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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.
  • No other area of common life, except for baseball, and medical research is as closely measured as American traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities. 
  • 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
  • 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?
  1. 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 theFederal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).  FMCSA regulations govern the standards of care, maintenance, inspection, operation and licensing of CMV drivers.
  2. Standards and duties of care can also vary with the applicable state law, and at times, federal precedent based upon a mix of federal regulations and state law.
  3. 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.
  4. Insurance & fractured/divided ownership, authority, lease relationships. Fedex case.  
  • The terminology used by truck drivers, carriers, law enforcement and experts, in trucking accidents is different. Your truck accident lawyer better know the terminology before he or she takes the case.  Here are several terms, abbreviations for key regulatory agencies, and databases that are “must-know” for a lawyer who is handling a truck accident case. If the lawyer you are talking with doesn’t have this info at the tip of his or her tongue or at the click of a keyboard, then you should call me.

  • FMCSA. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency in the United States Department of Transportation that regulates the trucking industry in the United States. 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. Funding for the FMCSA has been criticized as stringent and 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, which provide inside data and must be used by your truck accident lawyer to background research any trucking company (CMV DOT Carrier) which is involved in an accident.
  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 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 FMSCA as:
    1. Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
    2. Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
    3. Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
    4. Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
    5. 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. These regulations put limits in place for when and how long a CMV driver may drive, be on duty, and the required rest intervals. The hours-of-service regulations are found in Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These regulations are developed and enforced by the FMCSA.  A violation may be the basis for a claim of negligence.  Hours of Service (“HOS”) are broken up into 4 categories: hours of driving, hours on duty, rest, and off-duty hours. At the heart of the rules is that 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 an 8-hour stretch behind the wheel. The rules are very complicated as demonstrated by the current FMCSA handbook for drivers.  http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Drivers%20Guide%20to%20HOS%202015_508.pdf

In 2014, under pressure from large trucking interests, FMCSA actually loosened a provision for drivers working the longest hours by relaxing the requirement for the so-called 34-hour restart provision. http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/rulemaking/2011-32696

  • Driver Qualification File. Often referred to as the “DQ,” this does not refer to a frozen dairy dessert.  Every Motor Carrier operating under an Operating Authority or a DOT number is required to maintain a driver qualification file for each driver it employs. The file must include: the driver’s application for employment, inquiry to previous employers; the driver’s driving record for last 3 years prior to hire; annual inquiry and review of the driver’s driving record; the annual driver’s certification of violations and annual review; the driver’s road test and certificate, or the equivalent to the road test; the driver’s medical examiner’s certificate; and if granted, a waiver of physical disqualification for a person with a loss or impairment of limbs or other condition and/or impairment.
  • 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. 
  • 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. As part of the physical, the driver is required to fill out the medical history portion of the Medical Examination Report of Commercial Driver Fitness Determination. The lawyer handling your case needs a full copy of the driver’s Medical Examination Report which is typically part of the Driver Qualification file which by law must be maintained by the DOT licensed carrier which employs the driver.
  • CDL: 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. Additionally CDL holders are held to a higher standard when operating any type of motor vehicle on public roads. 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
  • English language: There 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) operating in interstate commerce be able to ‘‘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 causing an accident.  In our experience, having deposed a number of drivers and carrier personnel through interpreters, it is apparent that the English language requirement is often disregarded.  The inability to speak English can contribute or cause an accident in a number of ways:  the inability to understand and comprehend technical information on the operation of the tractor-trailer combination he or she is driving; the inability to properly communicate or hear warnings from other drivers made by CB radio transmission; the inability to dial and call 911 to inform a state highway patrol dispatcher of a hazard, an accident, or the need for assistance.  
  • Rapid Response. It is important that your lawyer respond quickly. At Chalat Hatten Koupal and Banker, our personal cell phones are readily available on our websites.  If you have been involved in a serious truck accident case involving catastrophic injuries or death, do not hesitate to call us on our cell phones.  Our lawyers are able to respond quickly, and can initiate a prompt response with expert witnesses and our own investigators.  Each attorney is capable of interviewing witnesses, talking to law enforcement and local law officials such as the county coroner or attorney, and taking photographs of the wreckage, the accident scene, and of other evidence.
    1. Many trucking companies’ 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 in order to assure compliance with the United States Department of Transportation permissible hours on duty and driving hours.
    2. However, many trucking companies refuse to integrate their vehicles into an electronic monitoring system, which means that the drivers make written records. In many cases these hand written logs are inaccurate, illegible, incomplete, and in some cases outright falsified.
    3. Whether by electronic logging data or by a cell call to an on-duty employee, 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 in order 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.