Electronic Evidence in Truck Crash Claims

The number of large truck crashes is on the rise, in part because of the number of inexperienced drivers who are behind the wheel. According to the American Truck Driver Association, the current 80,000-driver shortage could reach 160,000 by 2029. These large vehicles are difficult for even experienced operators to handle. An inexperienced driver could cause a high-speed crash that leaves little but charred wreckage behind. 

The lack of eyewitness and physical evidence could be a problem when such cases go to court. But an experienced Marietta personal injury attorney knows how to overcome such problems and turn lost opportunities into new opportunities. Frequently, electronic evidence survives even the worst and most destructive wrecks. Furthermore, most tech-savvy Cobb County jurors embrace electronic evidence and give it even more weight than some other kinds of proof.

Event Data Recorder

A commercial jet’s black box flight data recorder tracks critical mechanical information that helps investigators determine the cause of an airplane crash. Similarly, an Event Data Recorder measures and records critical information that helps a Marietta personal injury lawyer build a solid negligence case. This information includes:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Brake application,
  • Steering angle, and
  • Engine RPM.

EDR proof is more precise than other forms of proof. An eyewitness might testify that a truck was speeding. An EDR shows that a truck was traveling 67.8 mph. EDR proof is also more reliable than other kinds of proof. Assuming the gadget was working right, a computer is never incorrect or biased.

This critical information is only available if a Marietta personal injury lawyer acts quickly and decisively.

Georgia has strong vehicle data privacy laws. Some federal vehicle information privacy laws are even stronger. So, unless judges issue court orders, EDR information is usually off-limits. Access alone is not enough. Large truck EDRs are very sophisticated. Only a lawyer with the proper technological tools and know-how can tap into the data and download it.

This discussion assumes the EDR exists. As mentioned, these gadgets usually survive crashes. However, most insurance companies quickly and completely destroy most wrecked vehicles, including the EDRs. Therefore, a lawyer must almost immediately send a spoliation letter to an insurance company. This legally-enforceable document orders the insurance company to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR, for future inspection.

Electronic Logging Device

ELDs, which automatically record HOS (hours of service) compliance, are especially important in drowsy truck driver claims, as well as some substance abuse claims.  

State and federal laws cap the amount of time a trucker can drive per day and per week. If a tortfeasor (negligent driver) breaks these laws and causes a crash, the tortfeasor could be responsible for damages as a matter of law, whether or not regulators enforce these rules.

In ordinary negligence cases, ELD data is a key piece of circumstantial evidence. Because of the nature of electronic evidence, as discussed above, it’s often critical to proving negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.

Driving after 18 consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That is above the commercial driver legal limit in Georgia. To counteract the effects of fatigue, many truckers use amphetamines. These drugs only make drivers feel more alert. They do not address clouded judgment, slow reflexes, and the other underlying effects of fatigue. Furthermore, the user often crashes hard and fast when the drugs wear off.

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