Fully-loaded large trucks weigh about 80,000 pounds. These massive vehicles also carry hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel. In collisions, that combination often leads to serious burn injuries.
Eighteen-wheelers are not just incredibly heavy. They also have much more ground clearance than passenger cars. So, in collisions, the victim is often pinned underneath the truck. If the diesel fuel ignites, and it often does, the victim could be exposed to the flames for quite some time before emergency responders are able to put out the fire and free the victim.
By that time, most victims have serious third or fourth-degree burns. These injuries are among the costliest kinds of personal injuries, both in terms of medical bills and lost wages.
So, a Marietta personal injury attorney may be able to obtain substantial compensation in these matters. To do so, an attorney must collect evidence. The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof. Additionally, the more evidence the victim/plaintiff presents, the more damages the jury awards, at least in most cases.
Traditional sources, like the police accident report, witness statements, and medical records, often form the evidentiary foundation. But to obtain maximum damages, more may be required.
Event Data Recorder
Vehicle EDRs are much like the black box flight data recorders in commercial jets. In the late 1990s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began evaluating EDRs. Because of considerable opposition, mostly from the insurance industry, an EDR mandate did not go into effect until 2014. Today, pretty much every vehicle on the road has an EDR.
Capacity varies according to make and model. But most large truck EDRs capture and record operational information like:
- Crash force,
- Vehicle steering angle,
- Engine RPM,
- Vehicle speed, and
- Brake application.
Information like this is very important to Marietta personal injury attorneys, and not just because it has a direct bearing on the crash. Assuming the gadget was working properly, it is almost impossible for insurance company lawyers to successfully challenge EDR data in court. That’s not true of eyewitnesses, who could be biased or incompetent in some way.
Moreover, EDR information is much more specific than eyewitness testimony. For example, a witness could testify the truck was going fast. EDR information could prove that the truck was travelling 73.5mph.
This valuable information may be available, but an attorney must know how to obtain it.
Large truck EDRs are very sophisticated machines. It is not easy to remove them, access the data, decrypt the information, and download it to a useable format. An attorney must have the right technological tools and know-how.
Moreover, Georgia has very strict vehicle data privacy laws. Generally, attorneys must obtain court orders before courts allow access to EDR information.
Safety Measurement System
Driving records are generally admissible in truck crash cases. Since most truck drivers have drivers’ licenses in multiple states, obtaining this information can be time-consuming at best and almost impossible at worst, if attorneys must interface with DMVs in different states.
Recently, however, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rolled out the Safety Measurement System. The SMS database keeps track of a number of driver conditions, such as:
- Alcohol and other substance abuse,
- Crash history,
- Moving violations,
- Hazardous materials compliance, and
- Equipment violations.
The SMS database draws on law enforcement data as opposed to judicial data. So, in many cases, SMS information is more reliable than state driving records.
Assume a state trooper in California cites a truck driver for defective brakes. In California, as in most other states, when drivers receive “fix-it” tickets, the court usually dismisses the ticket if the owner addresses the situation promptly. So, the ticket would not show up in judicial records.
However, since the SMS database uses law enforcement information, the federal system keeps track of the fix-it ticket. So, attorneys have additional evidence that the driver may not care enough about safety. That attitude makes negligence easier to prove in court.
Electronic Logging Device
The ELD is another key piece of electronic evidence in a semi-truck. Much like insurance companies fought the EDR requirement, shipping companies fought the ELD requirement. In fact, they fought it all the way to the Supreme Court. These companies know how valuable this kind of electronic evidence can be.
ELDS track HOS requirements. Hours of Service is the amount of time the driver spends behind the wheel, and the amount of time the driver rests. Before ELDs, drivers kept paper logbooks which were easy to fake. Electronic evidence is much more reliable. And, ELDs are attached to the vehicle’s ignition. So, when the engine is on, the ELD meter is running.
Driver fatigue is a serious problem among long-haul truck operators. Most shipping companies pay drivers by the load and not by the mile. So, drivers must stay behind the wheel as long as possible to deliver loads as quickly as possible, or else they do not make any money.
Damages are usually quite high in fatigued driving cases, especially if the driver fell asleep behind the wheel.
ELDs and EDRs have some thing sin common. Both are technically complex gadgets that require a great deal of expertise to handle. Furthermore, many of the same vehicle information privacy laws which apply to passenger car data also apply to data in commercial vehicles. Finally, as mentioned, most jurors put a great deal of stock in electronic information.
In some cases, victim/plaintiffs do not need EDRs to conclusively establish drowsy driving. Most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning or late at night, and many truck drivers are on the road at these times.
Furthermore, because they sit for such long periods, many truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea. People with this condition do not fall into a deep, restorative sleep. Marietta personal injury attorneys can use medical records to establish sleep apnea in court.
Contact a Hard-Hitting Lawyer
Large truck crashes cause serious injuries and often require special kinds of evidence. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. The sooner you call, the sooner we’ll begin working for you.