After a Minneapolis jury returned a $20 million verdict against BNSF following a train crossing accident that claimed the lives of four young people, the lawyers for the families are pursuing sanctions against the railroad claiming that the railroad was guilty of misconduct. The theory of the defense had been that the young people drove around lowered arms on the gates at the crossing and that this led to the train crash. Immediately following the railroad crossing accident, employees of the railroad came to the crossing and downloaded data off the controls for the crossing gates. That information was not provided promptly to the police, and the railroad claimed in court that it supported their claim that the crossing arms were down. The families claimed that the data was incomplete and/or altered,a nd the jury apparently agreed, assessing 90% of the blame for the train crash to the railroad. With the jury verdict in their favor, the family is now seeking sanctions against the railroad for misconduct.Whether BNSF is in fact guilty of misconduct is something that I cannot tell from this news story alone. The teaching point to take away from this news story is that you should not count on potential defendants in a catastrophic accident to preserve records and evidence that will support your case. There are certain kinds of accidents, serious ones in particular, which bring out company and insurance investigators, and they will get first access to critical evidence. This happens especially in nursing home cases, trucking accidents, railroad accidents, and construction accidents. If you do not promptly hire experienced personal injury lawyers immediately following a catastrophic accident, you are put in the position of having to rely on your eventual adversary to preserve evidence that will help you. Not a wise course of action.