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Prompt investigation of motor vehicle crashes is crucial for making sure that evidence is retained, witness memories are fresh, and a timely claim can be filed.

Time is of the essence in all accident cases, but commercial vehicle crashes can be particularly time-sensitive due to short federal record retention schedules. Waiting too long to initiate a legal claim after an accident can weaken, or even sink, the case before it starts if evidence is lost.

Ohio Crash and Truck Crash Statistics for 2023

Driving is part of our daily routine, so we sometimes don’t appreciate how dangerous it can be. But motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of preventable deaths and the third-leading cause of preventable injuries.

  • Each year in Ohio, there are approximately 1,000 – 1,200 fatal injury crashes and around 5,000 – 6,000 serious injury crashes, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
  • In 2023, there were more than 251,000 crashes statewide, including 9,313 involving commercial motor vehicles.
  • Large trucks and buses were in 6,285 Ohio car crashes in 2023, a 23% increase compared to 2022. Most of these (5,319) were commercial truck crashes.
  • Ohio large truck accidents resulted in 145 fatalities and 2,224 injuries in 2023.
  • Muskingum County reported 195 commercial vehicle crashes last year, with 20 injury cases.

Evidence in Truck Accident Cases Can Disappear Quickly

The trucking industry is heavily regulated. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has numerous rules about vehicle maintenance and operation, employment and training, and record keeping.

Some of the strictest FMCSA regulations deal with “hours of service” (HOS), or maximum working hours for commercial vehicle drivers. Drivers must keep records of their driving time and other HOS supporting documents, such as:

  • Credit card receipts
  • E-mobile communication and tracking system data
  • Freight bills
  • On-board computer reports
  • Phone bill statements
  • Ports of entry reports
  • Traffic citations

These records can be a rich source of evidence when a truck driver is in an accident, but trucking companies are only required to retain HOS logs and supporting documents for six months. This rule applies to both written logs and e-logs.

Trucking companies are also required to keep vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance records, but only for limited periods. Maintenance records must be kept for 12 months; inspection records for 14 months; and roadside inspection records for 12 months.

Many FMCSA record retention schedules are shorter than the Ohio two-year statute of limitations period for personal injury lawsuits. Potential evidence could therefore be unavailable at the time a truck accident claim is filed.

All Accidents Should Be Investigated ASAP

Federal commercial vehicle law makes it necessary to initiate a truck accident investigation right away, at the risk of losing driving logs, phone and GPS data, and other critical evidence.

Prompt investigation is important not just in truck accident cases, but ALL motor vehicle accident cases.

Statutes of limitations (i.e., lawsuit filing deadlines) ensure that evidence is not lost or obscured, and that witness memories don’t fade. The more time that passes between a crash and an investigation, the more likely it is that that information may be unreliable—or unavailable.

72-Hour Limit for ODOT Video Evidence

As an example of how quickly evidence can disappear, Graham Law recently had a case in which our client was struck by a commercial vehicle that fled the scene. Fortunately, the accident site was located between two Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) cameras on I-70. ODOT allows access to camera footage if it is requested within 72 hours. Unfortunately, the client came to see us approximately a month after the crash, and the local sheriff’s department did not request the video.

Video footage may be available as well from nearby properties that have cameras pointing at the road, but many cameras use a loop or autodelete system, making it necessary to act fast. Although a subpoena may be required to obtain footage, by notifying the owner, they might at least hold the footage until the subpoena is served.

In addition to obtaining video footage, an investigating attorney will want to visit the accident scene—ideally while evidence is still present—and call or meet with potential witnesses immediately, before they forget details about the accident.

Other ways that car accident attorneys obtain evidence include:

  • Hiring accident reconstruction experts
  • Making public record requests
  • Performing background searches and social media searches on the driver and the truck company
  • Requesting a driver’s license history
  • Sending litigation hold letters to the driver, truck company, the company’s insurance carrier, and other parties, like the owner of the trailer, notifying them that certain information must be preserved

Time May Not Be On Your Side. Talk to a Lawyer Now.

Car accident investigations take time. And the clock is ticking from the moment an accident occurs. To make the strongest claim from the outset, you should contact Graham Law without delay after a crash.

You have nothing to lose from a free consultation. But failing to act quickly could mean that you lose evidence—and ultimately, your case.

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Zanesville, Ohio 43701


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