Trucking accidents can be some of the worst crashes on the U.S. highway system, often resulting in seriously injured victims, and even fatalities in far too many instances. Experienced trucking accident attorneys often inspect the involved vehicles as soon as possible, to find evidence that will help establish negligence on the part of the operators. Many attorneys would agree that evidence can get lost or erode quickly following an accident. The official accident report can also provide evidence that could be very helpful in establishing negligence, but one of the most important aspects of the evidence compilation is the deposition of the truck driver. During the deposition a skilled court reporter will likely record verbatim as the attorney asks standard questions to establish the age, background, and experience of the driver, as well as the below three vital questions that may shed more light on the driver’s negligence.
1. What did you eat and drink in the 48-hour period immediately preceding the accident?
This question may seem immaterial to the case information, but often, a truck inspection can result in the collection of food wrappers and beverage cans that indicate what may or may not have been consumed in the time period prior to the accident. If there is evidence of the consumption of alcohol, there may be problems for the driver. While it may be too late to secure blood testing results, even the perception that the driver may have been drinking can impact a sympathetic jury charged with arriving at a comparative negligence percentage for the driver. In addition, this question could reveal that the truck driver either did not eat, or did not take a break, in violation of the Department of Transportation work rules.
2. When was the truck last inspected for maintenance problems?
Many drivers do not know when a vehicle was last inspected in between cargo runs, and will only be able to answer when he or she did a personal physical inspection of certain truck components. Internal problems with braking or acceleration pedals are usually repaired by the shipping company mechanic if they own the rig, but owner-operators should be well aware of the latest repairs to the vehicle. In addition, any problems that have been cited by authorities may serve as documentation that the company or truck owner have failed to keep the rig up to acceptable running condition. Trucks are the largest vehicles on the road, and failure to maintain them will eventually result in an accident when mechanical problems arise.
3. How long had you been driving when the accident occurred?
Truck drivers are usually prepared for this question, because they know fatigued driving is a major contributor to many accidents. One of the most common federal regulation violations is driving beyond the number of allowable hours in a 24-hour period, or failure for a shipping company to keep accurate vehicle location records. The National Transportation Safety Board has stated that fatigued driving is actually as dangerous as drunk driving, and drivers who violate the operational hours law may be using certain medications to increase the ability to drive beyond this limit. While many drivers will not admit to using amphetamines to stay awake, other prescribed medications could reveal health problems that may not necessarily be discovered without direct questioning.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Capital Reporting Company for their insight into personal injury depositions.