What is “Spoliation of Evidence,” and How Can It Affect Your Truck Accident Case?

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What is “Spoliation of Evidence,” and How Can It Affect Your Truck Accident Case?

What is “Spoliation of Evidence,” and How Can It Affect Your Truck Accident Case?When you are involved in an accident with a large commercial truck the results can include devastating injuries, property damage and sometimes even death. For those fortunate enough to walk away from an 18-wheeler accident, they face massive medical bills, lost time at work and the inability to participate in their lives. When you are injured in a truck accident, or if you have lost a loved one in an 18-wheeler crash, it is vital that you contact an attorney who knows how to handle truck accident cases right away. As soon as you engage the services of a lawyer, one of the first things they are likely to do is to send a “spoliation” letter to the trucking company or fleet operator responsible for the truck that hit you to make sure that any evidence related to your accident is preserved.

The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) has requirements that motor carriers and trucking companies must follow when it comes to retaining certain documents including truck driver logs, or electronic records when electronic logging devices are in place. If the information contained in those records might be damaging to their case, a trucking company might accidentally lose the records before your lawyer can get his or her hands on them.

A spoliation letter reminds them of their obligation to retain evidence until the plaintiff and his or her attorney can review it.

What does “spoliation” mean?

Spoliation is a legal term that is used when one of the parties in a lawsuit “loses” or destroys evidence related to the lawsuit. If you request documentation that they are unable to provide because it is missing, you may be able to bring a spoliation claim. For a spoliation claim, you would first have to prove that the defendant had a duty to preserve the evidence. Your counsel sending the spoliation letter following the crash informed the defendants of their obligation to preserve evidence, so if evidence goes missing mysteriously, you can show that you informed the defendant of their duty to preserve it.

Examples of the kind of evidence that must be preserved after a truck accident

  • Truck driver logs (paper and/ or electronic)
  • Black box data from the truck
  • Dispatching records
  • Bills of lading, weight receipts, hotel bills, relevant travel expenditures
  • Results from the truck driver’s drug and alcohol tests
  • Payroll records
  • Certifications and employment records for the truck driver
  • Daily inspection reports
  • Photo or video evidence
  • Phone records
  • Inspection records
  • Insurance information
  • GPS records

One of the major differences between a truck accident and a collision with another passenger vehicle is that with a truck accident there is a huge amount of evidence that is not available after a car accident. From the on-board data recorders, to the data from the trucks’ electronic logging device, maintenance logs, communication logs, there is so much documentation of what the driver was doing before and during the crash.

Also, this will likely not be the first truck accident the trucking company has had to deal with. They are fully aware of their duty to preserve evidence, so if critical pieces of evidence go missing, it is a case of spoliation of evidence.

You want to make sure that all the evidence you need to prove liability is captured as soon as possible after a crash with a large commercial truck. When you work with a skilled, Nashville truck accident attorney from the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we fight for your right to fair compensation for your injuries and other losses. Please call 615.246.5549, or fill out this contact form, and schedule your free initial consultation at one of our offices in Nashville, Hendersonville or Knoxville.