Had a Truck Accident – Our Investigating Technique – Maintenance Records
San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyers » Investigating Technique – Maintenance Records
Obtaining Maintenance Records After an 18-Wheeler Accident can be Crucial to Proving Negligence by the Trucking Company
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation require that trucking companies maintain certain records in its day to day business operations. These records include pre-employment screening records for the drivers and maintenance records of its fleet of trucks. Both the pre-employment and maintenance records can provide great insight when they are examined in light of an accident. These records can aid in establishing proof of the trucking company’s liability by demonstrating the company’s compliance or lack thereof, with federal guidelines regarding its drivers and its fleet of trucks.
After you have been injured in an accident with a commercial trucking vehicle it is very important to gather evidence as soon as possible. The trucking companies know how important their internal business documents are in proving an accident claim and they will do everything they can to prevent you from obtaining this evidence. That is why it is so important to have an experienced attorney on your side such as the ones here at our Law Offices. Contacting us can aid you in this task because we know how to find the evidence necessary to help prove your claim against the trucking company and its driver if necessary.
Maintenance Records – What Do We Look For?
Many times in commercial trucking accidents the accident is not only caused by driver error but can also be caused by faulty parts on the commercial truck itself. Poorly maintained brakes and other mechanical parts can lead directly to an accident when they fail to perform in the proper manner.
Federal law requires that commercial trucking companies systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, all of the motor vehicles within their fleets. Further, trucking companies are required to have their fleets in safe and proper operating order and cover parts such as steering mechanisms, brake systems, the vehicle frame, attachment parts, and other related parts of the truck. Additionally, trucking companies are required to keep records of the maintenance and repair their fleet of trucks has gone through and must retain these records for a certain length of time. The records must be retained for a year from the date of the maintenance or repair performed on the truck and for six months after a truck is sold.
The trucking companies must also have its drivers keep records of the mechanical issues of the trucks they drive on a daily basis. As part of the driver’s log, the driver must go through a checklist and make notes of any issues involving the mechanics of the truck. The checklist includes issues concerning braking, steering, or attachment part issues, any issues they had to report to the trucking company during their route, and any other issues that could result in mechanical breakdown or impact the safety of the vehicle. These mechanical logs by the drivers must be retained along with the other maintenance reports.
The maintenance records of the truck that was being driven in your accident can be an important part of the evidence that must be gathered to help prove your claim. For example, if at the scene of the accident the driver of the commercial truck that hit you is heard telling a witness that his brakes gave out and he could not stop in time to avoid hitting you, obtaining the maintenance records of the truck is important. If the truck’s brakes did in fact fail, the maintenance records could reveal that the trucking company did not inspect, maintain, or repair the brakes in the proper manner. In the alternative, the maintenance records can reveal that the trucking company did everything it was supposed to do in maintaining the brakes but they failed in any way. In an instance, like this, the maintenance records will be important because they can help bolster a claim you may have against the manufacturer of the brakes because they were defective and failed despite the proper care and maintenance performed by the trucking company.
This is why maintenance records are so important. On one hand, they are a powerful tool against the trucking company when you must demonstrate the maintenance or lack thereof, on their vehicle is directly related to the cause of your injury. On the other hand, the maintenance records can be helpful if we need to expand your claim and go after the manufacturer of the part in question because it was defective or if we need to go after the company responsible for the repair of the part because they failed to repair it properly. The maintenance records are the paper trail that can lead straight to success in your injury claim against the commercial trucking company. Do not underestimate their importance.
Even though the trucking companies are required by federal law to inspect and maintain their fleet and retain the records of these activities, they often do not. Sometimes if they do have these records and after an accident, it is discovered that the records could prove their liability or produce a negative outcome for them, they will alter or destroy the records making it more difficult for you to prove your case. At this point in order to help to ensure that the trucking company does not alter or destroy their maintenance records, sending spoliation correspondence is critical. Spoliation correspondence is a notice that instructs the trucking company on its duty to maintain its records and advises them on the records that your attorney will need to have them produce for review. This is why it is so important to have someone one your side like one of our attorneys from our Law Offices. We know what evidence to gather and what legal notices can be filed to prevent the trucking company from destroying the evidence needed in your case. We know the trucking companies are not above this unfair and illegal behavior, so you need an experienced attorney on your side who knows how to strike back when this happens.
Poor Maintenance – More Prevalent Than We Think
As discussed above, commercial trucking companies are required by federal and state law to maintain, inspect, and repair their fleet of vehicles and to keep records of these activities. However, it is clear that the trucking companies are not following this mandate. In a recent inspection conducted by Denton County Texas law enforcement agencies over a two-day period, only four out of sixty commercial trucks were deemed to be completely safe and worthy for the road. The inspectors uncovered everything from simple paperwork errors to major mechanical issues on these trucks. Some had bad hitching systems and poorly contained cargo and were forced to stay of the roads until these issues were fixed. This was just a sampling of the thousands of commercial trucks motorists share the roads with us in San Antonio on any given day. Even though this was a relatively small sample it is clear that the commercial trucking companies are not keeping up with the maintenance on their vehicles.
If one of the trucks that failed the recent inspection by the Denton law enforcement agencies was in an accident, our attorneys would request the maintenance records from the truck’s owners. It stands to reason that if the truck failed a random inspection it probably was not being maintained properly and the maintenance records the trucking company has a duty to maintain could reveal that. Further, if the trucking company’s records show that the truck was properly maintained then the argument could be made that the trucking company has attempted to falsify those records. Logically speaking, if a truck is being properly maintained there is no reason it should not pass a random inspection by a state agency.
In either case, our lawyers at our Law Offices know how to get the evidence needed to help your claim. When you take on the commercial trucking companies and their attorneys alone you put yourself at a disadvantage. The trucking company and their lawyers are very experienced in dealing with claims like yours and they know how to manipulate and bully-victims into accepting considerably less than their claim is worth or not paying them at all. They have been known to alter and destroy maintenance records, refuse to cooperate with discovery requests or even deny the existence of certain types of evidence. If you do not have a lot of experience dealing with these matters the help of a professional is advisable. Our lawyers know how the trucking companies and their lawyers will try to circumvent the law and stop your claim from being successful. We have spent over twenty years litigating these claims and we know how to be successful for our clients.
Texas Truck Accident Statistics