Fully-loaded eighteen-wheelers often weigh more than 80,000 pounds. Furthermore, these vehicles usually carry several hundreds of gallons of highly-flammable diesel fuel. So, in a high-speed wreck, there is often little physical evidence left behind. The lack of evidence could be a problem for victims because the victim has the burden of proof in a negligence case.
When traditional evidence sources, like the police accident report, are insufficient, a Rock Hill personal injury attorney can look elsewhere for evidence in a truck crash case. This evidence can help an attorney obtain compensation for a victim of economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Almost all large trucks have Event Data Recorders. These gadgets usually measure and record operational information like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Steering angle,
- Brake application, and
- Engine RPM.
In terms of design, EDRs are a lot like the black boxes in commercial jets. So, EDRs are very durable and they often survive significant crashes.
Additionally, most large trucks also have Electronic Logging Devices. Since they track the driver’s hours of service, these gadgets can be very useful in drowsy driving claims. The trucking industry fought the ELD mandate all the way to the Supreme Court, likely because their lawyers know what a game-changer these devices can be.
Fatigued driving can be as bad as drunk driving. Operating a vehicle after eighteen consecutive awake hours has been equated to driving with a .05 BAC. That’s well above the legal limit for truck drivers in South Carolina.
Legal and Practical Issues
The Palmetto State has very strict vehicle data privacy laws. So, before they tap into EDRs and ELDs, attorneys usually need court orders or permission to do so.
That’s assuming these gadgets are available in the first place. Many insurance companies destroy vehicles after catastrophic wrecks. If that happens, any physical evidence, including electronic evidence, disappears.
So, an attorney must act quickly and send a spoliation letter. This letter creates a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence in a case, including the EDR and ELD.
Electronic evidence is very effective in court. Computers, unlike eyewitnesses, are not typically biased or wrong. So, it’s almost impossible for insurance company lawyers to successfully challenge electronic evidence in court. Additionally, tech-savvy York County jurors usually give electronic evidence considerable weight.
Evidence is at a premium in truck crash claims. For a free consultation with Lancaster personal injury attorney, contact The Elrod Pope Law Firm.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.