Spoliation of Evidence: How soon can the trucking company destroy accident evidence?

A trucking company must keep inspection records for a certain period of time: 

  • Roadside inspection reports – 12 months from date of inspection;
  • Driver vehicle inspection reports – three months; and
  • An annual inspection – 14 months.

Unfortunately, under federal guidelines, spoliation of evidence is permitted after a certain period of time. But accident victims can take steps to prevent the destruction of evidence for use in their accident claim.

In 2013, the state of Texas had nearly 30,000 commercial motor vehicle accidents, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Of those, nearly 3,000 took place in Dallas County, which included 18 fatal crashes and 343 serious injury crashes.

Victims of injury-causing accidents – and families of victims of fatal accidents – can file a claim against a trucking company to recover damages like medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, and more. But to do so requires evidence of the truck driver’s or trucking company’s liability for the accident.

Timeframes for Spoliation of Evidence and Truck Records

Once a trucking company is legally entitled to destroy records, they may do so, depriving your accident case of much-needed evidence. For example, a motor carrier company must maintain a truck driver’s hours-of-service records for at least six months.

Afterward, they may destroy the logbook records or electronic on-board recording device data. This could prevent the accident victim from proving that the truck driver was over his allowable driving time, which might suggest driver fatigue played a role in the accident.

In some cases, preventing the destruction of evidence pertaining to the truck’s maintenance and service schedule will be important. This might be the case if defective or poorly maintained vehicle components could be to blame for an accident.

Motor carriers must also maintain a record showing maintenance, repair, and inspection records and the date they were performed for any vehicle in its control for 30 consecutive days.

Trucking companies are also required to keep a driver qualification file for the duration of the driver’s employment, and then three years afterward. This includes the driver’s employment application, road test form and certificate, a list of violations, and more.

Motor carriers are also required to make any records and information about an accident accessible to FMCSA representatives and other accident investigators. They must also maintain an accident register that contains records of accidents within the last three years.

How can I prevent spoliation of evidence?

Even though truck companies may legally destroy certain evidence after a specified time period, you may prevent the spoliation of evidence by sending a spoliation letter. This informs the truck company that you intend to file a claim and require they maintain any accident evidence.

So even if otherwise allowed to destroy hours-of-service records, sending the spoliation letter can prevent the company from destroying the records after the six-month period. 

Your attorney can help you draft the letter, which will likely list certain documents and records that the trucking company is not to destroy, this might include: 

  • The truck itself;
  • Hours-of-service records;
  • Driver’s personnel file; and
  • Maintenance records.

Preventing the destruction of evidence may help you present a better case to the insurance company and judge or jury if necessary. 

Hire an Attorney at the Law Office of Julie Johnson in Dallas

Consult with a lawyer at the Law Office of Julie Johnson if you were in an accident involving a large truck in the Dallas area. We can help you collect the evidence you need for your claim, and can help prevent spoliation of evidence valuable to your case. Call us today at 214-290-8001 to schedule your consultation, or contact us online.

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