Truck Accident Investigation
Our award-winning Houston truck accident lawyers have been helping injured Texans win maximum compensation for over three decades. The sooner we can begin investigating your accident, the better our chances of maximizing your compensation.
Recently we helped a family after a fatal truck accident and gathered vital evidence early after the accident happened. The information that we recovered in our investigation helped us win a multi-million-dollar settlement for our clients. That settlement was the highest ever paid by the trucking company. Even then, the defense attorneys had a head start in that they were at the scene of the crash before the vehicles had even been moved.
There is a reason that insurance carriers are Johnny on the spot for conducting accident investigations after a severe injury or fatal crash. The reason is early investigation matters and can make a difference in a truck accident lawsuit.
Crash Reports Don’t Always Tell the Whole Story
After a severe commercial vehicle crash, the local authorities will investigate the accident. It is a mistake to assume that the authorities will do all that is necessary to protect your rights and interests if you or a loved one were injured in the accident. Our truck accident investigations include much more information than that covered in a crash report.
The officer’s opinions on the cause of the crash are only part of the story. Further, those opinions may not necessarily be admissible in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Just because the officer faults the truck driver for causing the crash does not mean liability will not be contested, or the opinions will be heard by a Texas jury.
Additionally, critical evidence about the truck driver and trucking company may not be known by the officers at the time of their investigation. Often it is our investigation that uncovers serious rules violations. Those violations can make or break a personal injury lawsuit by proving a trucking company’s fault.
In another case we recently handled, the truck driver falsified his logbooks and was driving when he was legally barred from driving. The DPS officers who investigated the crash did not know the logbooks were false. Or that the driver was tired and over his hours. After our scrutiny of the event data recorder and cell phone records, the violations were uncovered. Our client was thrilled with the huge settlement! That proof helped our truck accident lawyers maximize our client’s settlement.
Preserving Vital Evidence
If your injuries are not severe and liability is clear, making sure vital evidence is retained for use in your case might not be a big deal. But if you lost a family member or your injuries are severe, and medical expenses are in the tens or hundreds of thousands, you must take steps to ensure the critical evidence is obtained and not destroyed. Hiring an experienced truck accident attorney is the best way to get the proof you need.
What Information Is Needed After a Truck Crash?
The list of critical evidence for your case depends a lot on how the crash happened and why. An investigation can uncover many facts that are usually not known by the investigating officers. However, the analysis should be tailored to the facts of your accident.
For instance, if the truck driver rear-ended you, facts like the condition of the brakes, the hours the driver was on duty, and the event data recorder would be significant. But things like the load being improperly attached may not be relevant. Likewise, if the truck driver never touched the brakes, it doesn’t matter if the brakes were not in great shape.
Here is a list of evidence that can be obtained to help win a truck accident lawsuit:
- The Event Data Recorder (EDR) information.
- Inspection of the tractor-trailer
- Witness statements
- The cell phone records of the truck driver
- Background check on the driver
- Background check on the motor carrier
- Scene documentation
- Driver’s logbooks
- Load documents
- All documents from each investigating authority
- Recent shipping and delivery receipts
- Drivers Qualification File (DQF)
- Driver medical file (with blood tests)
What an experienced truck accident lawyer wants to get will depend on the facts of your crash. The earlier you hire a top-rated truck accident lawyer, the better your odds of winning full damages.
Event Data Recorder or Black Boxes
Event data recorders (EDR) are also known as “black boxes.” The EDR is a computer that records information critical to proving fault in many collisions. The EDR will record:
- Speed just before the crash
- Braking activity
- Hours of operation
- Evasive maneuvers just before the impact
Getting the computer data after the crash and before the big rig is placed back in service is essential to document and prosecute many truck injury claims. The most significant benefit of getting the EDR data is that the data contains the truck driver in his testimony of what happened. The defense experts hired to say the accident was not the company’s fault will also have difficulty disregarding the EDR data.
Getting the black box data should be a priority in every severe injury or fatal truck accident case.
Why Inspect the Big Rig After an Accident?
With any serious injury accident, an inspection of the rig should be part of the investigation. Trucking companies are required to keep their fleet in proper operating conditions to avoid accidents. The law requires specific actions when deficiencies are noted in a big truck’s safety.
Investigation can reveal both violations of the law and conditions of the tractor or trailer that may have contributed to the cause of the crash. Typically, truck accident law firms use expert witnesses to examine tractor-trailers.
What is a Driver Qualification File (DQF)?
Trucking companies are called “Motor Carriers” for the regulation of truckers and their employers. Motor Carriers are required to register to get operating authority under federal and state laws. The law makes the trucking company process and retain certain records. One of the most detailed records required to be created deals with their truck drivers.
Those records are called the Driver Qualification File. Even if the driver is a one-person company, they must have a DQF on themselves. The file must contain facts about the driver and his fitness to be a professional semi-truck driver.
What is in a DQF?
There are eight categories of information required in a DQF. Most deal with an employed driver’s background. The trucking company must have the DQF readily available to authorities checking a driver. The DQF intends to ensure the trucking company has researched and qualified the driver to the minimum level of safety required by law.
- Application of employment. The application identifies the company and the driver. It outlines the type of operation, the experience of the driver, and how they will be used. The application must state the type of vehicle the applicant intends to drive. Both driver and Motor Carrier must certify the driver is legally qualified to drive. Here are the contents of a Driver Qualification File:
- Motor vehicle record. The driving record for each state the driver held a CDL for the previous twelve months.
- Three years of previous driving records. The trucking company must investigate and document the driving history for at least three years.
- Company reviews of driving records. The driving record of each driver for the trucking company must be reviewed annually by the company. All violations of any regulation must be disclosed and recorded. Things related to safety, such as traffic tickets, must be part of the documentation.
- Record of violations. Each driver must certify all traffic infractions for the past year.
- A copy of the CDL.
- Medical Examiners Certificate. A DOT physical exam has to be conducted by an authorized medical examiner. Certificates are generally twenty-four months but can be shorter if any medical conditions require monitoring for safe driving.
DQF is a starting point for a truck accident attorney regarding safety practices and compliance with the law after a severe injury crash.
Why are Witness Accounts so Valuable?
It is shocking the number of cases where the story of the truck driver changes after a defense attorney gets involved in the case. Most trucking companies have policies instructing their drivers to call the office immediately after a crash. Some even have accident cards indicating that the driver should never admit responsibility for the accident.
An independent witness is invaluable in determining what happened in the accident. The truck driver may change their story and try to protect himself from civil liability. At the same time, most factual accounts can indeed vary. But there is a difference between varied perceptions and defensive testimony.
Texas juries tend to evaluate testimony based on credibility and motivation. An independent witness who does not know either party is usually believed. That is why the best attorneys handling truck accident cases always seek witnesses to the collision.
How Can Cell Phone Records Help Your Case?
If the truck driver was on the phone at the time of the collision, he violated the regulations regarding cell phone use. Often, the truck driver will deny cell phone use to authorities, and obtaining cell phone records can provide evidence of cell phone use.
Cell phone records can also document the location of the truck driver at various points in time. For instance, in a recent case that we won, we discovered the truck driver had lied on his logbooks when we correlated his locations on the logbooks with his cell phone. Cell phones used by truck drivers can be more than talking on the phone. It can be checking messages or even surfing the Internet while driving.
Hurt in an Accident- Contact Baumgartner Law Firm
An investigation after a severe injury accident should be started as early as possible. The evidence developed can impact the timing and amount of a settlement. When trucking companies or truck drivers are shown to have knowingly violated safety rules, Texas juries take notice.
We have helped Texas families after severe truck accidents for over thirty-five years and have never lost a truck accident case. Let our next victory be yours.
Fill out a case consultation form or call us at (281) 587-1111.
Never a charge for initial injury accident consultation!