Evidence in a trucking case vanishes quickly. There are several computers on-board a tractor trailer these days and all have critical information which helps determine the extent of liability and what happened in a truck wreck. One of the computers is called an event data recorder (EDR). This computer records the speed, time of braking, time of impact from time of braking, and much more information can be wiped clean by a trucking company in a few hours. (Some companies don’t even have them turned on, fearing an impartial scientific witness to key facts in a collision). On-board computer records of the trucks location, and emails to and from the company, are often held for only 14 days. Many of the paper records a trucking company is required to keep by federal regulations, to show how long a driver was on the road and if he was speeding, is held only for six months. This despite the fact that most states allow a lawsuit to be filed one to three years after the date of the collision. What do you do?
You must send a spoliation letter. Spoliation is the destruction of evidence. A spoliation letter informs the trucking company of the documents and things it must keep and preserve prior to litigation being filed. It is CRITICAL that this letter be sent as soon as possible whenever a tractor trailer is involved in a collision. Once the letter is sent, failure to save the evidence can result in an inference that the trucking company had something to hide, sanctions, or even in some states a direct cause of action against the trucking company for the destruction of evidence.
It is our practice to send our spoliation letters by fax, regular mail, certified mail, and FedEx to the president of the company, the safety director, and/or the risk manager.