The US trucking industry is constantly on the rise, even though newer, better, and faster means of transport are being developed on a daily basis. Currently, truck transport is the most common method of transporting goods across the US.
Unfortunately, the proliferation of the trucking industry in the US has led to an increase in the number of road accidents. Truck accidents are now more common than ever before. According to Policy Advice, truck accidents will become the fifth leading cause of death in the United States by 2030.
Victims of truck accidents in Florida usually face a hard time obtaining compensation. One of the biggest obstacles they face while pursuing compensation is to gather and collect appropriate evidence.
As a truck accident victim, you must prove the liability of the at-fault party to obtain compensation. To prove the at-fault party’s liability, you must have sufficient evidence.
It is extremely difficult to gather and collect this evidence by yourself, especially if you sustained severe bodily injuries, and you need to focus on recovery fully. This is why we are here to help you.
We at the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney can help you gather the evidence you require to obtain fair compensation. On your behalf, we will hunt down each piece of evidence we can get that can assist you in winning your case.
We’ve worked with numerous truck accident victims in Jacksonville, who have obtained favorable results. Due to our extensive experience, we are confident that we can assist you too. Get in touch with us today for a no-obligation consultation. We work on a contingency-fee-basis. You will not pay us anything until you win.
In this article, we will explain why you require evidence to prove your claim. We will also discuss what type of evidence you need to win your lawsuit as well as various Florida laws governing how evidence should be adduced in courts. Let us get started.
Why Do You Require Evidence?
As a truck accident victim, you may have sustained severe bodily injuries. These injuries might have caused you extreme pain and suffering, mental anguish, and depression. Due to these injuries, you may have lost your job or your business may have collapsed. You might have probably run into financial difficulties while seeking medical treatment.
If you are in such a situation, the last thing you expect to be told is to provide evidence to prove your claim. You expect that your insurance company will compensate you as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Even though Florida is a no-fault state, truck accident victims must provide sufficient evidence to prove that the accident actually occurred.
No insurance company can issue you an offer for settlement if you do not provide evidence. Likewise, no court in Florida can award you damages if you do not have evidence to prove your claim.
Take note that the burden of proof in a Florida truck accident lawsuit is on the plaintiff, and the standard of proof is on a balance of probabilities. As the plaintiff, you must adduce evidence to show that the defendant was responsible for the crash. If you do not adduce sufficient evidence, the judge will dismiss your case.
What Type of Evidence is Needed when Proving your Claim?
As the plaintiff, the primary element that you must prove in a Florida truck accident lawsuit is negligence. To prove negligence, you must assert that:
- The defendant had a duty to care
- The defendant breached this duty
- You sustained an injury due to the breach
Various parties can be held liable in a truck accident lawsuit. Some of these parties include the truck driver, the cargo loader, the government, and the trucking company. To prove the liability of any of these parties, you must assert that they were negligent.
For instance, if you believe that the truck driver caused the accident, you can prove your case by illustrating the following:
- Like all Florida motorists, the truck driver has a duty to care for other road users' safety.
- The truck driver breached this duty by breaking a particular traffic law, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Because the truck driver was intoxicated, he/she had poor concentration, and as a result, caused the accident, which led to your injuries.
Each fact that you affirm in court must be backed up by evidence. Otherwise, the jury may believe that you are lying, and the defense team can easily discredit your case.
However, if the truck manufacturer was responsible for the crash, the judge will not require you to prove negligence. This manufacturer can be held liable under Florida's strict liability laws. You will still have to provide evidence showing that the manufacturer either designed or distributed the truck or any of its parts.
Not only do you require evidence to prove your lawsuit, but you also require it when filing your claim with the insurance company of the at-fault party. You must verify to the insurer that it is true the accident occurred. The insurance company will also require you to clarify the cause of the crash, how its client was liable, and the magnitude and extent of your injury.
To win your case, you will require various pieces of evidence. Note that each case is unique, and there isn’t any specific formula to know precisely what type of evidence you will require.
Generally, the type of evidence you will need will depend on which party you intend to sue. Below, we highlight several pieces of evidence that you may need:
1. Trucking Company Files
The court can hold liable a trucking company in a truck accident lawsuit. Trucking companies have various legal obligations that they must fulfill. They should hire only qualified drivers and provide extensive training to them. They should frequently screen these drivers for alcohol and drugs and abide by various State or Federal laws regulating the trucking industry.
Also, their driver-schedules should be in line with the minimum standards set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck accidents in the United States. Trucking companies should make sure that each employee driver has sufficient time to rest.
If the trucking company did not fulfill these obligations, it could be held liable for the crash. As the plaintiff, you should get hold of several trucking company files that can help you build your case, such as:
- Business records - You will need the company’s business records. These records will enable the court to know about the status of the company.
- Trip monitoring documents - These documents will help the court assess whether the company gave enough rest breaks to its employee drivers.
- Procedures and protocols – The judge must be briefed about the procedures and protocols of the at-fault company. This way, he/she will know whether the company complied with both Federal and State laws.
- Trip envelopes – Trip envelopes track the driver’s mileage, fuel, and toll costs. This information can help the court ascertain whether the driver was fatigued when the accident occurred.
- Motor Carrier Identification Report (Form MCS-150) – Trucking companies must register with the FMCSA and frequently update their details with it. If a company does not have the Motor Carrier Identification Report, it has not complied with federal law.
- International Fuel Tax Agreement Report (IFTA) – This report simplifies how much fuel use is reported by interstate motor carriers. From this report, the judge can deduce how many miles a particular truck has traveled. This information is essential in proving that the accident was caused by driver fatigue.
2. Cargo Information
In a truck accident lawsuit, the jury can hold liable cargo loaders for their negligence. Cargo loaders must make sure that the truck's contents are secure and safe for long-distance travel.
If, for instance, the cargo was exposed, loose, or unsecured, you can pursue compensation against the cargo loader. The cargo loader may also be held liable if the truck's contents were improperly distributed, fell off when the accident occurred, or if the truck was overloaded.
You will require the following documents to prove the liability of the cargo loader:
- Bills of lading – These are detailed lists in the form of receipts showing the quantity, type, and destination of the goods being transported. These lists will help the court determine whether the truck was overloaded.
- Dispatching records – Truck dispatchers manage and coordinate truck drivers' schedules, ensuring that goods are picked up and delivered timely. Like bills of lading, truck dispatching records will help the judge know the quantity, type, and destination of the goods transported.
- Truck weighing records – There are various truck weighing stations across the United States. From these stations' records, the judge can know whether the truck's weight fell within both Federal and State safety limits.
- Delivery documents – Delivery documents confirm that the goods reached their destinations. The absence of these documents or the delay of delivery can help you prove that the truck got into an accident.
3. Truck Driver Documents
Most truck accidents occur due to driver negligence. You can prove the truck driver was negligent by asserting that he/she:
- Was driving while intoxicated
- Was practicing distracted driving
- Violated particular traffic laws, for example; speeding or running a red light
- Did not notice a blind spot
- Did not react quickly to avoid roadside hazards
- Was driving recklessly
To prove any of these above-listed facts, you will require evidence. This evidence must be credible and sufficient for the court to hold the truck driver liable.
One of the steps you should take if you get into a truck accident is to obtain the truck driver's personal and contact information. This information will help you file a claim for compensation with his/her insurance company.
A truck driver must maintain driving logs in compliance with chapter 395 of the FMCSA Regulations. You can use these documents to know the number of hours the driver spent behind the wheel. These documents can help you prove that the motorist was driving while exhausted.
You may require the driver’s medical certificates to prove your case. These certificates are necessary if you are alleging that the driver had a medical condition that hindered him/her from driving properly.
In some cases, you may have to dig into the background of the truck driver. You can check his/her criminal history to ascertain if he/she has ever been convicted of intoxicated driving. You can also browse his/her social media profiles and interrogate his/her friends, family members, and acquaintances to find out about his/her character. Moreover, you can find out if the truck driver had ever caused an accident before.
You may inquire into the truck driver's training background, especially if you suspect that he/she does not have any professional qualifications. In such a situation, you may ask for his/her training certificates.
You should also check the driver’s work relationship with the trucking company. Get hold of his/her pay records, hiring records, and job application documents. These documents will assist you in knowing how diligent the truck driver was in his/her career. They will also help the court ascertain whether the trucking company followed the proper procedure when employing him/her. This is because some trucking companies are fond of hiring unqualified drivers.
Trucking companies have a legal obligation to subject their employee drivers to alcohol and drug tests frequently. If you believe that the truck driver was driving while intoxicated, you can request the police to administer him/her a DUI test. If these test results turn out to be positive, you can use them as evidence.
Furthermore, check the motorist’s Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) records with the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Find out if the motorist has accumulated points on his/her record. You have a higher chance of winning your case if you provide evidence to show that the truck driver was fond of violating traffic laws.
4. Truck Maintenance Company Files
Most trucking companies outsource their maintenance and repair work to truck maintenance companies. Sometimes, these companies can be negligent when performing their duties.
For instance, they may fail to ascertain that the truck is faulty. Or rather, these companies may fit in the truck with a faulty spare part.
You should obtain some specific truck maintenance files if you believe that the accident occurred because of a faulty truck part. Some of these files include inspection reports, brake and inspector mechanic certifications, maintenance logs, and out-of-service reports.
Inspection reports, maintenance logs, and out-of-service reports will help the court ascertain how frequently the truck was repaired and whether it was in good working condition when the accident occurred. These documents will help you prove your claim if you intend to assert that a faulty truck part caused the accident.
Note that some truck maintenance companies employ unqualified mechanics, who end up doing a shoddy job. You can assert that these mechanics do not have any certifications to prove that the truck maintenance company was negligent.
5. Device Records
Truck device records can help you prove your claim. Some examples of device records include GPS records, satellite tracking system records, inclinometers, and black box data.
GPS and satellite tracking system records can help estimate the distance covered by the truck driver. They can also tell the exact position where the accident occurred.
An inclinometer is an instrument used for measuring the angles of tilt, depression, or elevation of an object with respect to the direction of the force of gravity. Most trucks are fitted in with inclinometers. These instruments are essential for the court to determine how the accident occurred and its impact force.
The black box stores crucial information about what occurred 20 seconds before, during, and after the crash. The black box can depict how fast the truck was being driven, the steering angles, and brake application, among other various factors that can assist you in proving your case.
6. Accident Records
You can collect certain pieces of evidence while at the truck accident scene. Some of these pieces of evidence include:
- Witness statements – While at the accident scene, ask eye-witnesses to explain to you what they saw. With their permission, you can record what they say. Get their contact details to
- Police Report – You should contact the police as soon as possible after you have gotten into an accident. When they arrive at the accident scene, they will investigate the crash and make a report. You should request them for a copy of this report.
- Photos and Videos – Photos and videos will help you prove the extent and magnitude of the crash. They will also help the court ascertain the bodily injuries sustained and the degree of property damage in the crash.
7. Accident Reconstruction Experts
At one point or another during the trial, you may require oral testimony from an accident reconstruction expert. This expert will help you prove how and why the accident occurred.
Take note that accident reconstruction is a crucial element in determining the cause of the crash. It can help identify the negligence of the at-fault party, and various other factors that may have contributed to the occurrence of the accident, including dangerous road conditions and equipment failures.
Florida’s Best Evidence Law
According to Florida's best evidence law, documentary evidence must be adduced in court in its original format. It is only when you cannot find the original documents that you can use the photocopied versions. These photocopied documents should be certified and authenticated. The rationale behind this law is to ensure that each piece of evidence presented in court is genuine.
If, for instance, you want to present a truck inspection report as evidence, you must retrieve the original report from the truck maintenance company. Alternatively, you can obtain a photocopy of this report and swear an affidavit affirming that it is a true and certified copy of the original.
What is a Spoliation of Evidence Letter?
Sometimes, the at-fault party may attempt to tamper with certain pieces of evidence. To prevent this, you should send them a spoliation of evidence letter.
This letter notifies the at-fault party that you intend to institute a claim and reminds him/her of his/her legal obligation not to destroy, conceal, or alter any relevant evidence. However, the at-fault party may ignore this letter and still tamper with important evidence.
Do not worry if the defendant chooses to ignore this letter. This letter gives you additional ammunition to pursue compensation, even if the defendant has already destroyed, concealed, or altered evidence.
You should send this letter as soon as possible after the accident occurred. This way, you will protect relevant evidence.
How a Truck Accident Attorney can Help You
It is impossible to gather and collect all the required pieces of evidence by yourself. This is why you will need a truck accident attorney.
If you’ve sustained a bodily injury in a truck accident, you need enough time to focus on recovery. You should prioritize your health first. Your attorney can help you collect enough evidence to prove your claim while you concentrate on recovering from your injuries.
Remember that the defendant will do his/her best to tamper with any potentially relevant evidence so that he/she can avoid liability. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible so that he/she can preserve crucial evidence.
Find a Jacksonville Truck Accident Attorney Near Me
If you or your loved one has been injured in a truck accident, we invite you to contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney for help. We will help you gather and collect all the necessary evidence required to prove your claim.
Damages for truck accident victims cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, mental anguish, grief, and depression. As a truck accident victim, you should receive fair compensation for your suffering. Call us today at 904-800-7557 for a free consultation.