Many people, including attorneys, do not fully understand what is required to prosecute and try a trucking accident case. These cases, while sharing basic similarities with auto accident cases, are in fact a very different breed. They require special knowledge of the trucking industry, the players involved, and the various state and federal laws and regulations at issue, because in fact there are many hurdles particular to only trucking cases. The Chicago truck accident attorneys at Passen & Powell have handled many catastrophic trucking cases, and apply the collective experience they have developed to each and every trucking case they handle.
The very first hurdle in a trucking accident case is one of perception. The attorneys representing truck drivers and trucking companies attempt, naturally, to color the perception of the judge and jury. These attorneys will try to make the judge and jury believe that a truck accident is just another auto accident. Experienced trucking accident lawyers, however, know that a truck accident — often involving tractor-trailer trucks weighing several tons and sometimes hauling dangerous material – is qualitatively different from a typical auto accident, and know how to explain those differences to a judge and jury.
Many different types of issues are different in a trucking case. First and foremost, there are many different laws which apply to trucking accident cases which simply do not apply in a basic auto accident case. This includes the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), which aim to prevent accidents caused by things like driver fatigue and substance abuse. These regulations are written as duties of the drivers, but under the law it is the duty of the trucking company to ensure that its drivers comply. The FMCSR also set forth the procedures that must be followed when companies hire truck drivers, in an attempt to prevent accidents caused by negligent hiring. The International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) also often is at issue in trucking accident cases. The IFTA requires detailed records of fuel receipts, which can help a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer reconstruct a driver’s history, and determine whether he was in fact complying with the FMCSR and getting the required amounts of rest.
Another unique challenge in trucking accident cases is that there is a unique vocabulary that does not apply anywhere else. From the types of communications used to the regulatory terms and business terms of the industry, the language surrounding truck accident cases can sound foreign to an inexperienced attorney. Our top Chicago truck accident attorneys, however, speak that language, and can help victims and jurors understand what is really at issue.
There are also procedural steps that are crucial in trucking accident cases, but which are not common in other types of injury and accident cases. For example, it is very important to promptly obtain a protective order or TRO (temporary restraining order) to have the truck responsible for the accident impounded. The truck itself, as well as the accident scene, provide crucial evidence of who was at fault for the accident – and once that evidence is gone, it cannot be recreated. In order to inspect the truck, however, an attorney will generally need permission from the police, who are conducting their own criminal investigation into the crash. An experienced truck crash lawyer will seek an order from the court allowing him to inspect the truck, as well as the logs, data, and other documents in the truck, as soon as the police have completed their own inspection.
Another key distinction in trucking accident cases is the types of evidence available. Automobiles do not have “black box” recorders – but, trucks do. The data from a truck’s black box is crucial in a trucking case – and often must be obtained before the truck is moved in order to prevent data loss. This data should be obtained with both sides present (i.e., a representative of the trucking company, as well as the victim’s attorney), so that the data cannot be questioned later, and perhaps barred from the case. Moreover, driver’s logs must be promptly obtained to prevent their destruction – many trucking companies routinely destroy this information six months after it is logged. Additionally, some evidence may still exist with a company’s tax department even after this destruction – but many companies will not search for and produce this information unless specifically directed to do so. The experienced truck accident attorneys of Passen & Powell know how to obtain this and other evidence to ensure that victims have the best chance of recovery.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.