Truck Injury Accident Litigation
Truck injury accident cases are not merely big vehicle /big car motor vehicle cases.
Trucks are larger, heavier vehicles, often carrying commercial loads.
Trucks are often traveling at high rates of speed .
In total, causing heavier, more severe and destructive impacts that result in significant property damage and physical injury, even death.
As the result, Trucks usually have larger dollar insurance policies than automobiles.
That means that Plaintiff lawyers have a deeper pocket to recover just compensation and money damages for the injured clients.
Federal Laws and State Laws that derive from Federal Law govern trucks used in interstate commerce.
Trucks are often owned by large corporations with safety policies and procedures that must be followed pursuant to Federal and State Law.
Relevant safety and related information must be reported to the public and Federal Agencies by truck owners and drivers.
UPON BEING RETAINED IN A TRUCK INJURY MY OFFICE : FIRST TASKS
Interview all witnesses, victims, clients and medical and police first responders.
Be present at scene, to take photographs, get official police reports, vehicle inspections, obtain police accident investigation photos
Send preservation / no spoliation letters to all parties,
Make a thorough internet and social media search of all parties, drivers, etc.
Retain truck crash and other relevant experts.
TRUCK CRASH SCENE AND INVOLVED TRUCK INSPECTIONS
It is essential to visit the scene and inspect the location and the truck / vehicles involved in the crash.
If the injuries are significant, hire an investigator and expert to assist you with your inspections.
Their expert experience is invaluable to point you in the directions to seek evidence to make Plaintiff’s case.
Note the corporate truck owner, their insurance company, and their investigators and attorneys are notified immediately after the crash.
In severe injury and death cases a defense crash response team is sent by the insurance company in an effort to immediately begin the process of building their defenses to the accident. In this race to the crash site Plaintiff attorney is often retained weeks or months after the crash, so the Plaintiff attorney must begin the investigation and work immediately upon retainer.
Race to the scene before tire marks are faded away, roads are repaved, crash evidence and debris are removed from the scene of the accident.
Your expert can assist with the scene visit to collect debris, and photograph any crash debris, evidence, Impacted guideposts, light posts, trees, tire marks. Everything at the scene can help the Plaintiff case prove negligence.
FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY REGULATIONS
Federal Laws require a trucking vehicle to be inspected constantly in an effort to avoid crashes by preventing vehicle hazards. Vehicle inspections are entended to provide identification and repair o maintenance problem before an accident occurs.
Recall all the trucks passing our cars on the highway at 80 MPH. Breakdowns on the road and resultant deadly crashes are to be avoided by repairing or replacing defective trucking equipment.
The safety of all the motoring public is protected by FMCSR Part 396.3 specifically:
“ Generally: Every motor carrier must systematically inspect repair and maintain or cause to be systematically inspected repaired and maintained all motor vehicles...subject to its control. ”
Inspections include the following:
Pre trip inspections : Inspect and watch gauges for signs of trouble, and driver to use senses for signs of trouble, to look listen and smell and feel for driver operated and controlled and truck and any vehicle problems.
fter Trip Inspection
Annual Vehicle Inspection Report: Requires inspection of
wheels and rims
Each and every time the truck driver stops it is important for safety that the driver check tires, wheels, rims, lights, reflectors, brakes and electrical wiring and connections to the trailer, trailer coupling devices, and load/cargo securement.
The DVIR: Driver Vehicle Inspection Report: is mandated completed at the end of the trip, so that if the driver, or another driver is operating the truck the next day they can learn what if anything needs to be taken care of to maintain the safety of the truck as it is on the road.
The expert truck inspect is to be similar to these inspections as to items of inspection.
THE BLACK BOX
Since the 1990’s trucks have an electronic Control Module (ECM) within their engine components.
In the ECM is a Event Data Recorder/Black Box.
The Black Box records and captures a variety of data regarding the operation of the truck.
The ECM record data for a operating period over about 30 days, including
Overall average speed
Amount of time driving over 65 miles per hour
RPM revolutions per minute
Seat belt usage
Air bag performance
EDR event data recorder: indicate the amount of hard stops, as well as speed and RPM before the stop
Compare the handwritten truck driver log with the EDR to verify the accuracy of the drivers information
Plaintiff’s truck crash expert must be competent to obtain and interpret correctly the EDR data
THE CORPORATE TRUCK DEFENDANT DEEP POCKET LIABILITY
Liability should target the corporate truck operator/owner ‘s decisions and safety failures that led up to the crash. These corporate policies and failed safety decisions can occur way before the actual crash. This is the litigation discovery goal of Plaintiff counsel.
The trucking defendants will position their defense about what happened at the time of the crash. They will oppose discovery that will reveal the truck companies failures that made the unsafe truck and truck driver a hazard to other vehicles on the road.
The negligence of the individual truck driver, errors, driver fatigue, are factors that often result in crashes.
Note however that the basic root cause that caused the accident is a systematic problem of the truck corporation that puts profits before safety and cutting corners in qualifying, training, educating, and supervising daily their truck drivers out on the highway.
The truck industry as a whole has become overworked and overburdened as profits are sought with unrealistic schedules and reckless disregard of safety in seeking profits.
Plaintiff attorney must obtain the litigation discovery through the courts, social media and investigation to comprehend why a truck driver was encouraged to drive:
Making unlawful turns without signals or across traffic,
Driving into and striking stopped traffic
The Jury as a finder of fact are not surprised that truck drivers are negligent, make errors in driving, that result in crashes.
Juries will render verdicts that hold truck companies responsible for damages if they are offended that a truck defendant company failed to follow the rules, laws, regulations that are designed to protect all motorists on the roads and highways, including the jurors themselves.
DIRECT NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS AGAINST THE CORPORATE TRUCKING DEFENDANT:
NEGLIGENT SUPERVISION OF ITS DRIVERS AND TRUCKS
Focus on the failures of the defendant trucking company with regard to the ongoing safety management controls regarding the daily monitoring and general training of its drivers.
The Trucking company must make safety a top priority by creating a corporate culture that prioritizes operational safety to prevent accidents on the highways and roads.
The company should have a random, reasonable suspicion and post crash alcohol blood and urine testing program; an audit of their drivers hours of service logs, conducting an annual review of the motor vehicle record of the driver, having on going safety driver training, using telematic devices or GPS, drive cams, to monitor the drivers as they operate the trucks on the roads, auditing the driver hours of service logs periodically.
THE COMPANY’S NEGLIGENT QUALIFYING AND HIRING OF DRIVERS
FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY REGULATIONS
Trucking companies must meet certain requirements to qualify the driver and obtain all necessary information that would effect their decision of hiring a driver to operate a tractor trailer: the requirements the company was obligated to perform before placing a driver in a 75,000 pound combination truck and trailer.
Often the company will ignore negative facts and hires the driver to operate the truck notwithstanding a negative driving or personal history.
Obtain the facts with a focus on the FMCSR regulations and rules mandated for the hiring of truck drivers.
Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMC) requirements for a US Dept. of Transportation (DOT) approved moto carrier require:
A detailed application from the applicant driver with all jobs, citations, and crashes/accidents in the past 3 years,
List of all CMV driving jobs in the last 10 years See 49 C.F. R. 391.21
References from prior employers must include the driver safety history, crashes and accidents, and the positive results of any drug or alcohol tests.
The employing trucking company must investigate the applicant drivers safety and driving history and those records must be kep in the truck drivers investigative history file
See 49 C.F.R. 391.23
The applicant driver must put the driver though a road test that compiaes with 49 CFR 391.31: the road test “ must be of a sufficient duration to enable the person who gives it to evaluate the skill of the person who takes it at the HANDLING THE COMMERCIAL VEHILCE, AND ASSOCIATES EQUITPMENT THAT THE MOTOR CARRIER INTENTD TO ASSIGN HER/HIM.
In other words: the road test must be in the same or similar commercial motor vehicle and of a significant time to allow a legitimate assessment of the new truck driver:
Note that the practice of a road test that is only 14 miles, or in different equiptment may not comply with the statutory rule mandate.
The motor carrier may nor permit a driver to operate a CMV unless that person is qualified under the FMCSR: 49 CFR 391.11a
The applicant driver must fulfill the 49 CFR 391.11 requirements:
The driver must be 21 yeas old, and
Possess a commercial drivers license
and with subjective requirements to be investigated in the plaintiffs case, including
“can be reason of experience, training, or both, operate safely the type of commercial vehicle she/he is to drive” 49 CFR 391.11 (b) (3)
A truck driver must be physically qualified: 49 CFR 391.41 and
Possess a valid medical certificate in compliance with 49 CFR.391.43
The Trucking company must keep these documents in the truck drivers qualification file 49 CFR 391.51
Outsourcing the screening, qualifying and hiring of potential drivers by third party entities does not relieve the trucking companies of their statutory obligations cited above.
The trucking company cannot disclaim liability and responsibility by outsourcing to Simplex, one of the third party hiring companies retained to hire truck drivers. .
NEGLIGENT RETENTION OF PROBLEM DRIVERS
Once a truck driver is hired, that driver must be monitored to be removed from the road if there are negative indications, red flags, that would indicate the particular driver was a clear and present on the roads and highways as a truck driver; that the trucking company should have terminated the truck driver, removing him from operating a CMV for that company.
During investigation and litigation discovery and in company depositions of the trucking company safety director admissions should be obtained that for example :
The truck driver is with the trucking company the company for four years, but tests positive for marijuana in the fifth year. He is counseled.
The driver had been hired with a “problem on his license 3 years in the past a speeding violation offense plea of guilty.
He then receives another speeding ticket for going 25 miles over the speed limit and passing a traffic signal.
Hiring an attorney, the driver avoids any points on his license.
He has a Peoplenet unit and drive cam in his truck, but the data is not monitored, and speeding and excessive driving hours are overlooked and ignored.
On the day of the accident, he drives into stopped traffic on the highway while using cruise control at 69 MPH, striking the motor vehicle in front of him causing severe injuries.
The defendant trucking company will claim claim that none of these offenses are each alone enough to disqualify their driver.
At trial a jury can be convinced, with trial exhibit graphics blowups of his offenses, and an accident recreation of his speeding, striking the stopped vehicle in front.
The jury can be convinced that this driver should not have been on the road, he should have been terminated or suspended and re trained, that he should not have been operating a speeding tractor trailer on the day of the accident.
SAFETY RULES AS PLAINTIFFS SWORD IN LITIGATION
Name the trucking company, and if possible the safety director as defendants in the plaintiff lawsuit, along with the truck driver.
A plaintiff litigation goal is to turn the truck driver against the company : often the driver has many grievances to air against the company that he/she is ready and willing to state on the record: the driver may be ready to shift blame to the company for not providing the safety and protection to operate the truck in compliance with safety practices.
FEDERAL LAW VERSUS NEW YORK STATE LAW
NEW YORK has adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules of Title 49 of the CFR Code Federal Regulations : Parts 390, 391, 392, 393, 395, 395, 396, 397 and sections 100-199.
Exception: For vehicles operated exclusively in New York State: see New York Code Rules and Regulations NYCRR Title 17 Department of Transportation Part 820 Safe Operations of Commercial Motor Vehicles
Truck collisions, accidents involving trucks can result in significant personal injuries and damages.
These accidents and injuries can result in significant money damage recoveries for injured Plaintiffs, and significant legal fees for Plaintiffs attorneys.
Plaintiff attorneys knowing the advanced investigation, expert retention, and litigation techniques we discuss above will result in a positive result for the injured client and the attorney.
Our office is experienced in handling Truck litigation cases.
Contact me anytime with any questions.
MARTIN DRUYAN ESQ.
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