Investigation at Accident Scene

How Are Truck Accident Investigations Conducted?

Because of the complexities surrounding truck accidents, each one requires a thorough post-crash investigation. Without such investigations, it can be impossible to discover the root cause of — and who is liable for — the accident. And without the crucial knowledge of exactly how the accident occurred, many innocent victims of these crashes are left without the compensation they need for their injurie

At Coffey Trial Law, we are committed to making sure our clients recover the compensation they deserve after a crash involving a large truck. This means conducting a truck accident investigation as soon as possible after the crash.

What is the process for a truck accident investigation?

There are multiple types of truck accident investigations that happen after a crash. If you plan to file a claim against the driver or trucking company, a truck accident lawyer from Coffey Trial Law will obtain copies of each of these:

Police Officer’s Accident Report: The first person to investigate any accident is usually the officer who responded to the crash. In addition to making sure everyone is safe, the police officer will take notes, including the time and location of the crash, the damage to the vehicles and surrounding area, whether any of the drivers obviously violated any laws, and any other relevant observations. All this information goes into the accident report.

Government Agency Investigation: After an accident, several state or federal agencies (e.g., Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) may conduct a post-accident investigation. In general, these agencies want to determine if the truck driver or trucking company violated any federal rules or regulations.

Trucking Company Investigation:  The truck driver’s own employer may conduct a post-accident investigation of its own. These types of investigations often include accident reconstruction, vehicle inspections, and drug or alcohol testing of their drivers.

Private Investigation: Your attorney, with the help of trucking industry experts, will also conduct a private post-accident investigation. This additional investigation is generally the only way for victims to collect all the facts they will need to win their claim.

As part of your post-accident investigation, our team will complete a thorough investigation and gather evidence such as:

  • Driver’s Logbooks: Truck drivers must keep detailed written records of everything they do behind the wheel. If they fail to keep these records or if they drive for too long without taking a break, the government will fine the company. In addition to the traditional paper records, we can also obtain information from the truck’s onboard data recorder.
  • Drug and Alcohol Test Results/Citations: If the driver was distracted or intoxicated at the time of the crash, we will obtain the drug and alcohol test records or collect the driver’s cell phone records to prove it.
  • Eyewitness Testimony: We will interview all drivers, passengers, mechanics, and eyewitnesses involved in the crash. We can use the statements made during these interviews to prevent the driver from changing his or her story.
  • The Truck and its Maintenance Records: We will also examine the truck and its maintenance records to determine whether a defect or negligent maintenance caused or contributed to the accident.
  • Evidence from the Scene of the Accident: Our team will visit the physical location of the accident to measure the length of skid marks, inspect the road conditions, and look for any other evidence that may shed light on what happened. We will also complete an accident reconstruction to determine the root cause of the accident.

We also work with expert truck accident investigators to make sure that no stone is left unturned. To ensure the trucking company preserves all the necessary evidence, we will also send a spoliation letter immediately.

When is the truck driver required to take a drug or alcohol test as part of the investigation?

Obviously, truck drivers cannot drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, truck drivers may not drink within four hours of the start of their shift. If an accident happens, truck drivers must submit to drug and alcohol testing in three specific situations:

  1. An accident victim died
  2. The truck driver received a citation and one or more cars required towing from the scene
  3. The truck driver received a citation and one or more people needed immediate medical treatment

If one or more of these situations applies, the truck driver must take an alcohol test within eight hours or a drug test within 32 hours of the accident. We may be able to use the failure to take this test as evidence of potential wrongdoing during a claim.

No matter the outcome of the accident, the trucking company must keep copies of any positive drug or alcohol tests for five years. To determine whether the driver has a history of driving under the influence, our team will examine his/her personnel file.

Why should I hire an attorney to conduct a truck accident investigation?

It can be tempting to rely on one of the other investigations to save time and money, but keep in mind that those entities did not conduct those investigations with the victim of the accident in mind.

The police officer, for example, is under an extreme amount of stress to clear the accident quickly and reopen the road for other drivers. Government agencies are concerned about how the accident relates to their rules and regulations. And, of course, the trucking company will have its own interests at heart when conducting the investigation.

At Coffey Trial Law, we will review your case, request copies of all relevant investigations, conduct a thorough investigation of our own (with you in mind), and consult with trucking industry experts to determine the total value of your claim and uncover all the facts needed to win. Call us today at 954-541-3194 to set up your free, initial consultation with a truck accident lawyer in Fort Lauderdale.