Our trucking accident lawyers acknowledge that the trucking industry serves an indispensable, logistics role that is essential to the U.S. economy. Despite this important function, these massive vehicles exact a devastating toll when negligent commercial drivers and indifferent trucking companies fail to exercise reasonable care for the safety of other vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Whether a trucking accident occurs because a driver is not adequately trained, screened, or supervised or a trucking company fails to perform appropriate vehicle maintenance, tractor-trailer accident victims face special obstacles when seeking financial compensation. Trucking companies anticipate the prospect of litigation arising out of collisions involving their drivers and big-rigs, and they are prepared to protect their interests. Litigation of claims against commercial carriers can be complicated by the practice of spoliation of evidence.
The plaintiff in Greenwood Motor Lines, Inc. v. Bush filed a personal injury claim seeking compensation for injuries incurred when a truck driver rear-ended the plaintiff's vehicle. She suffered both neurological and physical injuries which forced her to struggle with pain through the duration of the case. The plaintiff prevailed in the trial court, but the commercial driver and the trucking company appealed based on alleged error by the trial judge on the issue of spoliation of evidence, as well as grounds of insufficient evidence to support the verdict.
Evidence presented at trial indicated that the trucker called his employer rather than 911 in the aftermath of the crash. The call generated an event report indicating the semi-truck was traveling at a speed of 65 mph and that the roadway was wet and icy. The driver denied making these statements to his employer, which could have been truthful if the mobile data terminal (MDT) relayed the information to the employer. However, the MDT information was not available to the plaintiff because the trucking company conveniently failed to preserve the data.
Along with this failure to safeguard potentially informative data about the cause of the crash, the truck driver was required to keep a log book that the commercial carrier also has a legal duty to monitor. The crash was not disclosed in the logbook. The truck driver later admitted that logbook entries were fraudulent. The driver also admitted he had not been trained to drive the dual 28-foot-long trailers that he was pulling at the time of the accident.
The trucking company attempted to avoid liability by contending the accident was exclusively the product of the truck driver's negligence. The carrier also argued the crash could not have been avoided, so punitive damages were not justified. However, the plaintiff produced testimony by witnesses who also had their vehicles struck by the truck driver. The driver also had been ticketed for speeding and other traffic violations. While the trucking company had a witness testify it had reviewed the logbook. A cursory review of the logbook would have revealed "pattern logging" that should have alerted the employer the records were being falsified.
The trucking company raised multiple responses to the allegations of spoliation of evidence. The carrier argued it had no legal obligation to preserve the MDT data. According to the trucking company, there was no data recorded, so there was nothing to preserve. However, evidence was introduced that indicated the crash-related logs were the only information missing from the MDT, which suggested the information was purposely removed. The court considered this evidence along with the fact the driver logged the same speed every day even though the logs conflicted with GPS data indicating the driver traveled 73 mph on 63 occasions. Based on this evidence, the court upheld the lower court's award of punitive damages and finding of spoliation of evidence.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Trucking Accident Victims and Families
Our Florida trucking accident lawyers anticipate these types of practices by trucking companies and commercial drivers. We routinely provide a warning to commercial carriers as notice that evidence must be preserved because it is the subject of litigation. Our law firm might even seek an injunction to prevent loss of critical evidence depending on the circumstances.
Our Miami tractor-trailer injury attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to pursue the results you desire. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida's top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.