You have probably noticed as you drive on the highways in Kansas and Missouri that most of the tractor-trailer trucks sharing the road with you belong to large companies. In fact, only around 11 percent of truck drivers are independent owner-operators. This means that when a truck driver makes a mistake or acts carelessly and you are injured as a result, the odds are that he has a major corporation with a team of attorneys behind him. If you are hoping to file a lawsuit against the driver or his employer following a truck accident, you will have to be ready to respond to their insurance company and be well-prepared with evidence to prove your claim.
Don’t Accept the First Offer
Often in truck accident cases, the driver’s insurance company will offer the victim a quick settlement. This might happen before you’ve even had a chance to have your injuries fully assessed by a doctor. It is very important that you not accept the first offer that is made because it is most likely going to be a very low offer and will not cover the expenses you could be facing. It is also important that you not make a statement to either the driver’s insurance agent or your own, and definitely do not agree to have your statement recorded. These are all tactics the trucking company will use to lower their potential payout and to avoid a lawsuit. Rather than working with the insurance companies right away, your first step should be to hire an experienced truck accident attorney and your next step will be to gather the evidence you will need to support the claim that you deserve to be compensated.
Evidence of Driver Error
A truck accident attorney will know exactly what evidence to gather to support your case. You will need proof that the accident was caused by the truck driver’s actions or because of a mechanical defect on the truck itself. Some of the evidence an attorney will be able to collect for you includes:
- Cell phone records. Many truck crashes are caused by a distracted driver, including truckers who are using a cell phone behind the wheel. This is a dangerous practice for any driver, but when he is responsible for a 40-ton vehicle, it is especially dangerous. If cell phone use is suspected as a cause of your accident, your attorney could request a judge’s subpoena of the driver’s cell phone records which could be used to prove he was talking on the phone or sending a text at the time of the crash.
- Driver logs. Truckers are required by federal law to log their on-duty and off-duty hours in a log book. Because they are limited by Hours of Service laws, the log books are used to hold drivers accountable for the hours they drive and rest. A new federal ruling requires truckers to begin using electronic logging device within two years, which will make driver logs more accurate and prevent drivers from entering false information. If it is suspected that the driver in your accident was fatigued from driving a long shift, his log book would show how many hours he had been driving and whether he was breaking the law.
- Truck maintenance records. A mechanical problem with the truck is the main cause or a contributing factor in a significant number of truck crashes. Most often, a truck’s brakes or tires are to blame for the driver losing control of the truck. Examining the maintenance records for the truck can give investigators a good idea of where the blame lies for a mechanical failure that leads to a crash. In these cases, the truck company is often the party determined to be at fault.
- Electronic control modules. The truck’s “black box” contains information about speed, throttle, braking, change in velocity, safety belt status, airbag deployment, and time of the crash event. This is the most objective evidence you can present and, if it shows clearly that the fault lies with the driver, will be your strongest proof.
- Photographs and witness statements. Ideally, you will have photographic evidence from the scene of the crash and statements from witnesses at the scene who saw the truck driver commit an error. If you are able to take pictures with your cell phone after the accident, you should do so. Otherwise, your attorney may be able to get photos from another source.
Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys Know How to Gather Evidence
No one expects you to be able to collect this evidence on your own. In fact, some of the key pieces of evidence will have to be obtained through a judge’s order and an attorney will be best equipped to do that.
Have you been injured in a truck accident? If so you should speak with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 for your free consultation today.