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Preserving Forensic Evidence to Prove Your Case in Tractor-Trailer/Semi-Truck Accident Cases

Preserving forensic evidence to prove case in semi-truck accident

What happens when an 80,000-pound semi-truck hits a car? Nothing good. In 2022 alone there were 186 fatal car accidents in Ohio involving a commercial motor vehicle, which can include semis, tractor-trailers, dump trucks, and school buses.   

In the aftermath of such truck accident wrongful death or catastrophic injury incidents, one of the most critical aspects of building a strong case is the preservation and collection of digital evidence which can be used to tell the whole story of why a crash occurred – not just the most obvious. Many semis and tractor-trailers now include technology that captures video of crashes and monitors the driver’s behavior leading up to and during the crash. 

This is the first blog in a series discussing unique aspects of truck accident cases. This first blog will focus on unique digital evidence that can be used to prove the trucking company’s fault in a trucking accident case. The next blog will focus on how such evidence can be used to show a critical problem that is all too common in the trucking industry that we have uncovered in many trucking crashes: distracted driving.   

Why is Preserving Evidence Soon After a Trucking Crash Vital? 

Forensic evidence serves as the cornerstone of unraveling the events leading to an accident. In cases involving truck and car accidents, this evidence can be found in various forms, including in the electronic systems embedded within the vehicles, as well as personal electronic devices, including cell phones and smartwatches. If these sources of electronic evidence are not immediately identified and preserved, their data may be overwritten or deleted, and crucial information about the facts and circumstances of the crash (and leading up to the crash) will be lost. 

truck engine control module

What are the Types of Digital Evidence that May Explain a Crash?  

Trucks are equipped with a wealth of data that can be pivotal in establishing liability, understanding the actions of the driver at the time of the accident, and telling the story of your case. These systems capture information such as speed, braking patterns, steering input, and even the driver's activities just before the crash, including calls, text messages, and other activities. Here are some of the types of information Plakas Mannos’ truck accident attorneys have been able to obtain to help prove that the trucking company and its driver were at fault:

  • Cell Phone: Not only does the driver’s cell phone show whether he or she was talking or texting at the time of the crash, but a proper forensic download can reveal other critical information as well, such as: application usage while driving; website usage while driving; videos watched while driving; and speed and location measurements. Unfortunately, if such data is not quickly preserved, it can be erased forever. In one instance, Plakas Mannos was able to use a forensic cell phone download conducted shortly after the fatal truck accident to show that a driver was watching adult-only websites.
  • Engine Control Module (ECM): A truck’s engine control module (ECM) records data that shows the truck’s speed, and the specific use of the gas or brake pedals leading up to a crash. This can be used in conjunction with other data to show exactly what the driver was doing in the time leading up to the crash leading to the wrongful death or catastrophic injury. 

  • Telematics Systems: Telematics systems in tractor-trailers record information that can include the truck’s GPS location, speed, sudden braking events, and messaging. However, this data is often only retained for a short period of time, making it critically important to hire a truck accident attorney as soon as possible to make sure such is preserved. For example, in one case, Plakas Mannos was able to obtain the telematics and cell phone data to show that while other vehicles were stopped ahead because of a crash, the truck driver who caused the crash was answering a cell phone call which distracted him long enough to not see a slower moving vehicle ahead, causing our client to suffer a catastrophic injury. In another wrongful death case, Plakas Mannos identified that the trucking company received reports from its telematics system over a dozen times in the week before a crash that a driver was braking hard to avoid a crash but never coached the driver or did anything to correct this dangerous driving behavior.

  • Drive Cam Systems: Drive cam systems can be integrated with a truck’s telematics system and often have both an inward-facing camera (showing the driver’s actions) and an outward-facing camera (showing what the driver should be seeing on the roadway ahead). These can be integrated into a telematics system such that when unsafe driving behavior is detected, a video with data is automatically sent to the trucking company to review unsafe driving behavior. In one catastrophic injury case, Plakas Mannos was able to show that while traffic was stopped ahead due to a crash, the driver had attempted to block his inward-facing camera and was distracted by his cell phone to the degree that he never saw the vehicles stopped ahead until he caused a second crash.   

Why Should I Hire an Attorney Who Has Experience with Truck Crashes as Soon as Possible?  

Why should I hire a lawyer after a truck crash

Time is of the essence in preserving this crucial evidence. Electronic data stored in telematics or can be easily overwritten or destroyed if not preserved promptly. The same is true of cell phones and other personal electronic devices. This is where retaining legal counsel as soon as possible is so important.  

Our experienced truck accident lawyers can swiftly take action to preserve electronic data by sending comprehensive preservation letters to ensure that potentially relevant data is not tampered with or destroyed. Our lawyers can also work to secure physical evidence from the scene before it's compromised or lost. These proactive steps significantly increase the chances of obtaining vital evidence to support your case and explain all of the reasons why a crash occurred.  

Plakas Mannos: Your Expert Personal Injury and Trucking Crash Team 

At Plakas Mannos, we pride ourselves on our dedicated team with significant experience and a history of success in trucking crash wrongful death and personal injury cases. Led by seasoned attorneys with years of experience, our team understands the intricate complexities of accidents involving vehicles, be it cars or trucks. 

Navigating the aftermath of a trucking crash or car accident demands a nuanced understanding of the legal landscape and a keen eye for details. Our attorneys possess a wealth of experience in handling trucking accident and car crash cases. Trucking accidents in particular present a unique set of challenges due to their complexity and often devastating outcomes. Our team has a proven track record in handling trucking crash cases, comprehensively analyzing the factors at play and meticulously preserving crucial evidence. We understand the specific regulations governing the trucking industry, and we have relationships with some of the foremost experts in this industry, as well as the forensic evidence preservation industry.    

Don’t Let Your Truck Accident Injury Go Without a Settlement 

In cases involving vehicle accidents, preserving forensic evidence is paramount. Trucks' ECMs and telematics systems hold valuable data that can shape the outcome of a case. Early retention of experienced counsel is the key to safeguarding this evidence before it's overwritten or destroyed, ensuring a thorough and fair investigation into the incident.  

At Plakas Mannos, we understand the urgency and importance of preserving evidence for your trucking personal injury or wrongful death case. Our team is dedicated to promptly securing crucial information and building the story of your case to protect your rights and seek the compensation you deserve. Our personal injury and trucking crash team combines expertise, experience, and a commitment to securing the best possible outcome for our clients.   

If you do not act quickly, you risk losing valuable pieces of the story of your case forever. Don't let valuable evidence slip away. Contact us today to safeguard your case and secure your future.



About the Authors

Headshot of Collin Wise Maria

Collin Wise concentrates on car crashes, truck crashes, personal injury and wrongful death litigation and business litigation. Maria Klutinoty Edwards also handles complex cases involving business litigation, personal injury, and wrongful death, as well as medical malpractice and industrial accidents.

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