Accidents involving commercial trucks can be catastrophic, and sometimes even fatal. In such situations, an accident investigation kit is an invaluable tool for truckers and their legal teams. These kits, which are a result of federal requirements regarding accident reporting, can be useful for documenting where and how accidents take place.
However, how that tool is used isn’t neutral. Truckers are trained to document accidents to get their employers off the hook. The insurance companies that work for trucking carriers sometimes use underhanded tactics to shape accident ‘investigations’ to benefit their clients, leaving injured motorists unable to get what they need to recover. In this article, we will explore the importance of truck accident investigation kits, what they do, and how they are used in the aftermath of an accident.
What Is an Accident Investigation Kit (& Why Do Truckers Have Them?)
An accident investigation kit is a collection of documents and forms that helps truckers gather information after a serious or fatal crash. It typically includes a set of questions that the trucker must answer, as well as other instructions on how to document the scene of the accident. Some kits include a camera specifically for photographing the scene.
The kit includes a set of questions that the trucker must answer, such as:
- What time did the accident occur?
- What was the weather like?
- What were the road conditions?
- What was the traffic like?
- Were there any witnesses?
In addition to these questions, the kit also provides instructions on how to document the scene of the accident. This includes taking photographs of the vehicles involved, as well as any damage to the surrounding area. Reports often include diagrams of how and in what direction the collision occurred.
The Stated Purpose of Every Accident Investigation Kit
Truckers have accident investigation kits because they are required to report all accidents to the FMCSA by federal law. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates that all commercial drivers or their employers file an accident report with specific information about how and when a crash occurred. All commercial drivers who are required to have a commercial driver's license (CDL) are required to report accidents with roughly the same information. This includes drivers of large trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles.
The federal purpose of the kit is to make sure that truckers are prepared to collect the required information after an accident, which can help to expedite the claims process and ensure that all parties get the compensation they deserve. At least, that’s the idea.
How trucking accident investigation kits are used in reality is, sadly, a different story.
Accident Investigation Kits & "Fixers"
Unfortunately, some trucking companies and their insurers use the information gathered by accident investigation kits to manipulate crash investigations in their favor. They may even send representatives to the accident scene to interfere with the investigation, in an effort to cover up any evidence that points to the fault of the company. This is commonly known as a "fixer"; the polite term is "crisis management attorney."
Motorists must be aware of these tactics and take steps to protect the integrity of the accident investigation. If they’re physically able, they should make sure to document everything they can, and provide copies of their accident investigation kits to their legal teams. This can help to ensure that any evidence of the trucking company's fault is not suppressed.
Like the trucker, motorists ought to gather materials for their own investigation:
- Photos of the crash site
- Document the weather
- Document road conditions
- Make note of witnesses
- Document the traffic conditions
However, most people who've been in a truck crash are often in a catastrophic health crisis and are in no condition to gather evidence. That's why calling a plaintiffs' lawyer as soon as possible could be crucial to your loved one's future.
Insurance Fixer Tactics to Watch Out For
Insurance company fixers may use a variety of tactics to manipulate the information gathered by accident investigation kits. These tactics are unethical, bordering on illegal in many cases.
Some of these tactics may include:
- Distortion: The fixer may manipulate the information gathered by accident investigation kits to downplay the severity of the accident or the extent of the victim's injuries.
- Misdirection: The fixer may try to divert the investigation away from the true cause of the accident by shifting blame to the victim or another party.
- Coercion: The fixer may try to coerce witnesses into giving statements that favor the company or withhold important information.
- Obstruction: The fixer may interfere with the accident scene investigation to conceal or remove evidence that could implicate the trucking company or its driver.
Accident survivors and personal injury lawyers must be vigilant and take steps to protect the integrity of the accident investigation to ensure that any evidence of the trucking company's fault is not suppressed. At Arnold & Itkin, we anticipate these tactics and have proven strategies to counter them. As a result, we’ve been able to win over $10 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients.
What Happens to Truck Accident Investigation Paperwork After a Kit Is Completed
Once the accident investigation kit is completed, the trucker provides a copy to their insurance company and legal team. The paperwork is typically used to help with the claims process, and can be critical in determining who is at fault for the accident.
If there was an accident that caused someone harm (either the trucker or another motorist), the paperwork may be used in court as evidence in a personal injury lawsuit. This is why it's so important for truckers to complete the accident investigation kit thoroughly and accurately, but it’s also why non-commercial motorists should also gather their own information. The data provided by the kits can have a significant impact on the outcome of the case, but it shouldn’t be the only record of the accident—especially if the information recorded is solely advantageous to the insurer.
Accident investigation kits are an essential tool for truckers who are involved in accidents. They provide a framework for gathering information and documenting the scene, which can be critical in ensuring that all parties can get the compensation they need. However, it’s vital to ensure that all the information is gathered and accounted for as quickly as possible, which prevents the insurance company from shaping the report in their own favor.
That’s where having a trucking lawyer is vital.