I have a client that was hit by a Swift Transportation Truck in mid-May 2009. Some weeks later, after my client left the hospital, I was hired. I sent a spoliation letter to Swift on June 5, 2009 by fax, mail, and certified mail alerting them to the fact my client was injured and they needed to keep documents that might help figure out who was responsible for the wreck. A spoliation letter is a letter that asks a company to preserve evidence that would show why the wreck happened. Often the major cause of a wreck is not the driver, but the trucking company. The trucking company is typically found at fault for failing to train its drivers, refusing to fire dangerous drivers or hiring them in the first place, failing to properly maintain trucks and not giving drivers the tools they need to drive safely, and for not supervising the drivers while they are on the road. Click her to see a sample spoliation letter.
Swift responded to this letter by stating they refused to save all the documents requested but only to "preserve information [Swift] believe is relevant…" If that isn’t putting the fox in charge of the hen house I don’t know what is! They went on to say "we will not preserve each and every item enumerated on your list. …If you believe this response to your request is inadequate, you may wish to file a lawsuit…" They say they will only preserve documents "as required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration…" which allows documents, relevant to determining fault in a wreck, to be destroyed in 30 days. (Specifically, post trip inspection documents are only required to be saved for 30 days according to FMCSR 396.11(c)(2). ) Electronic material is frequently only kept for days and can be critical in a case. Many of the most important liability documents are destroyed in 6 months while a minority of documents are required to be kept for 3 years.
The ironic thing is that Swift will have insurance adjusters actively discouraging surviving family members from hiring a lawyer, even though the company itself is destroying documents which are critical to proving Swift was responsible for the wreck. Families typically are told to "wait and see what we offer before hiring a lawyer," even though the proof a lawyer needs to prove your case is actively disappearing." This is the worst sort of corporate abuse.
PLEASE DON’T THINK SWIFT, OR ITS INSURANCE AGENTS, IS ON YOUR SIDE. For more on problems caused by insurance adjusters see my prior post "Insurance Companies Trick Victims in Trucking Cases"
The Law Offices of Morgan Adams concentrates in protecting the rights of those who were seriously injured or lost a loved one in a serious accident with a commercial truck. Our lawyers are based in Tennessee but serve clients throughout the nation. If you or someone you love has been seriously hurt by a careless truck driver, don’t sign anything the trucking company gives you — contact us as soon as possible at 800-580-4878 or by email to learn more at a free, confidential consultation.
Morgan Adams is a trial attorney licensed in Tennessee and Georgia. He is listed as a "2008 Mid-South SuperLawyer" (Limited to the top 5% of the lawyers in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas), is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (limited to lawyers who have recovered 1 million dollars or more for their clients), and is the Chair-Elect of the American Association of Justice’s Interstate Trucking Litigation Group. He has served as chair of the Tennessee Association of Justice’s Trucking Litigation seminars since 2004, and is a frequent speaker at national legal education programs, training lawyers to properly handle injury cases involving commercial trucks.