How Do Truck Accident Investigations Work?
Trucking accidents can result in some of the most catastrophic injuries of any accident on the road. The size and weight of trucks are enough in themselves to make for total disaster when an 18-wheeler or semi collides with other vehicles. However, it is not merely a truck's size and weight that cause an accident. More often than not, these types of collisions are the result of negligence-negligence on behalf of the truck driver himself, negligence on behalf of the trucking company, and sometimes even negligence on behalf of truck product manufacturers.
The following are some of the key factors involved in an accident investigation:
- Reviewing Trucking Company Records: Much of the information that exposes negligence is available from the trucking company. An employer's negligence in hiring truck drivers or in retaining an unqualified driver can be found in the driver's qualification file. Our lawyers also examine the truck company maintenance records and records of the driver's safety and equipment checks.
- Event Data Recorder (EDR): If the truck involved in your accident had an event data recorder (EDR), also known as the "black box," the information from this device may be used to conduct a more thorough investigation of the collision.
- Interviews & Depositions: We interview witnesses—including the driver, law enforcement officers, and any other potential witnesses. It is important to get started on interviews and depositions as quickly as possible, before people begin to forget important details pertaining to the accident.
- Investigating the Accident Scene: Investigating the scene of the accident is an important part of determining the cause of the collision. We may look at physical evidence, such as tire treads, as well as witness testimony.
- Examination of the Truck: We seek to locate the vehicle and inspect it—frequently at the scene of the trucking accident. Our lawyers and experts look for evidence of failed equipment, impact damage, and other contributing factors.
After any crash involving a large vehicle it is imperative that investigation of the accident is conducted by someone with a thorough understanding of truck operating procedures and trucking laws. When the specific causes of an accident are being assessed, more than just the authority of an on-the-scene police officer will be required. The top-rated Houston trucking accident lawyers from Arnold & Itkin are more than qualified to provide legal help.
Reviewing Company Records to Expose Negligent Actions
Much of the information that exposes trucking companies to negligence claims is available from the trucking company's records.
For instance, the company may be negligent by performing the following actions:
- Hiring drivers without first performing a thorough background check
- Improperly training drivers or hiring drivers who are inexperienced
- Keeping unqualified drivers on staff after flagrant mistakes (ex: drug abuse)
Driving Records, Accident Reports & Inspection Reports
The information trucking company records may reveal can dramatically influence the outcome of your claim. For example, trucking companies and drivers have a duty to inspect, repair, and maintain vehicles. A company or driver's failure to fulfill this obligation to keep the large commercial vehicle in proper working order and safe condition can be determined by analyzing the company's maintenance records and records of the driver's required safety and equipment checks performed before, during, and after each trip. If a driver's drowsiness is an issue, crucial evidence could be obtained from a company's delivery schedules, which may have encouraged unsafe driving.
Event Data Recorders, or EDRs
In accident investigations, one of the most useful tools is known as an Event Data Recorder (EDR). The EDR or “black box” records vital information about the vehicle that can be accessed by investigators after an accident. Every vehicle manufacturer creates its own set of parameters regarding what information is recorded by the EDR.
Some of the data that may be recorded includes:
- Vehicle speed
- Severity of crash
- Seat belt status
- Tire pressure
- Brake switch status
- Cruise control status
- Engine throttle percentage
- Accelerator pedal percentage
- Traction control button
- Gear position
The systems are designed to record and store data for a set number of seconds prior to a collision. The data recording is generally controlled by the Airbag Control Module (ACM). The ACM uses sensors that instruct the EDR to store data after a collision that was severe enough or nearly severe enough to deploy the airbag.
Problems with EDR Data
EDR data can be an extremely useful tool for investigators and reconstructions, but it does have its limitations.
Some of the instances in which EDR data may not be reliable include:
- Data is contradictory to physical evidence
- Data has flat lines or spikes
- Multiple impact collisions
- Vehicle spins, rolls over, or goes airborne
- Improper download of the data
- Black box was damaged in collision
Multiple impact collisions can produce flawed EDR data since the timing of the impacts can cause the data to be overwritten or recorded out of sequence. Collisions that alter wheel speed, including spins and rollovers, can also impact the reliability of the recorded data.
Interviews & Depositions
Usually, within hours, the trucking company's insurance company will have its investigators on the scene. There are good reasons for this sense of urgency. All of the information these eyewitnesses provide could prove to be crucial in developing a case. That’s why it’s imperative that victims of these accidents also have an attorney at the scene just as quickly. At Arnold & Itkin LLP, you can rely on our legal team. Immediately after an accident, one of our attorneys can be there to investigate and conduct interviews with on-the-scene individuals.
Our accident scene investigators quickly arrive at the scene to interview key witnesses, such as the:
- Driver of the truck
- Law enforcement officers
- Other potential witnesses
The testimonies given by the truck driver, law enforcement officers, and witnesses could prove to be essential in your case. Therefore, we act quickly in retrieving this information and recording it for use during court trials. Furthermore, connecting with witnesses and officers at the time of the accident could prove to be beneficial for future court proceedings which may require that we call upon them for sworn depositions.
Eyewitnesses, for example, can give a picture of the road layout, markings, surface conditions, traffic lights or sign positions, visibility, and lighting. They can say who they observed causing the accident and where the collision occurred. They can also give details about the state of the drivers, such as whether the trucker appeared to be intoxicated. In addition to visual details, these witnesses can say when they heard brakes screech, what the drivers said, and whether there were any attempts at a warning.
Witness reports can also confirm or strengthen physical evidence such as:
- Dents in the car or big rig
- Road layout & surface conditions
- Fluid stains
- Obstructed traffic signs
- Lighting conditions
If these statements are properly recorded, they may be admitted in court to illustrate what occurred in an accident. There is a sense of urgency in obtaining their statements because accident witnesses often become unavailable as time passes or their memories fade. Still, if there are gaps in the witness statements or it's discovered that potential key witnesses were not interviewed, it may be necessary to conduct sworn depositions of these witnesses or collect affidavits.
Investigating the At-Fault Truck Driver
Whenever a truck accident happens, police tend to investigate the truck itself and take statements from any witnesses, but one important step is investigating the truck driver. An investigation of the driver will likely turn up evidence that would not have been known otherwise. One common finding is that the driver involved in an accident was tired.
Driver fatigue is one of the deadliest factors in the trucking industry today.
Another common finding when we investigate at-fault truckers is poor safety records or training. While this is not true of all drivers, it is true of many who end up causing accidents.
Examining the Truck to Reconstruct the Accident
At Arnold & Itkin LLP, we work with vehicle inspectors, mechanical engineers, and accident reconstruction experts. They are among the best in their field, and we feel confident in their ability to examine any large truck and provide clear, accurate answers to important questions.
Inspecting a large truck can shed light on what may have caused an accident to occur. This evidence may turn an entire case in our client's favor, enabling us to secure maximum financial compensation.
For instance, a vehicle inspector can do a full test of a commercial truck's air brake system, including:
- Pressure supply
- Other parts crucial to braking performance
Tire condition can also provide important evidence. A vehicle inspector will examine the following:
- Hub & wheel assembly
- Lug nuts
- Other components
The goal of the accident reconstruction expert will be to determine factors such as speed, point of impact, and the time-distance relationship between the truck and the other vehicle at the time of the crash. However, because EDRs frequently erase data, you need to initiate an investigation quickly.
Have You Been Injured? Contact Arnold & Itkin Today: (888) 493-1629!
The breadth of an investigation encompasses assessments, intimate interviews, and attentive skill. We know this, and we aim for nothing less. Only when the causes of a truck accident are fully investigated and brought to light in court do truck insurance companies stand a chance of being taken down by the defense. It is our goal to ensure that each and every truck accident victim we represent is given the full possibility for recovery.
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