Why You Need a Spoliation Letter After a Fort Worth Big Rig Crash

truck after rollover in a ditchOne of the most important reasons why Fort Worth truck accident victims should seek legal help is that lawyers can take formal steps to preserve evidence.

Truck crash cases are complex, so you are going to need detailed evidence to prove negligence occurred. If steps are not quickly taken to preserve evidence, it could be altered or destroyed, making your case that much harder to validate.

One of the legal tools a Fort Worth truck accident lawyer uses to help preserve evidence is a spoliation letter. Anderson & Cummings discusses these letters and their benefits.

If you were injured in a truck crash, our firm may be able to help you at no upfront cost.

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What Is a Spoliation Letter?

Spoliation means destruction of evidence in a legal case. A spoliation letter is a legal document that requires another party to preserve specific pieces of evidence.

After a truck accident, the victim’s lawyer often sends one of these letters to the trucking company and its insurance company. These letters may also be sent to:

  • Managers and owners at the trucking company
  • The truck driver
  • Trucking company mechanics if a maintenance issue contributed to or caused the crash

Typically, a letter of spoliation tells the at-fault party not to falsify, hide or ruin evidence that may be important to the case. At-fault parties have a strong incentive to tamper with or destroy evidence, as they do not want to be held financially accountable for their negligence. This incentive is particularly strong after a Fort Worth big rig crash, because victims are often seeking significant compensation – upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

Another reason to send a spoliation letter is that evidence may be destroyed or deleted in the natural course of business. For example, businesses may have policies about deleting old emails or voicemails once they have outlived their usefulness. Spoliation letters can put a stop to this.

Without a spoliation letter, at-fault parties can destroy evidence once the minimum holding period has passed. Federal regulations often require trucking companies to hold onto certain records for six months to one year.

How Can a Spoliation Letter Help Strengthen Your Case?

You need evidence to prove your truck crash was caused by negligence. Any records related to your accident could help prove your case, and early on you may not know what records are relevant. That is why you need to try to preserve as much evidence as possible.

If you do not send a spoliation letter, the liable trucking company could intentionally or unintentionally delete or destroy evidence. The trucking company could defend its actions by claiming it did not know this evidence was relevant to a legal case.  This would be a good argument if there was no letter of spoliation.

If the at-fault party tampers with evidence after receiving a spoliation letter, it could help strengthen your claim for compensation. Tampering with evidence after receiving a formal request to preserve evidence raises suspicion – a jury is likely to think the evidence benefits the victim’s case.

What Should Be Included in a Spoliation Letter?

Spoliation letters start by identifying the parties who are involved in the case. If the letter is being sent by a truck accident lawyer, the letter will provide details about the accident, such as when and where it occurred. Identifying information about the truck, such as the license plate number, will also be included.

The letter may say that the trucking company or other party should preserve any evidence related to the case. However, the letter will also identify the specific types of evidence that should be preserved, such as:

  • Hours of service logs and other logs kept by the driver
  • Dispatch logs
  • Maintenance records for the truck
  • Inspection reports from the driver
  • Bills of lading
  • Contracts for the truck or trailer
  • Permits and licenses for the tractor and trailer
  • Black box/event recorder data
  • Video or photos of the accident scene
  • Statements from witnesses
  • Drug and alcohol tests done after the crash
  • The truck itself
  • Voice mails
  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Personnel files, such as files on the driver
  • Hard drives or backup discs that have information relevant to the case
  • And more

What if the At-Fault Party Fails To Preserve Evidence in a Texas Big Rig Crash?

Sometimes defendants do not comply with a letter of spoliation. Trial courts in Texas can issue sanctions for intentional destruction of evidence under the Rules of Civil Procedure.

Tampering with or destroying evidence may also result in a spoliation instruction to the jury in court.

For example, the jury may be instructed to presume the evidence that was tampered with would have been unfavorable to the defendant. This is known as a rebuttable presumption. The defendant has the burden of disproving that the evidence would have been unfavorable.

There is also an adverse presumption instruction – the jury can still assume the evidence is unfavorable to the spoliating party, but that party does not have the burden of proof.

Spoliation instructions can help prevent parties from escaping accountability for their destruction of evidence.

Courts must weigh various factors when determining whether to issue spoliation instructions:

  • If the party in question had a duty to preserve the evidence
  • Whether the evidence was intentionally or negligently destroyed
  • Whether spoliation of evidence affected the plaintiff’s ability to present a case

Unsure if You Have a Case? Call for Legal Assistance

Anderson & Cummings has been advocating for truck accident victims in Fort Worth for decades. We understand the complexities of truck crash cases and the steps that need to be taken to investigate and pursue maximum compensation.

If you were injured in a semi-truck crash, there is a good chance negligence was involved. Call us to learn if we may be able to represent you. The initial legal consultation is free and comes with no obligation to hire our firm.

Anderson & Cummings. Licensed. Local. Lawyers. Call (817) 920-9000.

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