As a Missouri and Illinois truck accident attorney, I know there are many things that must be considered in a post-crash investigation. More often than not, the insurance carrier for the truck driver receives notice of the semi-truck crash right away – sometimes within the hour. This is because truck drivers are trained to to notify their employers of a crash immediately. When that happens, the employer (who is trained to do so) immediately notifies the insurance carrier. You would be surprised by how quickly the insurance company will get someone out to the scene. I used to be a defense attorney – I know how it works. The attorney responsible for that particular insurance company drops anything and goes to the scene, often with a professional accident reconstructionist in tow. The attorney will tell the truck driver to not say anything, the hired gun reconstructionist will take measurements and they will start developing their story. This is all before the victim – the injured person – even knows what or who hit him.
So by the time the injured person realizes he/she needs a truck accident lawyer, the defense has a huge jump start. By the time we request an account of what happened, it is rehearsed. By the time we ask for log books, they sometimes disappear. It is crucial that a proper and thorough investigation is performed to protect the injured.
There are federal guidelineds, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, in place to protect the public. Tractor trailer drivers are required to have a certain number of hours of sleep each day to prevent fatigue. They are also regulated with regard to how many hows they can drive in a row. The theory is that no matter how used it it you are, driving for multiple hours without a break is exhausting and not safe for the other motorists on the roadway. Truck drivers know that they must keep proper log books per federal rules. Throughout the day, they must document the time periods that they were driving, off duty, in the sleeper, etc. These log books can be key in a tractor trailer case because they will reveal if the driver was over worked, over worked, or tired.
But it is important to go beyond just requesting the log books. Again, sometimes driver log books are modified, altered or even lost. If you request the driver's credit card statements, fuel and food receipts, the truck's GPS data, cell phone records, bills of sale and lading, shipping records, loading dock security logs, and even surveillance tapes and compare those to the driver's log books, you may find huge differences. Was a driver on the road driving when he said he was sleeping? Does this mean he was over his alotted driving hours? Was he running late for a delivery and therefore speeding?
The majority of the over-the-road truck drivers out there follow the rules and are safe drivers. But more often than not, tractor trailer crashes are caused by driver fatigue. Since truck crashes can cause severe injuries, often death, it is crucial to fully evaluate the days leading up to the crash and whether or not the driver adhered to the federal regulations.
Lindsay Rakers, Missouri and Illinois tractor-trailer attorney