What You Need to Know About Trucking Accidents:
The huge size and massive weight of large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) and tractor trailers make them more dangerous than other automobiles. When trucking accidents occur, they more frequently result in devastating injuries. Because of this, truck drivers and the companies they work for, are held to higher standards than drivers operating cars and other, smaller vehicles.
Guidelines and Rules of the Road for the Trucking Industry:
Drivers and the companies they work for have specific regulations they must follow that cover everything from the number of hours a driver can log during a particular time to driver behavior and training. The guidelines set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) must be followed and in part include:
- Complying with all local traffic laws
- Stopping at weigh stations
- Limitations on the number of hours a driver can drive during a given time
- Restrictions against driving under the influence or while tired
- Proper accounting of hours in a driver’s log
- Correct loading of the truck and trailer
- Avoiding overloading the vehicle or exceeding the weight limit
Data from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration suggest that drivers of large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) and tractor trailers involved in fatal crashes are less likely to have blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher than drivers of other types of vehicles. Only 2 percent of drivers of large trucks had BAC levels .08 g/dL or greater, as opposed to 23 percent for passenger cars in 2012. (See DOT HS 811 868 Revised May 2014 Large Trucks, Figure 2).
Mandatory drug and alcohol testing for CDL drivers: many State and Federal regulation require drivers of large trucks and tractor trailers to be tested for drugs and alcohol.
Pre-employment – An employer must receive a negative drug test result before permitting a CDL driver to operate a CMV. (§382.301).
Post-accident – Drug and alcohol tests may be required after crashes according to the following chart (§382.303).
What Happens After a Florida Trucking Accident?
Trucking accidents are handled differently from car accidents. The primary difference is that trucking companies often have staff and legal counsel on the scene when a crash occurs. This puts victims of trucking accidents at a disadvantage; unless you quickly hire an experienced attorney to protect your rights.
Law enforcement investigation: When an accident involves a tractor trailer, law enforcement will complete their own investigation. Under Florida law, with few exceptions, the Traffic Crash Report or Traffic Homicide Report and statements taken by law enforcement is not admissible at trial. However, the report will contain valuable information.
Insurance company investigation: In some cases, the insurance company that represents the trucking firm will visit the scene of the crash and collect information. They will often take photos and statements from witnesses. Their claims adjusters are trained to focus on information that limits their liability. They will often seek to obtain the statement of the injured party. Do not give a statement to the trucking companies insurance company without first consulting a qualified attorney.
Big business lawyers: The corporation that owned or operated the truck will often send their lawyers to the scene of a trucking accident crash. They may collect evidence at the scene. Their job is to protect the trucking company from liability. Do not give a statement to the trucking companies lawyers without first consulting a qualified attorney.
Your attorney: Your attorney can also investigate the accident and make sure that the driver who harmed you was operating in compliance with all state and FMCSA regulations. The sooner you act, in hiring a qualified lawyer, the better chance significant evidence does not go undiscovered. These days video surveillance cameras are everywhere, including local businesses and traffic monitoring stations as well as red light cameras. Some video surveillance is on a short recording loop (often thirty days, or less) and is recorded over if not collected. Swift action is the key to success in compensating victims. Don’t expect the insurance company or their attorneys to share information that hurts their case with you.
The best way to protect your rights after a trucking accident is to contact a personal injury attorney familiar with the trucking industry. If you have been injured or suffered losses due to negligence, contact us to learn more about your options and to speak with an attorney familiar with state and FMCSA regulations governing the trucking industry.