According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, 3,757 people died in collisions with semi trucks and 80,000 more were seriously injured.
A loaded semi truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Not surprisingly, the types of injuries involved in a trucking collision are generally more severe than two automobiles colliding. Not only are the injuries more severe, but there is also a greater need to investigate the collision quickly. Nearly all semi-tractor-trailers contain data recorders which allow an expert to trace the truck’s movements for an extended period of time prior to the collision. That data can make proving liability easier.
If you have been involved in a trucking collision due to the carelessness of the other driver, it is advisable to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Trucking collisions require an experienced attorney to collect evidence to strengthen your case and help ensure compensation is sought from the appropriate parties.
Trucking Cases Require Special Expertise
Collisions involving semi trucks require special expertise to investigate the accident quickly, identify the responsible parties, and request discovery necessary to prove your case.
- Need to investigate quickly.
Trucking collisions need to be investigated immediately. In cases involving a trucking collision, truck drivers are required to report the collision to their dispatcher. Immediately following a collision, most trucking companies send out investigators to determine what happened.That means the trucking company has already started building a defense to potential claims. The trucking company and its insurance company will try to limit the potential recovery of an injured person to the lowest possible amount. Therefore, it is important to contact an experienced trucking accident attorney as soon as possible.
There is an amazing amount of electronically stored data available from a semi-tractor-trailer that is involved in a collision. Specifically,electronically stored data from an Electronic Control Module(ECM),Qualcomm, VORAD, and GPS system allows an expert to re-create the truck’s movements for an extended period of time prior to a collision.In every case, there is a need to immediately request the preservation of this data which is useful in establishing the negligence of drivers and trucking companies.
- Electronic Control Module (ECM)
Beginning in 1988, engine manufacturers began providing truck owners with historical data regarding an engine’s performance.It was first used to determine fuel economy by fleet owners.Today, ECMs have the ability to determine engine overspeeds, quick stop occurrences fuel consumption, diagnostic codes, trip data, engine parameters, throttle position, and road speed. Again, this information only available a limited time after the collision, and can only be deciphered by an expert.
Qualcomm collects a broad range of information, including an individual truck’s hours of service, fuel usage, speed data, hard braking information, in cab tracing, servicing records, safety compliance, and other critical event information.
The VORAD system is able to monitor and compile information related to the truck’s speed, braking, driving time, and following distance.VORAD also measures the truck’s average and maximum speeds, as well as measures and stores data from the truck’s braking events.
Trucking companies utilize GPS to map routes between destinations, which allows tracking of the location of trucks and their cargo.This evidence can be reviewed to determine how long the driver had been on the road and potentially indicate whether the accident was related to driver fatigue.
Identifying the parties involved.
Identifying the parties responsible for a trucking collision goes beyond the driver.Often times the driver of the semi-tractor-trailer will not have sufficient assets to cover your injuries.In those cases, there is a need to prove an “agency” relationship between the driver and his or her employer.Under the legal principle of agency, the employer of the driver can also be held liable for the collision.
Discoverable Information Available.
Trucking accidents require a thorough review of the evidence.For example, it is important to investigate the driver’s qualifications and experience. A trucking company’s compliance with federal safety and maintenance regulations are also important for establishing liability.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA),which regulates the trucking industry, limits the number of hours a driver can be on duty, called Hours of Service (HOS).The FMCSA also mandates periods of rest between shifts. In July 2013, new rules were put into place regarding the number of hours truck drivers could operate. Interstate commercial truck drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours in one shift or 60 hours in one seven-day period. Truck drivers are also required to log their Hours of Service in a logbook.Unfortunately,because truck drivers are compensated by miles driven, not hours worked, there is an incentive for drivers to ignore these safety regulations. In fact, some drivers refer to logbooks as “comic books” because they are so easily falsified.
Information regarding the cargo involved is also important.For example,bills of lading, weight tickets, dispatch instructions, and delivery documents must be examined to ensure that a driver’s Hours of Service logbook is accurate.A driver’s logbook may indicate compliance with the Hours of Service Rule, but other documents may show that the logbook was falsified.The purpose of this information is to establish that the driver and the trucking company were not in compliance with safety regulations.
Insurance coverage available.
Depending on the type of semi-tractor-trailer involved, there may be federal minimum requirements for insurance coverage. For example, the federal minimum requirement for transporters of hazardous materials is anywhere from $750,000 up to $5,000,000.
Sample Discovery Requests to Driver
Sample Discovery Requests to Trucking Company
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System