Preservation Of Evidence From A Truck Accident in Georgia
A vital component of preparing a claim against a truck driver and the driver’s employer is finding evidence that the driver and company complied, or failed to comply, with state and federal regulations. Proof of that may be found in the driver’s log, which he or she is required to maintain by law and the on-board data recorder. The onboard data recorder is often referred to as the “black box.” It operates in a fashion similar to that of a black box installed in commercial airliners. Obtaining and interpreting the information contained in the event data recorder could be incredibly helpful in many heavy truck crashes.
Event data recorders are not always recording. They do not record the entire trip. Rather, they sit dormant until some pre-condition triggers it to wake up and then record information. Information is always running through the machine, but the actual recording and preservation of an event are not recording constantly. The event data recorder maintains the information passing through it for a short time until the triggering event occurs. The event that triggers recording is some electrical signal, run by an algorithm, which instructs the event data recorder to start working. An example of an electrical signal could be the airbag deployment, a hard stomp on the brake, or seatbelt pre-tension. The recorder can preserve the data generated by the vehicle within a few seconds before, during, and after the crash. Unlike a black box on an airplane, a motor vehicle’s event data recording system cannot record voice or sound.
After a crash, law enforcement investigators can remove the event data recorder from the truck and extract the information. An expert may be needed to decipher the data and determine its significance. Insurance companies might also have access to the information. Upon extraction and interpretation, there could be information that might be very helpful to a victim. The information could contradict the driver’s account of what occurred. Additionally, the event data recorder’s information can supplement traditional crash investigation techniques.
Another important source of information is the driver’s log. A driver’s log should contain information regarding hours on duty, hours driven, sleep hours, hours in the sleeper berth, hours off duty and hours on duty but not driving. Federal regulations require drivers to record this in their log. Truckers and trucking companies also have a log for truck maintenance. Regulations require drivers and trucking companies to record information in the maintenance logs when repairs need to be made and when the repairs are made.
As with the event data recorder, accessing this information as soon as possible when filing a claim could be very helpful. Even if the driver was in compliance with federal hours on duty mandates, the log could show the driver operating at all different times of the day and night, varying from day to day. Working shifts that frequently change will adversely affect a person’s sleep and rest. Consequently, the driver could be fatigued despite not working over the allotted time. However, federal regulations mandate that drivers who feel fatigued must get off of the road.
Drivers and trucking companies might have an incentive to try to conceal this information. There are a couple of legal maneuvers that seasoned truck crash attorneys can use to preserve the information. The first is to file a letter with the truck, the trucking company, and regulatory agency demanding that the information is preserved. Secondly, the claimant’s attorney can file a motion for injunctive relief in court seeking a court order that the event data recorder and the log books be identified and preserved. Failing to do so is called spoliation of evidence, and it can greatly prejudice a claimant, creating tremendous injustice.
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