Know Your Rights and get Experienced Advice from Miller Law Group
What to expect in a Truck Accident Litigation Case
Investigation of a Truck Wreck
Litigating a truck accident case is vastly different from litigating a car accident case. The obvious difference, of course, is that at least one of the vehicles is usually significantly larger than the other and takes over three football fields to stop when traveling at highway speeds. A more subtle difference, however, is that truck drivers and trucking companies are regulated by the federal government and must comply with a whole host of regulations.
At Miller Law Group, we investigate every aspect of the crash itself as well as whether the truck driver or truck company violated any state or federal government laws or regulations. The following information details the steps we take within the first thirty days to collect all the evidence necessary to build the strongest case possible for our client.
1. Interview the Client or Client’s Family:
The first thing we do is conduct a thorough, in-depth interview with the client or the client’s family to find out exactly what happened. What are the client’s injuries? Is the client still in the hospital? Where did the wreck occur? What time of day or night? Was weather a factor? Did the Highway Patrol or other law enforcement agency investigate the wreck? Were there any witnesses? Were photographs taken of the vehicles and the scene? How did the wreck actually happen? The answers to these questions give us the basic facts to begin our investigation.
2. Visit the Wreck Site:
After interviewing the client or the client’s family, visiting the wreck site is priority number one. We often get cases before the Highway Patrol, or Police Department is finished preparing their “wreck report.” In North Carolina, that report is officially referred to as the DMV Form 349. It is important to visit the wreck site early before conditions change. Skid marks can fade. Signs can be taken down. Light posts can be repaired. We photograph everything. We also check local businesses to see if there might be video cameras that caught the wreck on tape. Visiting the wreck site gives you a perspective that photographs alone just can’t do.
3. Send Out Evidence Preservation Letters:
As soon as we know who the trucking company is and the law enforcement agency who investigated the wreck, we send out Evidence Preservation Letters by certified mail or Federal Express (so we can prove the letter was received). This step is extremely important because photographs, records, and other evidence can have a way of “disappearing” once a lawsuit is filed. If we can show that the company was on notice to preserve evidence and that the company “lost” or destroyed that evidence, a Judge will inform the Jury that they can assume the evidence was not favorable to the company. We have a list of over ten items we expect the trucking company to preserve, which includes all photographs of the wreck site and vehicles, the truck’s “black box” information, all witness statements, and all dash cam videos if the truck was equipped with that type of camera.
4. Obtain the Wreck Report:
As stated earlier, in North Carolina, the wreck report is known as the DMV Form 349. This is the official report of the Law Enforcement Agency that investigated the wreck. Usually, it is the Highway Patrol that investigates truck wrecks. The DMV Form 349 contains a detailed analysis of how the wreck occurred and will indicate whether the truck driver was charged with a crime. The DMV Form 349 might also list witnesses that the client is not aware of. Once a lawsuit is filed, the entire investigative file can be obtained from law enforcement personnel through a subpoena.
5. Hire a Collision Reconstruction Engineer:
Hiring a collision reconstruction engineer is an absolute must, even if there is no question that the truck driver caused the collision. This is because the engineer may find additional evidence that will demonstrate the truck driver’s recklessness – such as speeding or driving with brakes out of alignment. A collision reconstruction engineer will scan the scene of the crash and the vehicles involved with a laser device that will allow him or her to create a computer animation of the crash. With today’s technology, these computer animations are so realistic that unless they are told differently, Jurors would believe they are actually watching a video of the crash. Needless to say, these animations can be very compelling at trial and lead to larger verdicts. At Miller Law Group, we hire collision reconstruction engineers within days of receiving a truck wreck case.
6. Interview the Witnesses:
It is very important that any witness to the crash be interviewed as soon as possible because memories fade and the witness may also provide information that leads to further investigation. These interviews should be videotaped so that there is no question about what the witness said. These videotapes can be used later at trial if the witness can’t be found or is otherwise unavailable.