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Investigating Truck Accidents: Key Steps to Establishing Fault and Liability

Published March 12, 2024 by Harker Injury Law

A speeding truck on the road.

A serious trucking accident can derail your life in a matter of seconds. The sheer size of a commercial truck or tractor-trailer lends itself to catastrophic losses when involved in an accident.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligent or careless acts of a truck driver or trucking company, you may be able to pursue damages for your pain and suffering. Establishing liability and fault for the truck accident is a critical step in securing fair compensation. Doing this can help you get your life back on track.

Below, we will discuss key steps in investigating trucking accidents to establish fault and prove liability for what has occurred. Such steps will help you and your attorney build a sound truck injury claim.

How Truck Accidents Are Investigated

Trucking accidents can be complicated, often involving multiple parties. To prove fault for the accident, investigators may have to overcome several challenges.

Trucking accident investigations are typically conducted in stages; these may include:

  • Investigating the accident scene
  • Collecting physical evidence
  • Reviewing records, driving logs, and other documents from the trucking company
  • Reviewing police reports and medical records
  • Collecting data from the truck’s operating system
  • Interviewing eyewitnesses
  • Evaluating the vehicle damage

How a truck accident is investigated may vary depending on who is conducting it. Nonetheless, a good investigator will ensure that every possible contributing factor is considered when determining fault and liability for what happened.

Who Investigates Truck Accidents?

Different stages of the trucking accident investigation may be carried out by different people. At times, teams of investigators will work together to establish the exact facts of the crash.

Parties that may be involved in investigating your truck accident include:

  • The law firm representing you
  • The trucking company
  • The insurance company
  • The police and emergency responders who respond to the accident scene
  • Industry experts retained by your lawyer or the trucking company

Everyone involved in the truck accident will likely have an interest in investigating what actually happened that day. Each party may seek to deflect the blame or mitigate responsibility for the accident.

In view of this, it is wise to consult an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after the incident. He or she can guide you through the investigation process and advise you on how to best proceed with your claim.

Pivotal Factors Truck Accident Investigators Are Looking For

The goal of the truck accident investigation is to determine the cause of the accident and the actions that led up to it. The driver, the truck, and the trucking company are typically under scrutiny in these investigations.

Investigators will look for:

  • Driver impairment by alcohol or drugs
  • Vehicle defects
  • Failure to properly maintain the vehicle
  • Indications of driver error
  • Inadequate training and monitoring of truck drivers
  • Violations of trucking industry regulations

Demonstrating failure or incompetency in any of these ways may be significant in resolving the truck accident claim in your favor.

Key Steps Your Lawyer May Take in Investigating the Truck Accident

After any collision involving a large or commercial truck, it is vitally important that the accident investigation be conducted by someone with a thorough knowledge and understanding of truck operating procedures and trucking laws. Key investigative steps taken by an experienced truck accident attorney will go far in establishing the facts of the case and proving who was at fault.

Your lawyer will investigate the scene of the truck accident

Analyzing the scene of the accident is an important part of determining the cause of the crash and is best done immediately after the trucking accident. Physical debris left from the collision, as well as tire skid marks or other circumstantial evidence, may help lay a strong foundation for your negligence claim.

Accident scenes are often cleared rapidly to get traffic flowing freely again. It is wise to collect as much evidence as possible at the time of the trucking accident so that no critical information is lost.

Your lawyer will request law enforcement records

Police and emergency responders generally arrive on the scene after a serious truck accident. These law enforcement officers will complete an official police report of what happened. Additionally, law enforcement may conduct further investigations into the cause of the crash.

Various official records could prove beneficial in establishing who was at fault for the accident, including:

  • Police investigative reports
  • Official accident reports
  • Accident reconstruction analyses
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Photographs from the scene of the accident
  • Traffic surveillance videos
  • CAD drawings
  • 911 call records
  • Driver records
  • Drug and alcohol records of those involved

Obtaining these records will assist in understanding the cause of the trucking accident and the physical and mental state of the drivers involved.

Your lawyer will investigate the trucking company

Extensive state and federal safety regulations are imposed on the trucking industry. Trucking companies must ensure that they hire qualified drivers with clean driving records. If they fail in this regard, they may be held liable when one of their truck drivers is involved in an accident.

Some of the documents and reports your lawyer will review during the investigation are:

  • Annual inspection reports
  • Prior accident and negligence claims history
  • Safety policies and procedures
  • Driver training records
  • Driver incident reports
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) safety history
  • Annual licensing reports
  • Maintenance records

The information trucking company records may reveal can dramatically influence the outcome of your claim.

By law, the trucking company must cooperate by making all records and information pertaining to an accident available. They must also keep an accident register for 3 years after the date of each incident.

Your lawyer will investigate the truck driver

When establishing fault in any kind of vehicle accident, the drivers are the first to be considered. Confirming that the truck driver was driving legally, with a commercial driver’s license, is important.

If it can be determined that the accident was due to drunk driving or that the truck driver was using illegal drugs, distracted, fatigued, disregarding traffic laws, or otherwise negligent, then he or she could be liable for the accident.

Your lawyer will assess the information from the truck’s event data recorder

In a truck accident investigation, the vehicle’s event data recorder (EDR), or “black box,” may contain essential information about the vehicle and driver as the accident took place.

Some of the data the black box may record includes:

  • Vehicle speed
  • Gear position
  • Brake switch status
  • Engine throttle percentage
  • Accelerator pedal percentage
  • Traction control button
  • Tire pressure
  • Cruise control status
  • Seat belt status
  • Severity of crash

Obtaining these details from the black box can help your legal team pinpoint who is to blame for the accident and your injuries.

Your lawyer will make preservation of evidence requests

Your personal injury lawyer will work hard to collect all of the necessary evidence to support your truck accident case. It is critical that this evidence is safeguarded. Trucking companies and insurers may discard crucial evidence after a relatively short period of time.

Truck accident lawyers typically request that companies retain the following:

  • Driver’s logs
  • Trucking company records
  • Cell phone data
  • Black box data

Sending official requests to preserve this evidence will help to ensure a complete and fair investigation into the truck accident.

Your lawyer will examine the truck after the crash

Your lawyer may work with vehicle inspectors, mechanical engineers, and accident reconstruction experts to establish how the accident took place. Examining the truck itself can shed light on what may have caused the accident to occur.

A vehicle inspector can do a full test of the truck’s air brake system and inspect the tire conditions. The damaged truck may reveal that a defective part or lack of maintenance caused the crash. In such cases, the trucking company or manufacturer can be held negligent and accountable for the injuries you suffered.

Your lawyer will interview eyewitnesses to the truck accident

Accident scenes are often chaotic and emotionally charged. A level-headed eyewitness account can be helpful in demonstrating what really happened in the moments leading up to your truck accident.

Eyewitnesses may be able to confirm your version of how the accident took place. They can attest to the traffic and road conditions, weather conditions, visibility, and more. At times, witnesses can provide details of the apparent physical and emotional state of the truck driver after the crash.

Such witness testimony can prove invaluable to establish liability after a severe trucking accident.

Your lawyer will consult industry experts

Serious trucking accidents can be especially complex. When this is the case, attorneys will often employ experienced experts during the investigation process.

Industry professionals whose expertise may prove beneficial in your truck accident case include:

  • Commercial truck mechanics
  • Trucking company standard of care experts
  • Metallurgist
  • Engineers
  • Accident reconstruction experts
  • Drug and alcohol recognition experts
  • Medical professionals
  • Vocational rehabilitation experts

These professionals and experts may be able to testify to the negligence of the other parties in your claim and the full extent of your losses after the accident.

Contact Caring and Understanding Truck Accident Lawyers for Help

Truck accidents can be physically and emotionally traumatizing while also financially devastating. If you are trying to establish fault and liability on the part of the trucker or trucking company, you should not go it alone.

Trucking companies and their insurers have substantial resources and can be extremely difficult to work with. The adept truck injury lawyers at Harker Injury Law have both the skill and resources to complete a thorough investigation into the circumstances of your accident. When we take on a case, we work tirelessly to establish the real truth of what occurred.

We believe that every truck accident victim deserves a voice. Our compassionate and professional legal team is proud to fight aggressively for each and every client’s rightful compensation after an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. We will hold the liable party accountable for all you have gone through.

When you work with the legal team at Harker Injury Law, we do the legal legwork for you so that you can focus on your recovery. Our personal injury lawyers will pursue your liability claim for you with no upfront fees. You only pay us when your truck accident case is resolved in your favor.

If you have been involved in a truck accident, don’t wait; get the help you deserve today. Click here to fill out our online contact form, or call 760-INJURED to schedule a free consultation. Learn what an experienced law firm can do for you.

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