By James Girards
Following the crash of a heavy truck, you may have heard that it is critically important to get an experienced trucking lawyer involved as soon as possible to preserve evidence that might be lost or destroyed. But, is it a really big deal or is it just lawyers trying to drum up business? Well, it actually is a big deal - a really big deal in fact. And, here is one reason why: In all modern heavy trucks there is an electronic control module that runs the engine and the other operating systems. It keeps track of data on movement of the truck, trip activity, speed versus engine RPM, engine load versus RPM, daily engine usage, life-to-date summary data, hard braking data, and detailed information about the last stop the truck made. This can all be obtained using special software that an experienced trucking lawyer has available to him. The data can be analyzed and printed out in a "DDEC" or similar report. (DDEC is the report for Detroit Diesel engines and some Mercedes trucks). When there is a tragic collision event this data is critical for showing exactly what the truck driver was doing in the hours and moments prior to the collision. You can take a look at an actual DDEC Report from one of our cases by clicking here. When a loved one has been killed or has been injured so badly that medical costs are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, you want to take no chances in proving what actually happened. The problem with this data is that it can be erased by simply restarting the engine - or by simply moving the truck the wrong way when it is being towed from the collision scene. The trucking company and its insurers know this and when a severe collision occurs they send an emergency response team to the scene to get the data. Frequently, we see the data lost if there is a delay in the family's getting an attorney involved.
In this DDEC report, you can see how important this data is when analyzing the activiites of the driver prior to the collision sequence. The data shows speed and movement as well trouble generating engine power as reflected in the manner in which the accelerator and clutch were being used. In this particular case, the data showed that the driver's explanation for what happened was not possible. Instead, the data showed a sequence of events that was exactly what the family members described, proving the case without question.
And, just to put a finer point on it, have a look at the photo below. It was taken by the news media following a multi-fatality trucking collision. It was taken at the same time that the widow and her children were planning the funeral of one of the fatalities in this collision. It shows the insurance company emergency response team on the scene of the collision gathering evidence to be used against the widow and her children in the lawsuit that they assumed was coming. From left to right is the insurance company litigation defense lawyer, the chief insurance company trucking collision investigator/claims adjustor, a member of the collision reconstruction team and out of view on the right is another member of the collision reconstruction team. Remember, this photo was taken while the family members were planning their loved one's funeral:
For more information or help in a trucking collision matter please call the Girards Law Firm at 214-346-9529