In recent years, the vehicle collision fatality rate has slightly dipped. But the truck accident fatality rate hit a 29-year high in 2017. The serious injury rate was equally high. These catastrophic injuries include things like serious burns, head injuries, spine injuries and wrongful death.
Many times, individual tortfeasors (negligent drivers) lack the insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in claims like these. Fortunately, Illinois courts have very broad third-party liability rules, such as respondeat superior. According to this doctrine, employers are legally responsible for injuries their employees cause while they are acting within the scope of employment.
The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof in these claims. So, the victim/plaintiff must gather and present evidence. Many times, traditional evidence sources, like the police accident report, are incomplete or inaccurate. So, a Rockford personal injury attorney must find critical truck accident evidence elsewhere.
Event Data Recorder
Much like a commercial jet’s black box flight recorder, a large truck’s EDR gathers and stores critical operational information. This data includes things like:
- Engine RPM,
- Vehicle speed,
- Steering angle, and
- Brake application.
This data is often critical in truck collision claims. Because it is electronic, it is almost always very persuasive in court.
Attorneys must act quickly to preserve this information. Insurance companies often “accidentally” destroy the truck, along with the EDR. To prevent this, attorneys send spoliation letters in these situations. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence in a claim, including the EDR.
Electronic Logging Device
ELDs are often critical in drowsy driving claims. Such claims are quite frequent. Most shipping companies pay drivers by the load – not by the mile making drivers try to stay on the road for as long as possible. Additionally, because they sit a lot, many truck drivers have issues with sleep apnea. People with this condition basically doze all night. They never get any deep, restorative sleep.
Electronic Logging Devices keep track of HOS (Hours of Service) compliance. Both Illinois and the federal government have strict rules in this area, largely because drowsy driving has the same effect as drunk driving. In fact, driving after 18 consecutive hours without sleep is like driving with a .05 BAC level.
The previously mentioned spoliation letter also preserves EDR information for trial.
Safety Management System
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SMS database is basically a multi-state driving record for commercial operators. Since many truck drivers have licenses in multiple states, the SMS brings everything together for attorneys and makes it easier to present this information to the jury.
The SMS database keeps track of several items that could make a significant difference in truck crash claims, such as:
- Vehicle maintenance history,
- Operator substance abuse issues,
- Prior traffic violations, and
- Recent crash history.
Generally, the SMS uses law enforcement sources and not judicial records, so it is more accurate. For example, if a truck driver receives a fix-it ticket because of bad brakes and makes the needed repairs, the infraction may not show up in judicial records. But it remains in law enforcement records.
Due to privacy laws, much of this information is unavailable to the public. Many times, an attorney must obtain a court order to use and view the SMS database.
Connect with Experienced Attorneys
Truck crashes often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. We routinely handle matters in Winnebago County and nearby jurisdictions.