Proving Truck Crash Liability in Florida
The number of large truck crashes has increased over 40 percent since 2009. Since these vehicles are so heavy, these wrecks often involve almost unimaginable force, especially at freeway speeds. As a result, these crashes often cause catastrophic injuries. Additionally, due to the extensive physical damage, gathering evidence is sometimes a problem.
Victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in vehicle collision cases. Brandon car accident lawyers must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence. Fortunately, there are a number of evidentiary sources available. And, in many cases, this proof is very compelling.
Electronic Logging Devices provide absolute proof of compliance with HOS (Hours of Service) laws. Both the federal government and Florida have very strict laws in this area. Truck drivers can only stay on the road for so many hours in a day or week, and then they must rest.
HOS laws curtail drowsy driving crashes. Fatigue is a serious problem, especially among long-haul truckers. Most shipping companies pay drivers by the load instead of the mile. So, to make money on each job, they must drive as long as possible.
Drowsiness and alcohol have the same effect on the brain. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial drivers in Hillsborough County.
Before the ELD mandate took effect, drivers used paper log books for HOS record-keeping purposes. These log books were easy to fake. ELDs, on the other hand, are connected to the vehicle’s drivetrain. That’s why the evidence is almost irrefutable in court. That’s also why the trucking industry fought the ELD requirement all the way to the Supreme Court. Executives realize that these gadgets are game-changers, in terms of drowsy driving evidence.
Most truckers have drivers’ licenses in several different states. So, it is not easy to get a complete picture of a trucker’s driving record. For example, a trucker could have a terrible driving record in Georgia and a stellar record in Florida.
Several years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rolled out the Safety Maintenance System database. The SMS database is like a multi-state driving record which keeps track of things like vehicle maintenance history, prior traffic violations, and crash history. So, if a trucker has a bad driving record out of state, Hillsborough County jurors will probably learn about it in court.
As a bonus, SMS information is usually more accurate than judicial records. For example, if a trucker took defensive driving to take care of a speeding ticket, the citation will probably not show up in judicial records. But the SMS database usually uses law enforcement records. So, the phantom ticket will most likely pop up.
Event Data Recorders are basically more complete ELDs. Instead of operational hours, EDRs measure and record things like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Steering angle,
- Engine RPM, and
- Brake application.
These figures could be vital in a car crash claim. And, since they come from a computer, it’s almost impossible for insurance company lawyers to successfully challenge EDR evidence in court.
Large truck EDRs are extremely sophisticated. An attorney must have the right skills and tools to access and download EDR information.
That’s assuming the device is available. In many cases, that’s not true. As mentioned, truck wrecks are often catastrophic. And, most insurance companies destroy totaled trucks, including the EDR, within a few days.
So, an attorney must quickly send a spoliation letter to the insurance company. This letter creates a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR, in the case.
Contact Aggressive Attorneys
Truck crash victims might be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).