It depends on how bad you’re hurt.
My first job as a lawyer was working for an insurance defense lawyer downtown. An old, crusty guy.
He asked me to work on a case where a woman, camping next to her booth at a fairgrounds in Kentucky, had been injured when she stepped into a hole next to her tent. My boss told me to call the adjuster assigned to the case to learn some of the facts. The adjuster – who knew my boss – said “Tell your boss that I can fill that hole pretty easily. Let me know.”
Needless to say, I never discussed this with my boss, and – as far as I know – the hole was never filled. And I had no further communications with the adjuster. The case settled.
I would not destroy evidence. But I learned that there are people who will.
OK, back to trucks.
If the victim’s injuries aren’t severe, I write a letter to the trucking company requesting that they keep, and not destroy, a laundry list of items that could be relevant to the case. These would include mileage logs, the “black box”, training materials, driver tests, driver personnel records, etc.
That way, if we can’t settle the case without filing suit and some of the items turn up “missing” later, I can try to introduce the letter into evidence. I think most judges would let the jury see the letter.
Another option is to file suit right away. The good thing about that is that it gets the case in the hands of a lawyer, and – despite what you may think – most lawyers are very sensitive to the consequences of destroying evidence. No lawyer wants to lose his license.
But getting the case in the hands of a lawyer might not be a good thing. Lawyers slow things down a lot, and tend to be a lot more cautious about settling cases than insurance adjusters do.
If the injuries are substantial – I can’t think of a guideline – several other things might be in order. It can be a good idea to:
• Get an accident reconstructionist to the scene right away;
• Hire a detective or investigator to interview witnesses
• Get photographs of the accident scene and the road coming up to it.
• Getting a trucking expert to review the case for possible violations of government regulations. He may think of something we need that had not occurred to me.
This costs money. So the severity of the injury matters a lot – it doesn’t make sense to spend $20,000 investigating a $25,000.00 case.
And there are two main reasons to do an investigation – punitive damages, and liability disputes. So if it’s clear that the truck driver just made a mistake, and if the liability is being conceded – you can tell if the trucking company’s insurance is paying for the other vehicle’s property damage – the investigation might not be necessary.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. You can’t keep the other side from destroying evidence; but once you’ve asked them to preserve it, that makes it a lot harder for them to make it disappear. If you’ve been hurt by a truck, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Truck Accident Attorney about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.