Truck Accident Cases are Different
Truck accident cases are different. They are not just car accidents involving bigger vehicles.
Truck Accident Cases are Different.They are not just car accidents involving bigger vehicles. Trucking accidents typically involve severe injuries and deaths. Truck accidents usually involve complicated insurance issues - often because the primarily responsible vehicle is underinsured relative to the harm it has caused - and thus your lawyer will need to aggregate a mix of benefits for you from several policies, including your own underinsured/uninsured policies, if any. Oftentimes, truck accidents involve multiple vehicles with multiple casualties - which will mean a number of injured people are making claims or filing lawsuits as a result of the wreck.
Statistics.No other area of common life, except for baseball, and medical research is as closely measured as American traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
A. 10% of all traffic fatalities are related to truck accidents. In 2013 there were 4251 total fatalities in large truck and bus crashes in the United States. By comparison, there were 44,868 total traffic fatalities from all vehicle crashes in 2013 in the United States. As an example, there were 33 fatalities due to multiple-vehicle fatal crashes involving large trucks in Colorado in 2013. http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Large-Truck-and-Bus-Crash-Facts-2013_0.pdf
B. Collisions with a vehicle having a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 10,001 lbs., or more, will be more serious than a fender bender with a sedan, or an economy/hybrid. It is more likely that a trucking accident case will result in a catastrophic death or a fatality. Traffic Safety Facts for Colorado: 2011-2015. https://cdan.nhtsa.gov/stsi.htm
Why are Truck Accidents Different?
A. Large trucks/semi's/tractor-trailers, are all considered "Commercial Motor Vehicles," or "CMV's." CMV's and their drivers, owners and operators are governed by state law and by extensive safety regulations under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA regulations govern the standards of care, maintenance, inspection, operation, and licensing of CMV drivers.
B. Often trucking accidents involve multiple parties from different states. Thus, your lawsuit and any potential trial likely will be conducted in federal court. Truck accident cases are more complex, complicated and expensive than car accidents. Trucks are valuable. Truck companies often are large international conglomerates, and have a highly paid legal team whose job it is to avoid having to pay for damages in any case, especially catastrophic cases. The lawyers come from the best insurance defense law firms in the nation, and you need a lawyer who has the resources, experience, patience, and skill to fight and win against these defense teams.
C. Insurance & fractured/divided ownership, authority, lease relationships also are employed by trucking companies to reduce their liability. That truck with FedEx branding may actually be owned, operated, and leased by small operators, all with minimum insurance coverage, and in such cases the large corporate interests are protected while the victims are often then under-compensated.
Terminology.Unique terminology is employed in the industry, and is used by truck drivers, carriers, law enforcement, and experts. Here are several terms for key regulatory agencies, and databases that are a "must-know" in a truck accident case.
FMCSA.The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency in the United States Department of Transportation that regulates the trucking industry. The primary mission of the FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. FMCSA has an annual budget of $670 million. FMCSA funding has been criticized as inadequate to regulate the safety of an industry with estimated gross revenues (including private carriers) of $255.5 billion. For every $1 spent on regulated commercial vehicle transportation less than half a penny ($0.0026) is spent on safety regulation.
The FMCSA hosts two critical safety-related-websites and can provide background on a trucking company:
1. SMS is the FMCSA Safety Measurement System. SMS measures seven safety related categories (BASICs) for each carrier and will post a report card with a thorough review of each Carrier's safety record. https://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/SMS/Default.aspx
2. SAFER, the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System provides a company snapshot on a number of safety and violation history. http://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/CompanySnapshot.aspx
3. Critical safety data is compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and General Estimates System (GES).
CMV: A Commercial Motor Vehicle. A CMV is defined by the FMCSA as:
1. Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
2. Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
3. Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
4. Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards
See more at: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-of-service#sthash.V673aGDy.dpuf
HOS: Hours of Service. The main reason for the hours-of-service regulations is to keep fatigued drivers off the public roadways. Hours of Service are broken up into 4 categories: hours of driving, hours on duty, rest, and off-duty hours. A driver generally is permitted to work a 14 hour day of which no more than 11 hours may be spent driving, and during that 11 hour period, the driver must rest for 30 minutes after 8-hours of driving. The rules are set-out in the FMCSA handbook for drivers. http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Drivers%20Guide%20to%20HOS%202015_508.pdf
Commercial Driver's License . Driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) requires a higher level of knowledge, experience, skills, and physical abilities than that required to drive a non-commercial vehicle. In order to obtain a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) an applicant must pass both skills and knowledge testing geared to these higher standards. Serious traffic violations committed by a CDL holder can affect their ability to maintain their CDL certification. - See more at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/commercial-drivers-license#sthash.NrERo32L.dpuf
Medical Examination Report for Commercial Driver Fitness Determination. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers maintain a current Medical Examiner's Certificate to drive.
Motor Carrier. In general, companies that operate CMV('s) for-hire, transport passengers in interstate commerce, and/or transport hazardous materials are required to have interstate Operating Authority (MC number) in addition to a DOT number.
English LanguageThere has been a large influx of non-English speaking drivers into the interstate long haul industry. FMCSA regulations require that drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) ''read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, understand highway traffic signs and signals, respond to official inquiries, and make entries on reports and records.'' The inability to speak English can figure in the cause of an accident.
A. You... If you or a loved one have been involved in a serious truck accident case involving catastrophic injuries or death, you should hire counsel immediately. Your lawyer should be able to respond quickly and can initiate a prompt response, to visit with you, go to the scene, contact law enforcement and local authorities, witnesses, take photographs of the wreckage, obtain any electronically stored data from any vehicle's Electronic Data Recorder ("EDR"). EDR's log speed, braking, and control settings in most cars and commercial motor vehicles in the United States.
B. Them...the instant an accident occurs, the insurance defense team is notified, and within 24 hours an investigator is on the scene, interviewing witnesses, law enforcement officers, photographing the wreckage, the highway, and creating a narrative consistent with their own corporate and monetary interests. This often involves contacting the local press, media, and social media to disseminate the corporate line of attack on the victims, or on other causes. The investigators and lawyers will also jump on their computers as soon as they learn the identity of any one injured or killed, and capture any public social media profiles of the victims. As soon as possible, and consistent with state law (for instance, in Colorado, an insurance statement may not be taken from a victim who is in the hospital) the investigator or the trucking company lawyers will try to get statements from the victims or the victims' family. The questions will be intended to bolster the trucking company's version of events. In no event are you ever obligated to talk with an insurance or trucking company lawyer or investigator unless you are in a lawsuit, represented by counsel, and a deposition is noticed of you.
Electronic/Digital Time/Distance/Location Monitoring.Many truck tractors are set up with electronic/digital satellite monitoring. This monitoring generates an electronic log of the truck and driver's time of service and hours on duty to assure compliance with the United States Department of Transportation permissible hours on duty and driving hours. These will also produce detailed time logs of speed and GPS location. These records are usually with-held from victims until they are disclosed or furnished in a court case. Why? Because they often are the key to showing the negligence, fatigue, or misconduct of the driver or operator.