In just about every truck accident case, the truck driver or the trucking company destroys the evidence. You would think – particularly the big companies – would understand the importance of keeping these records. But they more often than not get destroyed either innocently or to destroy evidence.
The most common defense is the “I did not realize I had to keep this” defense, which is why it is important for truck accident attorneys to get out a spoliation letter sooner rather than later. But there are some things that have to be maintained under federal law:
- All documents related to the maintenance of the truck. This is a huge catch-all that covers just about anything related to the use of that truck. This arguably swallows everything you might want to gather up in evidence on the history of that truck, leading up to the accident. See Department of Transportation Interpretations of Part 395, Federal Register, Vol. 62, No. 65, page 16370, et seq.
- The Driver Qualification File: Such a file must be kept by the trucking company for each driver it employs and for three years thereafter. 49 C.F.R. §391.51.
- Annual Inspection Report:. Trucks must get an annual inspection and the report must kept for 14 months. 49 C.F.R. §396.21.
- Repair Records: Repair, maintenance, and inspection records indicating their date and nature must be kept while the truck is either housed or maintained for a period of one year or for six months after the motor vehicle leaves the motor carrier’s control. 49 C.F.R. §396.3 (c).
It is really not too much to ask trucking companies to follow federal law. And, in discovery, there can be reparations from the trial judge for their failure to play by the rules that good truck accident lawyers must seek as the case leads up to trial.