Trucking companies and their drivers play a huge role in our economy. Every day, millions of tons of raw and finished product is transported by truckers across our nation’s highways. The South Carolina Lowcountry sees an especially high volume of tractor trailers on its roadways as we are home to five marine terminals at the Port of Charleston alone. Unfortunately, as the volume of trucks on the road increases, so does the rate of collisions caused by truck drivers.
What Happens After I’m Injured in A Truck Accident?
After a tractor-trailer causes a collision, the trucking company and its insurance company spring into action. Trucking companies typically use “rapid response teams” to investigate collision scenes and collect evidence as soon as one hour after the collision occurs. These companies also work to repair the tractor trailer that caused the crash as quickly as possible, erasing crucial evidence of how the collision happened.
Trucking companies and their drivers are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), which regulate trucking companies and truck drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require that certain information and records be created and maintained by trucking companies and truck drivers. Unfortunately, trucking companies typically have record retention policies calling for the destruction of records as soon as they are allowed to do so under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Why does this matter? Because these documents regularly turn out to be invaluable in proving that the truck driver was fatigued or should not have been driving for some other reason, or that the tractor trailer was not safe to operate and should not have been on the road.
In addition to the documents required by the FMCSR, the in-cabin computers and satellite messaging systems used by larger trucking companies generate a tremendous amount of data that may prove instrumental to your case. Some of the companies that provide these services to trucking businesses purge the data in as little as 14 days. All late model tractors also have engine control modules (ECMs) that act as a “black box” for the truck. The ECM keeps track of information such as distance traveled, speed, acceleration and braking, data that is critical to proving how the truck driver performed before, during, and after the wreck. ECM data must be downloaded by an expert and if not preserved quickly after the collision it may be lost.
How Can I Make Sure This Doesn’t Happen?
Hire a South Carolina truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after being involved in a collision caused by a tractor trailer. It is common for folks to focus on their injuries and treatment, or that of a loved one, after a collision and delay hiring an attorney until weeks or even months have passed. While you are right to focus on your medical treatment and recovery, even a slight delay in retaining an attorney can result in the destruction of valuable evidence and the reduction of the value of your claim. If hired soon after the crash, a qualified, experienced trucking attorney can make sure that the trucking company keeps all of the records and information it is supposed to keep, even if your treatment takes many months.