Spoliation of Evidence
Truck drivers and trucking companies are often represented by insurers and attorneys who are skillful at evading liability for accidents, even when the wreck is clearly the fault of the driver and his or her employer. If you wait too long to bring a claim, it is unfortunately possible that the evidence will have been shredded, discarded, or lost. This is one important reason why Atlanta residents who have been involved in an 18-wheeler wreck should consult a truck accident attorney without delay. Stephen M. Ozcomert can explore the details of your case and help you assert your rights.Averting the Spoliation of Evidence
By law, trucking companies are required to maintain records related to their vehicles for a set period of time. Georgia has adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, which require records to be stored at a trucking company's principal place of business, regional office, or place where drivers report for work.
Among the records to be kept include driver files that contain the driver's application for hire, the motor vehicle report from hire, an annual review of driving record and violations, any exemptions or waivers, a road test or certificate or photocopy of a commercial driver's license, and, perhaps most importantly, the safety performance history. These records should be kept for the duration of the employee's employment plus three years. A lot of information that could be helpful to your truck accident case may be gleaned from a driver's file.
For example, if there are multiple safety violations or indications that prior employers terminated a driver’s employment due to safety considerations, these can give rise to negligent hiring or negligent supervision claims against the trucking company. Similarly, records of positive drug or alcohol tests must be kept for five years. They can also indicate that a trucking company breached its duty of care to other motorists by keeping an unsafe driver on its payroll.
All truckers are required to complete a record of their hours worked in a logbook and carry a copy of the previous seven days’ worth of inspection with them. The purpose of these logbooks is to make sure that drivers are not driving while fatigued. There are very specific hours of services rules that all truck drivers must follow, and all trucking companies are supposed to make sure that these hours of service are followed. Unfortunately, some trucking companies are more concerned about their bottom line than safety, and they may look the other way when these records are falsified or when they are accurate but the driver is not paying attention to hours of service rules. Motor carriers are required to retain the logbooks for six months from the date they are received from the drivers.
Although you have two years within which to bring a claim for bodily injury arising out of most truck wrecks, you should consult an experienced attorney right away. In some cases, accident victims wait too long, and the trucking company has already destroyed or misplaced the records that would have proved their case.
Courts have the authority to sanction a trucking company as a remedy against the prejudice that may result from spoliation. These sanctions can include adverse inferences and exclusion of evidence. Among the factors courts will consider are whether a party seeking sanctions was prejudiced due to the spoliation, whether the prejudice could be cured, and whether the party that lost or destroyed the evidence was acting in good faith or not.
As an accident victim, however, you do not want to rely on the court to provide sanctions against the other party in the event of spoliation. The court has discretion over what sanctions to impose and may not rule the way you want. Instead, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible to avoid the loss of crucial evidence.Discuss Your Motor Vehicle Collision Case with an Atlanta Attorney
If you were hurt in a truck accident in the Atlanta area, you should contact an experienced motor vehicle collision lawyer as soon as possible to avoid spoliation of evidence. Experienced attorney Stephen M. Ozcomert may be able to help you pursue damages. Call us at (404) 370-1000 or contact us via our online form to arrange a free consultation. We also represent injured individuals in Decatur as well as other cities throughout DeKalb and Fulton Counties.