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Court Discusses Whether Electronic Data From a Truck is Discoverable in a Car Accident Case

September 17, 2019

by Donaldson & Weston

In any lawsuit arising out of a car accident, it is essential for the injured party to obtain any evidence that supports his or her theory of liability or can be used to substantiate a claim for damages. As such, discovery is an important part of any car accident case. In some cases, however, the defendant may refuse to provide data requested via discovery on the grounds that the data is irrelevant or privileged. Recently, a Florida District Cournt discussed whether data downloaded from a vehicle’s electronic control module was discoverable in a case in which the plaintiff was injured in a car accident with a tractor-trailer. If you suffered injuries due to a car accident in South Florida it is important to hire an assertive South Florida car accident attorney who will diligently pursue any evidence, you may need to prove your claims.

Facts Regarding the Accident

It is reported that the plaintiff when his vehicle collided with a tractor-trailer driven by the defendant driver for the defendant employer. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendants alleging claims of negligence and strict liability, and seeking compensation for injuries, pain and suffering and other losses. The defendants subsequently conceded that the defendant driver was negligent, and that the defendant employer was vicariously liable for the defendant driver’s negligence. The parties disagreed, however, as to whether the data downloaded from the electronic control module in the tractor-trailer was protected by the work product privilege. The plaintiff requested the data via discovery, after which the defendant filed an objection, arguing that the evidence was both irrelevant and protected by the work product doctrine.

Relevancy of Evidence

Upon review, the court overruled the defendant’s objection. The court noted that the purpose of discovery is to disclose any relevant information so that the parties can come to a fair resolution of the issues of the case. The party seeking information via discovery must show that the information sought is relevant. Evidence is relevant if it tends to make a material fact more or less probable.

In the subject case, the defendant employer argued that because it admitted liability the data requested was not relevant. The court was not persuaded by this argument, noting that in Florida, the details regarding the manner in which an accident occurred are relevant and admissible to aid in determining the extent of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff, and the degree of the plaintiff’s pain and suffering. Thus, the court found that the data sought was relevant to the plaintiff’s damages.

Work Product Doctrine

A party claiming data is protected by the work product doctrine bears the burden of proving the doctrine applies. Here, the defendant employer argued that the data was protected by the work product doctrine and therefore, the plaintiff could not obtain the data absent a showing of hardship. The court rejected the defendant’s argument, stating that work product did not attach to data generated through the truck’s electronic system during the ordinary course of operation. Accordingly, the court overruled the defendant’s objection.

Consult an Experienced South Florida Car Accident Attorney

If you sustained injuries in a South Florida car accident involving a tractor trailer you should consult an experienced car accident attorney to discuss your case and what evidence may be needed to prove liability and damages. At Donaldson & Weston, our South Florida car accident attorneys will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you pursue any compensation you may be owed from the party that caused your accident. You can contact us at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 to schedule a conference to discuss your case.