personal injury, truck accident law firm

Video evidence enhances liability in truck accident cases

There’s much truth in the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, and when that picture is in the form of video footage, it can vastly enhance your ability to establish liability in your semi-truck accident case.

Thousands of commercial tractor-trailers equipped with video surveillance and data systems are driving on U.S. roads and highways today. New and emerging technologies mean that commercial trucking firms will continue to equip their fleets in increasing numbers with evermore sophisticated safety systems. These video systems interface with other onboard monitoring systems and the engine to provide the trucking firm with information about their driver’s safety habits, or lack thereof.

These systems often combine multiple cameras with data sources to detect a critical safety event and begin recording video. Forward-facing cameras, in-cab cameras, and side-mounted cameras monitor the driver’s operation and the truck’s movements. Safety issues that trigger the video capture include, but are not limited to, speeding, following too closely, hard braking, swerving, frequent or irregular lane changes, g-force changes, rollover stability, and impacts.

Once an event is detected and recorded, the video and data of the incident is sent to the company providing the safety program for the commercial carrier for analysis. It is also emailed to the carrier for review. This allows the trucking company to see, in real-time, evidence of its drivers unsafely operating a semi-truck. The video and corresponding data provide analytics on the company’s drivers and their scorecards as well as driving patterns. All of this data can be fed into a company portal that informs and maintains a safety program for the trucking company.

Using Semi-Truck Accident Video in Court

Video recordings of serious safety lapses can give a jury a clear understanding of exactly how the crash occurred because they see it happen. For instance, video evidence can be critical in showing the driver acting negligently or wantonly at the time of the crash that harmed your client. It can also prove the trucking company had notice of a driver’s unsafe driving performance before the crash.

SmartDrive® and Zonar Systems, for instance, are commercially available video-based safety programs. When you represent the victim of a tractor-trailer crash, it is important that you quickly determine what type of on-board safety tech the trucking company uses as well as the equipment’s capabilities.

Having established this, you should send letters to the trucking company requesting that the evidence recorded by the safety system be preserved. Commercial carriers typically save video footage and corresponding data for a specified period of time before discarding it.

Police / body-cam video

In addition to on-board video recordings of the semi-truck accident, body-cam video recordings from responding law enforcement personnel can provide key evidence in your client’s case, yet they are often overlooked.

Law enforcement body-cam footage can provide a clear picture of the truck driver’s behavior following the crash, your client’s injuries, and other important details of the tractor-trailer accident scene. Such video evidence can be particularly damaging if the truck driver is criminally charged, for instance, with driving under the influence. Body-cam video recordings will capture field sobriety tests, searches performed inside the cab of the vehicle, and the truck driver’s condition. Because this type of video evidence provides the jury with a clear picture of the truck driver’s level of impairment, it can further establish liability and add value to your case.

Video Evidence in a Recent Semi-Truck Accident Case

Video evidence proved to be critical in establishing liability in one semi-truck accident case. Visual evidence of the crash scene and the driver’s condition after the crash allowed the jury to see for themselves several important facts of the case. For example, the truck driver had been previously reprimanded for hard-braking incidents that were captured by the company’s video-based safety system. Additionally, on the day of the crash, two hard-braking incidents were captured by the system, and that video and data would have been transmitted to the trucking company for proper action.

However, despite these triggering incidents, the driver continued to operate the semi-truck and ultimately caused a crash that resulted in severe injuries.

The entire tractor-trailer accident, with sound, was video recorded by the onboard camera. The body-cam videos obtained from the responding law enforcement agency provided a clear visual of the driver’s condition at the time of the crash. The driver was visibly intoxicated, and the video evidence showed the cab of his tractor with remnants of alcoholic beverages.

While documents from the trucking company, as well as police reports and other records from responding law enforcement personnel, establish liability and remain front and center in semi-truck accident cases, video evidence can further enhance liability by communicating a clear, indisputable picture of what happened at the time of the crash.

Use of these video-based safety systems is steadily increasing among commercial carriers and improving as new technologies continually emerge. The potential contribution and value they can bring to your case should not be underestimated.

If you have any questions or would like more information, contact Mary Leah Miller, a lawyer in the Personal Injury & Products Liability Section of our Atlanta office, at 800-898-2034, or by email at [email protected].

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