Auto & Truck Inspection Toolkit – Key Items to Include in Every Vehicle Inspection
One of the most crucial components in every commercial motor vehicle case is the inspection—not just of the truck or bus, but also the other cars involved.
I make it a point to attend every vehicle inspection. Although photographs and video recordings are helpful, in my opinion, nothing can replace the value of being at the inspection in person. It helps me understand what happened and, many times, why the crash occurred. I prepare to tell my clients’ stories with my boots on the ground and my eyes on the damaged vehicles. Smelling the leaked fluids and seeing the mangled metal and the disarray in the truck cab with your own eyes is invaluable in imagining what your clients endured.
To get the most out of an inspection, invest in a top-notch inspection toolkit, and keep it in your car at all times. Don’t show up to a vehicle inspection in your “lawyer clothes”—the tow yard, police, your experts, the defense experts, and defense attorneys will all look at you as a legitimate and formidable trucking attorney the moment you throw on your coveralls, lace up your steel-toe boots, and put on your mechanic’s gloves. They will know you aren’t present just to check a box—you are really serious about learning how the crash occurred.
Here are some key items to include in your toolkit:
Coveralls. Put these over your clothes since you’ll be getting under the truck and trailer, if accessible, and you will encounter dirt, mud, grease, gas, and oil.
Thermals, long socks, rain Most inspections are conducted outside, and depending on the time of year, it can be freezing or rainy. If you’re lucky, the truck and trailer may be stored in a warehouse, but don’t count on that. You’ll need extra warmth on very cold and windy days and proper gear on rainy days.
Hat or skull cap. You’ll be getting under the truck and trailer, so a baseball cap, beanie, or skull cap keeps you clean and
Waterproof steel-toe boots. It’s important to have proper footwear during inspections to protect you if something falls, if it’s raining, if you’re on uneven ground, or while climbing into the truck cab.
Mechanic’s gloves. Since you’ll be working with wrecked cars and trucks, your hands need protection from the metal, wires, oil, and grease. A good pair of mechanic’s gloves will do the trick.
Mask and nitrile gloves. Sometimes mechanic’s gloves are too thick or clumsy to look through items and preserve evidence. Nitrile gloves and an N-95 mask provide protection and safety when handling items.
Safety glasses. Protective eyewear is crucial during any type of inspection. And many safety glasses even come with built-in lighting, if you don’t want to hold a flashlight.
Waterproof camera. Even though your expert attending the inspection with you will be taking photos, many times you may want to take your own. If it’s raining, you’ll be happy you invested in a waterproof digital camera.
Safety vest, safety cones. You always want to be visible whether you’re inspecting a truck or at the scene of a crash.
Video glasses. Although photographs are good, videos are even better. I use video glasses to walk around the entire car or truck involved in the crash, including the inside. I also use these to record explanations by my experts on the crash or the vehicle mechanics. This is my work product for referencing later as I prepare for depositions since I don’t have a reconstruction or automotive background.
Tape measure, folding yardstick. These are good to have when you want height, width, or length displayed in photographs—and the large numbers on the yardstick are easily visible.
Tire tread depth tool. This portable gauge allows you to quickly and easily check tire tread depth. Colors on the gauge show green, yellow, and red status depending on the remaining tread.
Flashlight. Have a flashlight on hand because depending on the time of day, weather, or storage conditions, it can be hard to see certain parts of a car or truck.
Laser pointer. This comes in handy when you’re under a vehicle or looking inside the engine and want to point something out to your expert, who can explain what is going on.
Evidence collection bags. Many times during inspections, you’ll find paperwork, energy drink bottles, prescription bottles, and other items that you want preserved. Evidence bags allow these items to be collected, sealed, and given to defense counsel to preserve.
Permanent markers. Use these to write the date, type of evidence, and names of people present on evidence collection bags.
Heavy duty cleaning wipes. Sometimes you will need to take off your gloves during the inspection. You’ll be around motors, brakes, and tires—these help when you get oil and grease on your hands.
Trash bags. You’ll need these to put your coveralls, socks, shoes, and gloves in after the inspection.
This article originally appeared on Trial Magazine® (April 2021) Copyright ©2021 American Association for Justice.