Truck Accident Investigations
After a commercial truck accident, time is of the essence. Soon after the accident occurs, important evidence can be destroyed by inclement weather, passing traffic and pedestrians, or by the people involved in the collision. For this reason, it is important to speak with an attorney experienced in truck accident investigations as soon as possible after an accident involving a commercial vehicle. By acting quickly, you can help preserve important evidence that could make or break your personal injury case.Initial Investigation
The preliminary investigation of a truck accident scene is almost always performed by police officers who respond to the accident. While the police officers may be the first ones at the scene, their role is not to preserve evidence for a potential civil lawsuit. Instead, police officers will be looking for victims, assisting with injured people, securing the accident scene and keeping it safe from passing traffic, and looking for evidence of criminal activity. If the officers find evidence that the accident was caused by a criminal act (such as drinking and driving), the officers will make note of this in their reports and make any requisite arrests.
As part of the initial accident investigation, the police officers will make a report of what they saw and heard, as well as what any witnesses said about the accident. They may or may not take pictures to document the scene. Officers should take note of any fragile evidence that could quickly disappear, such as the location of puddles of gasoline, the location of the vehicles after the crash, or the type and location of any debris scattered throughout the accident scene.
While police reports about an accident are helpful in a lawsuit, they should also not be relied upon as a comprehensive investigation into the cause of the accident or the fault of the drivers.Secondary Investigations
Soon after an investigation involving a commercial truck or other large vehicle, there will likely be other types of investigators arriving at the scene. Most major trucking companies employ their own accident investigators who will examine the scene for evidence that shows the truck driver was not responsible for the crash. The trucking company’s insurance company may also send investigators looking for the same type of evidence.
Depending on the severity of the crash, government agencies may decide to investigate the accident as well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a Special Crash Investigations (SCI) program that is deployed to certain collisions of interest. The SCI consists of professional crash investigators who perform three tasks: scene inspections, vehicle inspections, and crash victim interviews. Using this data, the SCI can analyze the causes of the accident and how any safety features like airbags or seatbelts performed during the crash.
Additionally, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has a division called the “Go Team,” who is charged with beginning the investigation into a major accident as quickly as possible. Normally, the Go Team is deployed for major accidents involving planes or trains, but they can also investigate serious accidents on the highway. The Go Team consists of experts in all areas of transportation who look into complex safety issues that may have caused the accident.Private Investigations
While the police and government agencies will investigate and document a commercial truck accident for their own purposes, nothing may be more important to a personal injury case than private investigations into the accident made by an attorney and his or her team of experts.
An attorney’s investigation into a truck accident usually focuses on several specific areas. First, the attorney may request the truck driver’s driver qualification file (DQF). The FMCSA requires truckers and trucking companies to keep a DQF for every driver that contains that person’s driving records, training and employment history, licenses and hours-of-service records, and the results of any drug and alcohol tests. The DQF should also contain vehicle maintenance records.
A Miami trucking accident lawyer may also review information recorded in the semi-truck’s “black box,” as well as any GPS or fleet management tracking software. These records can show how long the truck was in service, and whether or not the driver was violating any hours-of-service regulations.Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys Investigate All Causes of Truck Accidents
The combination of police records, government records, and private investigations into the accident should provide a substantial amount of information into the causes of the accident and the person(s) at fault. At Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., our attorneys know how to find the information and evidence you need to prove your case. If you or a loved one were injured in a commercial trucking accident, schedule a free consultation by calling (877) 475-2905 and learn more about your options today.