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What Should Be in the Truck Accident Lawyer's Spoliation Letter?

In a letter to the trucking accident company and their attorneys, a truck accident lawyer should make broad requests to preserve all documents, equipment, data, photographs, and other items related to the truck accident. In gathering facts in truck accident cases, more is more. The truck accident lawyer should consider, if applicable, specifically requesting:

  1. Black box data;
  2. Truck driver's personnel file and driving history;
  3. The driver's qualification file as required by 49 C.F.R. 391-51;
  4. Driver's log for the last two years (which must be kept per 49 C.F.R. 395.8 and 395.15);
  5. All statements obtained from investigation of the truck accident;
  6. GPS or other tracking data; and
  7. The truck's maintenance and repair history

With respect to item #4, a truck accident should send a letter immediately to the trucking company requesting that they retain the log books and that they not be altered, modified or changed in any way. The attorney's correspondence should reference 49 CFR 395.8(k), which specifically addresses the retention of drivers record of duty status. If the trucking company fails to produce the driver's logs, you should be able to get a charge of spoliation instruction if the case goes to trial. The letter should also specifically request all the operational documents associated with each trip the driver the truck driver took at least three years before the truck wreck (although the CFRs only require 6 months).

What is a little bit tricker is asking the trucking company to maintain the truck. Sure, you would love them to do it on their dime. But you have to make sure you are clear that they must contact you to "explore other options" before wrecking the vehicle. In some cases, it is just best to pick up the tab for retaining the truck. Some judges are going to understand if the trucking company chooses to get rid of a useless crashed truck vehicle rather than paying for its storage when there is no further use for it.

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