The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
What Bulletproof Evidence Can a Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyer Use?
May 21, 2019
Witness statements are usually the cornerstone of a truck crash claim. When regular people take the witness stand and tell their stories, something almost supernaturally powerful happens in the courtroom. Unfortunately for Brainerd, MN injury lawyers, witness statements are not bulletproof. Even if these individuals are honest and pure-hearted, witnesses can be mistaken or biased.
Fortunately, other types of evidence are available. These items include electronic evidence both from the surrounding area and from the trucks themselves. Assuming the gadget was working properly, it’s almost impossible for insurance company lawyers to successfully challenge such evidence in court.
Moreover, Crow Wing County jurors expect to see electronic evidence and PowerPoint slides. Often, such evidence forms the basis of a claim. Witness statements personalize the evidence, thereby increasing damage awards. Typically, these awards include money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.
Event Data Recorder
The EDR is a key piece of evidence in most truck crash claims, and many Brainerd, MN injury lawyers may not even know it exists. They certainly do not know how to acquire and use this data.
Most every vehicle on the road in the United States has an Event Data Recorder. These gadgets are a bit like the black box flight recorders in commercial jets. Capacity varies by make and model. But most EDRs, which are connected to the vehicle’s central processing computer, measure things like:
Engine acceleration or deceleration,
Brake application, and
This information is not just bulletproof. It’s also very specific. For example, a witness may testify that a truck was “going fast.” Irrefutable EDR data may show that the truck was traveling 76.5mph. If you were on the jury, which form of evidence would be more persuasive to you?
Obtaining the EDR is not easy. In many truck accident cases, a fire breaks out which destroys the large truck. If that happens, the insurance company may dispose of the wreckage within a few days. If that happens, any physical evidence, including the EDR, will be lost forever.
To prevent such an outcome, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer must send a spoliation letter to the insurance company. This letter creates a duty to preserve any physical evidence for inspection.
Keeping the evidence intact is only half the battle. Minnesota has very strong vehicle data privacy laws. Generally, only the owner can tap into an EDR. So, a Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer normally needs a court order to download the information. At attorney also needs the proper equipment and know-how. These devices are technically sophisticated and usually contain multiple encryption layers.
Electronic Logging Device
Trucking industry lobbyists and lawyers fought the ELD mandate for years, on Capitol Hill and in the federal courts. The battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the trucking industry lost. That outcome cleared the way for the ELD mandate to take effect in the spring of 2018.
The industry fought the rule because they know what it means to Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyers in fatigued driving claims. Drowsy truck drivers cause lots of serious accidents. Most shipping companies pay drivers by the load instead of by the mile. So, these drivers must stay on the road as long as possible, and deliver their cargo as quickly as possible, in order to make money.
The federal government has very strict HOS (hours of service) rules that include mandatory daily and weekly rest periods. But before ELDs, drivers used paper log books to comply with HOS rules. These paper logbooks were easy to falsify.
Much like an EDR, an Electronic Logging Device is connected to the truck’s drive train. When the vehicle is in motion, the ELD meter is running. So, a Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer has bulletproof evidence in this area. This evidence supplements important circumstantial proof, such as the time of day (or night) the wreck happened. Most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning and late at night, especially if they are a bit short on sleep.
Safety Management System
A driving record provides bulletproof evidence of a driver’s tendencies. Because it is such powerful proof, such evidence is only admissible under limited circumstances. Only the savviest Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyers know how to use this evidence in court.
Until fairly recently, it was difficult to obtain these records. Most commercial truck drivers have out-of-state drivers’ licenses. But then, the United States Department of Transportation rolled out the SMS program. The Safety Management System keeps track of crash-significant items, such as:
Alcohol and substance abuse,
Vehicle maintenance history,
Careless driving citations, and
Significantly, SMS data usually comes from law enforcement instead of the courts. So, if an officer gives a truck driver a fix-it ticket and the owner corrects the problem, that citation will probably not appear in judicial records. But it will pop up in an SMS search.