The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
Buffalo, MN Accident Lawyers and Drowsy Driver Truck Crash Evidence
October 13, 2019
The duty of reasonable care begins before drivers get behind the wheel. Operators must be fully licensed, completely sober, and well-rested. Yet truck driver fatigue is a factor in one out of six large truck collisions. Even if the driver does not actually fall asleep at the wheel, driving without sleep is much like driving after drinking. Alcohol and fatigue have the same effect on the brain and body.
Part of this problem is on the drivers themselves. Largely because they sit for long periods, many truck drivers have issues with sleep apnea. People with this condition basically nap all night. Yet many drivers do not seek treatment. Part of the fatigued driver issue is also on the shipping companies. Most of these companies pay truckers by the load and not by the mile. So, drivers must stay behind the wheel as long as possible to make as much money as possible.
These combined causes help Buffalo, MN accident lawyers obtain maximum compensation in these matters. The driver is clearly negligent, and the shipping company is clearly responsible under the respondeat superior rule. But theory alone does not win cases. All successful negligence claims rest on evidence.
Medical Records in Truck Crash Claims
In many drowsy truck driver claims, medical records help establish both liability for damages and the amount of damages.
As mentioned, many truck drivers have sleep apnea. Overweight individuals and people with a family history of this disease are at a greater risk. Given the low burden of proof in civil cases, these precursor conditions alone might be enough to establish sleep apnea. The case is even stronger if the medical records include any doctor speculation about sleep apnea or instructions to get tested for this condition.
That burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Picture two stacks of paper side by side. Each stack has 200 sheets. If someone moves one sheet from the left to the right, the stack on the right has more paper. That’s a picture of the preponderance of the evidence.
Medical records also help establish the measure of damages. Billing records clearly show the financial cost. Additionally, these records usually include treatment notes which indicate things like pain level and injury prognosis.
Generally, additional compensation is available for noneconomic damages like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (companionship).
Driving Records in Truck Crash Claims
Most non-commercial drivers are only licensed in one state. So, it’s rather easy for attorneys to obtain their driving records. But most truckers are licensed in several states. It’s much harder to obtain records in these situations.
Several years ago, the federal government began using the Safety Measurement System. The SMS database is essentially a multistate driving record which keeps track of several items, including HOS compliance. So, if a driver has a history of such violations, a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer will know about them. Generally, SMS records are admissible in court.
Buffalo, MN Accident Lawyers and Electronic Evidence
In April 2018, the federal government’s Electronic Logging Device requirement finally took effect. The trucking industry fought this mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. Their legal tenacity underscores the need for an experienced Buffalo, MN accident lawyer. Without such an advocate, victims are hopelessly overmatched in court.
ELDs are connected to the vehicle’s powertrain. So, when the truck is in motion, the Hours of Service (HOS) clock is ticking. Both Minnesota and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have strict rules regarding HOS and mandatory rest periods. If truckers violate these rules, they may be negligent as a matter of law. And, ELDs provide almost bulletproof evidence in this area.
These gadgets are tamper-resistant, but they are not tamper-proof. A skilled hacker can override almost any security protocol. But even the best hackers leave fingerprints. So, it’s important for Buffalo, MN accident lawyers to partner with computer geeks who can verify or challenge ELD data.
These individuals serve in other capacities as well. For example, large truck ELDs are very sophisticated devices. One needs a lot more than a screwdriver and a laptop to access and download the data.
That’s assuming a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer can access the data at all. Most insurance companies destroy totaled vehicle within a few days of a crash. To prevent EDR loss, attorneys must send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all possible physical evidence, including the EDR.
Furthermore, Minnesota has very strict vehicle data privacy rules. Generally, Buffalo, MN accident lawyers must obtain court orders before they may access electronic information.
Work with a Tenacious Attorney
Drowsy truck drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.