriptions for medication
- Test and medical imaging results
- Physician’s notes
- Records of appointment times and dates
- Evidence of missed work
- Ambulance fees
- Communications with your health insurance company
- Testimony from your health care team
- Bills for in-home assistance and nursing aid
Why It’s Important To Have a Skilled Lawyer Guide Your Truck Accident Investigation
It takes a trained eye to skillfully investigate truck accidents and injuries. A good lawyer can spot things nobody else would see. Without the resources an experienced law team can provide, you stand a poor chance of getting the outcome you legally deserve to recover.
Were you hurt in a truck accident and unsure how to begin an investigation? Is an insurance company denying your claim for fair compensation? Are you at a loss for how to move forward after a truck crash?
We can help.
Golden Law Office in Lexington, Kentucky has the guidance you’re looking for. Contact us by phone or right here on our website to set up a free consult meeting. There is no fee to meet with a lawyer to discuss your case.
Golden Law is a local, Kentucky Law Firm, attorneys/lawyers in Fayette County, Kentucky, working in the fields of personal injury, auto accidents, car and truck wrecks; medical malpractice: doctors, hospitals & nursing homes; senior living abuse: neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, dehydration, bedsores, catastrophic injuries, and broken bones. If you are considering a lawsuit, call us at 859.469.5000 for a free consultation. We are located at 771 Corporate Dr. Suite 800/ Lexington, Kentucky 40503. We handle cases all over the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We have represented and trained people in major insurance companies & major trucking companies. We have first hand experience and know the ‘inside of the insurance business’ … that’s a distinction that no other law firm can make. We’re Your Advocate. Dale Golden, Laraclay Parker.