A big-rig barrels down I-10. Hard rain falls. And water pools in the tire grooves in the highway. Visibility is low. The driver’s cell phone rings. He fumbles to find his phone and loses control of the truck. The 80,000-pound machine sideswipes a sedan parked on the shoulder.
The driver is trained for this type of crash. He knows what to do. Stay in the truck and call headquarters. The trucking company’s lawyers are there before the sheriff. Meanwhile the driver of the sedan has no training for this. He has no plan. And he calls no one. He sits in what is left of his car as he struggles to breath. Another driver stopped to help. This Good Samaritan calls an ambulance. The injured sedan driver is taken to a hospital while the trucking company lawyers stay at the scene, working to protect the company from what just happened.
The trucking company has the information
There is a gap between what the trucking company knows and what the sedan driver knows. The driver of the sedan knows nothing. He was pulled over waiting for the rain to let up. The truck smashed his car and put him in the hospital. The trucking company knows a lot more.
The trucking company knows how long its driver had been on the road. It knows where the driver was coming from and where he was going. The company knows how heavy the truck was at the time of the crash. It knows how fast the truck was going when it hit the sedan. It is important for the sedan driver to make sure the trucking company keeps that information in case he needs it to prove his personal injury case.
Evidence tends to disappear
Regulations require trucking companies to maintain and preserve records for different lengths of time. After a crash, a trucking company may destroy relevant records. Sometimes it is on purpose. Other times it is simply in the regular course of their business. Destroying documents is called “spoliation” and it can lead to sanctions against the trucking company in your personal injury case. But even then, the trucking company may say it did not destroy the evidence on purpose. It would have saved the evidence, but it did not know you wanted it. You solve this problem by sending a letter.
Make sure the other side saves the evidence
Send a “spoliation” letter as soon as possible. A standard spoliation letter lists in detail specific items of evidence to be “maintained and preserved” and not be “destroyed, discarded, changed, repaired, or altered in any manner.” The letter says that the evidence is relevant to your case. And it says that if the evidence is destroyed, you will ask for all sanctions allowed under the law. This puts the trucking company on notice of the relevance of the listed items. Once the letter is received, the trucking company must take affirmative steps to maintain and preserve the listed evidence or risk the court imposing sanctions against it.
Speak with a personal injury lawyer with experience in trucking lawsuits. He or she can help you draft the letter and identify what types of evidence to include in it. This will help you make sure important evidence is not destroyed.