A commercial truck accident is usually a devastating experience for all parties involved, often leading to tens of thousands of dollars in property damage, medical bills and lost income. Even those who are fortunate and survive a truck accident with little physical damage may still suffer severe psychological damage that affects them for the rest of their lives, or requires months or years of recovery.
Needless to say, anyone who suffers injuries and property losses in a truck accident should take their accident claims very seriously. In fact, it is wise to begin building a claim as soon as possible to ensure that important pieces of evidence to support the claim do not disappear permanently.
Gather evidence at the scene and request electronic control module data
Like any accident, the more evidence that you can gather at the scene before the cleanup crews arrive, the better. If you cannot do this yourself because of injuries or other complications, it is a good idea to ask a friend or relative to document the scene with pictures and video of the area, as well as seeking any potential security footage from nearby buildings and asking for witness statements.
There is another piece of evidence that should be considered in collisions involving commercial trucks. These days, most commercial trucks also contain electronic control modules (ECMs) that are very similar to the black boxes installed on airplanes to record flight data in case of a crash. While the types of data differ between trucks and airplanes, the general concept remains the same; the machine's operational data is captured and stored.
These devices are built to withstand incredible impact and keep their data intact. This data may include the truck's:
- Highest speed
- Average speed
- Hours driving faster than 65 miles per hour
- Hours spent idling
- Speed immediately before a hard brake
- Amount of time braking before a hard stop (impact)
If you later seek compensation for your injuries and damages, you will be required to prove that the truck driver was at fault for the collision. Data from a commercial truck’s ECM can help explain and prove how the crash occurred. For example, it may show that the truck was speeding moments before impact or it may show that the truck had been in operation in excess of federal regulation time limits. Securing this evidence may strengthen your claim and increase the likelihood of receiving the full, fair compensation that you deserve for your injuries and losses.
Act fast, before the data disappears
Just like road crews quickly arrive on the scene to clear away debris and mop up important evidence, it is important to understand that ECM data can disappear. Many models only record data for a certain amount of days before it is lost. Other times, the owner of the truck may clear any evidence from the ECM very quickly. For these reasons, it is important to immediately send a formal request that the data be preserved.
It may be frustrating that a truck owner can dispose of potential evidence but in many states, it is still legal, because the owner of the truck owns the device within the truck. Until the owner receives a formal request for the data, it is simple to erase it without many repercussions. The loss of this data can potentially weaken your claim. Carefully but quickly build your claim by requesting this data as soon as is possible so that it doesn't disappear via overwriting or erasure by potential defendants acting in their best interests.
A strong claim requires strong evidence, so make sure you gather as much as you can and protect yourself and your priorities while you work towards physical recovery and a fair settlement.