Category: Personal Injury Posted on May 04, 2018

We Are Here to Sue Trucking Companies/Owners/Drivers

Today’s modern tractor trailers are equipped with extensive technology that records and monitors many aspects of the vehicle, including drive cameras that monitor both the driver and the road, as well as computers that record and monitor the actual vehicle itself.  Additionally, more and more companies have moved to an electronic log book system, wherein input their hours of service, driving breaks, and drive times.  Understanding that this technology exists, how to access, and retaining 

We Are Here to Sue Trucking Companies/Owners/Driversthe appropriate expert to analyze and explain the information contained in the data are critical to a case involving a tractor trailer.

Since many cases involving tractor trailers end up in Federal Court due to diversity reasons, it is important to understand the rules regarding preservation of the electronically stored information (ESI).  The Federal Rules of Evidence require that a party preserve ESI when it has notice that the evidence is relevant to litigation, or when a party should reasonably expect that the evidence may be relevant to future litigation.  Thus, when taking on a case, it is critical that a preservation letter is sent to the trucking company immediately upon representation of the client beginning.  This curtails any attempt by the trucking company to suggest that they did not have reason to anticipate litigation, and thus no reason to retain the ESI on the tractor trailer.  Additionally, it is critical to understand the requirements imposed on trucking companies in the event of an accident.   The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act requires that trucking companies report crashes in certain situations, including when the accident results in a fatality, and injury where medical treatment is received immediately following the accident, or any motor vehicle is disabled to the point where it has to be towed from the scene.  Many state laws have similar rules regarding the retention of ESI and crash reporting requirements.  If the crash involves any of those reportable circumstances, and argument should be made that the trucking company had reason to anticipate future litigation, and was thus required to preserve any ESI.  The trucking company’s failure to do so may result in a spoliation of evidence claim.

Finally, knowing that ESI exists, and that it is preserved is not the end of the inquiry.  While the footage from a drive camera, or a driver’s electronic log books rather straight forward, the tractor trailer’s event data recording system may be harder to obtain.  Most tractor trailers are equipped with an Electronic Control Module (ECM).  An ECM identifies and obtains diagnostics from the engine and the data helps to identify recordable events.  This is typically done by identified a sharp deceleration or “hard brake” during operation of the vehicle.  This information provides the vehicle speed, engine speed, brake status, and any malfunction indicating lights both before and after a hard brake.  Obtaining ECM data requires specialized equipment and the appropriate expert to download and read the data.  In some instances, the ECM must be completely removed from the vehicle in order to obtain the data.

Hiring an experienced trucking accident attorney is critical to obtaining maximum compensation in a case.  Not only is it critical that an attorney understand what type of ESI is available on a tractor trailer, the attorney must also know when it should be preserved and how to obtain and analyze the data received.  At Stanger Stanfield Law, our attorneys are experienced in handling tractor trailer accidents, and have years of experience with these claims.    

  

Bruce Stanger

My litigation experience includes family law, divorce, product liability, construction law, professional negligence, shareholder disputes, medical malpractice, legal malpractice, and general commercial litigation.