St. Louis, Missouri, is the largest logistics hub in the US when compared to other Midwestern cities. With outstanding freight capabilities, the city’s interstates are crowded with 18-wheelers and semi-trucks daily.
The downside is that road accidents involving commercial trucks are also on the rise. In most St. Louis truck accident lawsuits, the truck driver is considered to be at fault automatically, given the size of their vehicle and its potential for damage. But, it is possible that the driver at the other end (especially if a car) may be partially responsible or the sole contributing party in the accident.
This is when the services of an accident reconstructionist become crucial. With expertise and experience in the field, the investigator uses critical analysis, a chronology of events, and science to back the plaintiff’s claims or refute the charges against the defendant. In this article, we will understand how accident reconstruction helps add expert testimony to strengthen a St. Louis truck accident lawsuit.
Commercial truck accident lawsuits are highly complex, mainly because it is often difficult to determine the liable party. Though the plaintiff is indeed the victim of the case, it may be possible that they’re partially responsible or the sole contributing party in the accident.
Even if this were true, it is not always easy to prove the same in court. Since gruesome accidents are often spontaneous and may not be recorded on camera, a St. Louis trucking accident lawyer can hire an expert investigator to thoroughly dig through the case using their expertise in vehicles and forensic knowledge.
Regardless of how the case progresses, the investigator will reconstruct the entire scene (with all the relevant details) to create a timeline for the accident. The aim is to get a clear picture of how the events unfolded on the road to present before the court the party with greater responsibility for the incident.
Some of the top elements of this process include investigating –
- Traffic Patterns – The investigator will check the road for any hazards such as missing road signage, weird traffic patterns, any blind spots formed due to foliage overgrowth, etc.
- Weather at the Time of the Incident – The investigator will assess if weather conditions were poor enough to contribute to the incident.
- General Road Conditions – The road where the accident occurred will be checked for maintenance, potholes, uneven pavement, poor markings, etc.
- Size Difference of Vehicles – St. Louis boasts trailers and semi-trucks that are at least 14 feet tall. These vehicles are massive, weigh more than passenger vehicles, require more space for maneuvers, and impact with greater force. Such factors will be considered during accident reconstruction.
- Estimated Speed – The road will be sealed, and the investigator will analyze skid marks, tread paths, and tire resting positions to determine the vehicles’ speed.
- Computer Systems – Modern trucks and cars are equipped with computer systems that tell the tale. The computer reading may be used to understand if the accident was caused due to faulty technology.
- Skid Marks – Skid marks on the road along with tread paths can tell the investigator whether either of the drivers tried to avoid an impact by applying brakes with force.
The St. Louis court demands that there must be a negligent party who can be held liable for the commercial truck accident. This burden of proof lies on the plaintiff since they’re the ones filing a lawsuit. According to TorHoerman Law, the plaintiff can recover compensation only when they’re able to prove that their injuries were caused due to the negligent party’s reckless actions.
Some ways in which negligence may be proved in court include showing –
- The driver was speeding at the time of the accident
- The liable party was distracted or in error
- They were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- The driver did not follow traffic rules
- The driver failed to maintain blind spots
- The liable party yielded not to the right-of-way
During the process of accident reconstruction, the investigator tries to analyze every possible viewpoint so that the real cause of the accident may be found. In most cases, the lawyer avails of the services of a reconstructionist to prove claim injuries by establishing negligence.
This happens because accident reconstruction tells the St. Louis court some crucial details about the event, including –
- Timing of the accident and speed of both vehicles at the time
- Vehicle positions when the accident occurred
- How the accident was caused
- Principle directions in which the impact came with force
- Whether human factors contributed to the accident, and if yes, how
- The direction of the vehicles involved
- At what point (before the impact) the vehicles accelerated or decelerated
It is possible that the accident reconstructionist is not able to arrive at the scene where the event took place. This does not mean reconstructing and analyzing the incident is impossible.
In such cases, the investigator will take the help of technology. They will use photographs taken from the scene and utilize police information reports to digitally recreate the accident through computer programs.
Such long-distance analysis can also help the investigator identify crucial aspects, including the estimated speed of each vehicle, the impact points, the applied force on brakes or lack thereof, the direction of travel, and other factors needed to build an expert testimony.
Though the National Academy of Forensic Engineers encourages police training for additional evidence that may be found through accident reconstruction, the practice is not always necessary. Some cases are well-recorded through nearby CCTV cameras, and viewed by eyewitnesses who can easily tell who the liable party is.
Such straightforward cases do not need accident reconstruction to determine the negligent party. However, there are numerous accidents where the details are lacking. Both the plaintiff and the defendant may be unwilling to budge from their stand as the innocent party. There may be no eyewitnesses or videos involved.
For such cases, the jury needs concrete evidence through a clear picture of how the events took place. An accident reconstructionist’s automobile expertise becomes useful in serving justice.
According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MDOT), the commercial truck fatality rates were 1.28 per 100 million CMV vehicle miles in 2021. Though the state’s aim was fatalities fewer than 111, the same was unfortunately not met.
As far as the zero-fatality target goes, it still seems like a distant dream. Truck drivers and their employers must strictly adhere to the FMCA’s rules for commercial truck driving (in terms of vehicle maintenance, driver training, alcohol consumption, work hours, etc.). Passenger car drivers must maintain a safe distance from commercial trucks, at least their three blind spots.
It is never wise or funny to “play chicken” with a speeding truck (let it overtake your vehicle!). Finally, distracted driving is to be avoided at all costs because a single glance at the phone can make the situation dangerous and its consequences irrevocable.