Plaintiffs in trucking crash accidents should be allowed access to the data in onboard electronic monitoring devices.
A federal judge has ordered the defendant in a Florida trucking accident lawsuit to turn over the electronic control module (ECM) data on the freight company vehicle involved in a crash that resulted in serious injury to the other driver.
The trucking company admitted fault/liability for the crash, but the question is how much defendant should pay to compensate the victim. As our Fort Lauderdale truck accident attorneys can explain, the question of victim compensation – formally referred to as “damages,” is often an issue of sharp contention in injury litigation and often the only reason some cases go to trial.
This Florida trucking crash lawsuit is noteworthy for the fact that federal safety regulations now require electronic data monitoring devices in large trucks to ensure compliance of hours-of-service regulations from the U.S. Department of Transportation, designed to prevent truckers from driving fatigued.
In the case of Torres-Torres v. KW International Inc., while the trucking company defendant argued the records plaintiff requested gleaned from the electronic box on the 18-wheeler driven by the company’s employee were privileged “work product,” protected from discovery in litigation and further not relevant to plaintiff’s argument for damages anyway. Defense asserted that unless plaintiff could show undue hardship of being unable to glean relevant information elsewhere, plaintiff’s request should be denied.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida overruled those objections. The judge found the defense’s work product argument unconvincing considering plaintiff was seeking information gleaned in the normal course of the truck’s day-to-day operations and was not seeking any interpretation of data.
The court also rejected the defense’s assertion that the data was protected because the defendant was the only entity that had the special equipment required to download that information.
Why Truck’s Electronic Data Might Matter When It Comes to Damages
One question we’ve heard arise on this case is why a person injured in a truck accident might need data about how the crash happened when the parties aren’t arguing whether the trucker was negligent, only how much plaintiff will be paid.
As noted in the 1999 U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruling in Cortes v. American Airlines Inc., when calculating damages specific to pain and suffering endured by a particular plaintiff, evidence that offers a full description of crash details is “logically relevant and admissible, even where liability has been admitted.” The reason is to ascertain in the appropriate context the extent of injuries sustained by the plaintiff as well as the amount of pain the person suffered.
In the Torres-Torres case, plaintiff sought information as to the collision’s contributing factors as well as how it could have been prevented. These, the court ruled, are relevant to plaintiff’s claim to pain and suffering.
These kinds of arguments, taking place during the discovery phase, often determine the outcome of a case. This is why it is essential that you work with a criminal personal injury lawyer who can be trusted to be eagle-eyed when it comes to arguing for admission of evidence in your favor and suppression of evidence that isn’t.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Torres-Torres v. KW International Inc., April 29, 2019, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida