If you or a loved one are injured in a crash with a commercial or large truck, here's what you need to know. Within minutes after a serious crash, the trucking company or its insurance company has probably dispatched a "rapid response team" to the crash site. This team usually consists of an adjuster or risk manager, a trucking company representative (usually the safety manager), and/or an "accident reconstructionist" (an expert who can take measurements of skid or yaw marks, record the presence of debris, and examine other physical evidence to determine speed, point of impact, resting position of the vehicles, etc). Believe it or not, many times the trucking company's insurance attorney accompanies the team to the scene. And, frequently, the team arrives even before law enforcement responsible for crash investigation can get to the scene!
An obvious question is: what is the interest of the trucking or insurance company in dispatching this team to an accident scene within minutes or hours of a serious crash? Is it to preserve evidence to get to the truth of what happened,even if it incriminates the trucking company, or is it to find ways to minimize the trucking company's liability? In a perfect world, all evidence--even incriminating evidence--would be preserved, but, sadly, this is not often the case.
In numerous Ohio truck crash cases, I have discovered countless instances where photographs, trucking logs, bills of lading, maintenence records, fuel receipts, and other important records have gone missing or were destroyed. One way to counter this is to send an immediate "spoliation letter" to the trucking company demanding that the company preserve all photographs, physical evidence, post crash records, drivers logs, black box data, and other important information. The trucking company's failure to heed this letter can set the stage for a claim for punitive damages if the requested information turns up missing months or years later.