Evidence is usually the key to a successful outcome in any civil case. Accident victims have the burden of proof. They must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Imagine two equally-full cups of coffee are on the same table. If the waitress adds one drop of coffee to one cup, it’s fuller than the other one. That’s what a preponderance of the evidence looks like.
The good news is that a preponderance of proof is the lowest standard of evidence in Minnesota. The bad news is that truck crashes are often so catastrophic that little or no physical evidence remains at the scene.
To make up for this lack of evidence, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must work extra hard to amass the proof necessary to establish negligence. If jurors hear a sufficient amount of compelling evidence, they often award significant damages in these cases. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Event Data Recorder
After large airplanes crash, investigators often rely on black box flight data recorders to determine what caused the crash. Large truck Event Data Recorders are much the same. Generally, EDRs measure and record key operational information like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Steering angle,
- Engine acceleration or deceleration, and
- Brake application.
A Hutchinson, MN lawyer, often working with an accident reconstructionist, can use this information like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Once an attorney puts the pieces together for jurors, they see a compelling picture of operator negligence.
EDRs are valuable, and Hutchinson, MN lawyers must act quickly to preserve this evidence. As mentioned, truck crashes are often devastating. Following such wrecks, insurance companies usually destroy totaled vehicles, rather than paying to store them. If that happens, the EDR, and all other physical evidence on the truck, is gone forever.
Spoliation letters usually help. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR.
There is more. Minnesota has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. So, to access and download EDR information, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer typically must obtain a court order.
Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Electronic Logging Devices
EDRs are usually important in all truck wreck claims. ELDs are often critical in drowsy driving claims. Biologically, driving while fatigued is like driving while intoxicated. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours, which is basically a long day on the road, is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial drivers in Minnesota.
Trucking industry executives know how important this issue is. Their lawyers fought the ELD mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. But it finally took full effect in December 2019.
ELDs are basically electronic work logs which are connected to the ignition. If the truck is running, the HOS (hours of service) clock is ticking. Minnesota and the federal government both have strict laws in this area. If a driver does not get enough rest and causes a crash, the driver could be liable for damages as a matter of law.
Furthermore, ELDs are often circumstantial evidence of fatigue. Drivers can technically be in compliance with the HOS rules and still be dangerously fatigued. Research shows that even an hour or two of less sleep makes a difference.
To use this critical data in court, Hutchinson, MN lawyers must overcome the aforementioned vehicle information privacy laws as well as some other privacy laws, mostly regarding medical data.
Safety Maintenance System
Lack of physical evidence is not the only issue in truck crash claims. Generally, these operators have drivers’ licenses in several different states. As a result, it’s difficult or impossible to obtain all relevant driving records.
Several years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began keeping multistate driving records on all American truck drivers. The SMS database focuses on:
- HOS compliance,
- Vehicle maintenance history,
- Prior collisions,
- Substance abuse history, and
- Previous traffic citations.
The SMS relies on law enforcement records as opposed to judicial records. So, it is more accurate. For example, if a tortfeasor (negligent driver) received a speeding ticket and took defensive driving, that citation would probably not appear in a judicial database. But it would pop up in the SMS database.
Connect with a Diligent Attorney
Industrious evidence collection lays the groundwork for fair compensation in a truck wreck case. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.