After being involved in an accident with a semi truck, it is natural to want some time to recuperate. But while you are resting, the party at fault for your accident could be destroying potential pieces of evidence necessary for you to win a case against them. This is why your truck accident lawyer should send a spoliation letter immediately.
What is a spoliation letter?
A spoliation letter is a written request sent to the truck driver or the company where s/he works after an accident. The letter requests that the trucking company preserve certain pieces of potential evidence.
Once received, the trucking company is legally bound to preserve the information requested in the letter, such as driver logbooks or vehicle inspection reports. A spoliation letter covers both electronic versions of these documents as well as paper copies. A spoliation letter sometimes called a “preservation letter.”
Why should I send
Under rules established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), trucking companies are legally required to maintain certain records regarding the maintenance of their vehicles and the total number of hours a driver spends behind the wheel. However, after the legally required period of time, the FMCSA rule no longer applies and trucking companies are able to destroy these records.
Depending on the timeline of your lawsuit, the at-fault trucking company may be able to legally destroy a valuable piece of evidence before you can request it during the discovery phase of your case against them. A proper letter of spoliation sent by your attorney will ensure that the company maintains all requested documents until the resolution of your lawsuit, no matter how long it takes to finally get started in court.
What is in it?
A spoliation letter must contain a formal request to preserve specific pieces of potential information. It is not enough to say “please preserve all pieces of evidence relating to the accident.” Instead, the spoliation letter must provide an itemized list of all pieces of evidence that you believe will potentially be of use at trial.
A truck accident lawyer will know how to send a proper spoliation letter so that no important pieces of potential evidence fall through the cracks. Most importantly, all letters of spoliation should be sent as soon as possible after an accident. This means that it is imperative that you choose an attorney quickly.
What evidence does it preserve?
A spoliation letter can preserve several important documents. Depending on the facts of your case and what factors contributed to the wreck, you may request that some or all of the following items be preserved:
- Driver’s logbooks tracking the number of hours driven, time off the clock, and break periods
- On-board computer records
- Dispatch logs
- Driver’s daily vehicle inspection reports
- Government inspection reports for the truck and trailer
- Vehicle maintenance records
- Bills of lading (receipts from the carrier to the owner of the goods on board given after a truck is loaded or unloaded)
- Trucking company handbook explaining driver policies and procedures to be followed
- Trucking company safety records
- Employee records for the driver
- Investigative records, photographs, videos taken after the accident
- Results from employee drug tests taken after the accident
In many cases, some or all the information above may be crucial to the success of your case. A spoliation letter means that you do not have to worry about losing any potential evidence.
For example, if the semi-truck driver collided with your car because the brakes of the truck failed at an intersection, you will need access to the broken truck parts as evidence for your case. If it takes a year to finally start your case in court, the truck company will likely need to repair their truck and use it in the meantime. If the trucking company is the only party with access to photographs or videos of the damaged part, you need to make sure that evidence will be available to you when you step in front of a judge by sending a spoliation letter as soon as possible after the accident.
What if the truck company destroys evidence after receiving the letter?
While the trucking company may be within their rights to destroy certain records in the normal course of business, once you send a spoliation letter, that company is legally required to maintain the records. Sending a spoliation letter can only help, not harm, your case.
If the company ignores your request to preserve potential evidence, the court will likely consider it to be an act of bad faith. This means the court could inflict serious consequences on the trucking company at trial.
In some cases, the court may decide that the destruction of the evidence alone is proof that the documents in question contained information that would have harmed the trucking company if presented at court. When this happens, you may automatically win one or even all of the elements you need to prove at trial to win.
Let Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co. L.P.A. Send on Your Behalf
The semi-truck accident attorneys at Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co. L.P.A. know how important a letter of spoliation can be to winning a truck accident case. Contact us today for more information on what pieces of evidence might be important to your case and how we can help you prevent the at-fault trucking company from destroying those documents. Call (419) 843-6663.