An immediate investigation into a commercial truck accident by authorities may produce critical data for your truck accident attorney to be used in your personal injury or wrongful death case. Truck accident cases are always a bit tricky because of the need to determine who was responsible for the accident, what caused the accident and who is liable for the damages.
Harrell & Harrell, P.A., will provide a free case consultation with no cost or obligation to you. If your truck accident attorney determines you do have a case, a successful negotiation for a settlement in a truck accident case could occur at any point, including:
Since the truck and the trailer used for commercial shipping may belong to different entities (or may have been leased separately), determining ownership of the truck and hauler is an important and sometimes difficult first step. In most cases, a search of the vehicle’s DOT# (Department of Transportation Number) and MC# (Motor Carrier Number) found on the cab of the truck proves to be the most valuable link to legal ownership.
Truck drivers and their companies are strictly controlled with laws, rules and regulations, both federal and state. They are required to maintain regimented records of their driving hours. Plus, detailed information—known as engine control module data, or ECM data—about their driving is recorded and stored in an electronic device known as the “black box.”
ECM data gives investigators a much clearer understanding about what happened at the accident scene. This includes when braking occurred and/or how suddenly the braking took place. It may provide information about whether air or pedal brakes were used, show average driving speed and the speed the vehicle was going right before the accident, and perhaps track speed acceleration. Data may be available about what was happening in up the last 60 seconds before the accident occurred.
Not all trucking companies use the same black box technology, with some choosing more advanced models than others, but any truck that uses this technology can provide at least some information about what happened while leading up to the accident and what happened during the time of the impact. It may reveal whether the driver was wearing a safety belt, the tire pressure of the truck, and whether the truck was overloaded.
After an accident, police officers may collect black box data. Often, though, they don’t have the necessary tools. When that’s the case, a variety of unwanted things can happen next:
If this data is preserved, it may be requested and received by:
What can get lost in this process is the investigation and accident reconstruction by someone advocating for the accident victim. If you need experienced legal representation after a truck accident, contact us online for a free case review or call 800-251-1111.
After a major truck accident, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will usually conduct a complete accident investigation. Pertinent information taken from the truck’s cab is used to identify the manufacturer, make, model and gross vehicle weight rating for the commercial vehicle. The investigator’s findings are coupled with public records, such as insurance coverage, to establish ownership for the determination of exact liability and responsibility for compensation of accident damages. Based on the details of the investigator’s report, the Florida State Attorney’s office may choose to review the case for possible criminal violations by the truck driver and/or the trucking company who commissioned the payload.
A truck accident attorney knows the driver of any truck used for commerce is required to keep a log of his or her activities. The driver’s log can be useful in determining the driver’s compliance with state and federal regulations regarding the number of hours driving time, the total number of rest periods, the vehicle’s inspection dates and the manufacturer’s recommended gross vehicle weight. Overloading the truck’s trailer is a violation that is often linked to more serious truck and transportation accidents. Since the manufacturer’s information advises the truck’s operator as to the maximum load, liability may be established if the vehicle’s payload exceeded the combined weight for braking.
A truck driver must have a commercial driving license (CDL) to operate any truck and trailer with a gross vehicle weight of 26,000 lbs. or more. He or she must have passed a driver’s road test and be certified for the vehicle he or she is driving. Prior to hiring a commercial truck driver, the employer is responsible for a background check to determine the driving history, criminal history and employment history of the applicant truck driver. A current medical examination is also a legal duty of any employer before they put an individual behind the wheel of a truck used for commercial purposes.
One of the ways that a truck accident lawyer can help is with obtaining information contained in the black box after an accident. Some information collected will be fairly straightforward, such as when the driver was moving at a high speed or perhaps didn’t brake at all.
Other less apparent information that can be gathered includes hours of service for the vehicle in question. If the vehicle has been driven by just one person during the time of service in which the accident occurred, then it may be that the driver has been overworked beyond carefully regulated amounts of time. Our investigators can determine if the truck has exceeded the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) hours of service standards. If so, the owner of the trucking company or employer may be liable for the actions of their overworked driver, who may have been driving while fatigued.
Drowsy driving or driving while fatigued can be every bit as dangerous as drunk driving, but the former doesn’t always get the attention it deserves for its dangerous potential. Data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrates how drowsy driving is a major problem, with the CDD noting that the “risk, danger, and often tragic results of drowsy driving are alarming.”
What makes drowsy driving particularly dangerous is that no one can predict exactly when the effects of lack of sleep will take over, and this can be especially menacing when the vehicle is a large and heavy truck. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in just one year alone, drowsy driving was the cause of:
The CDC states these NHTSA numbers are in fact underestimated, with up to 6,000 fatal crashes per year potentially being caused by drowsy drivers. When drivers are fatigued, they pay less attention to the road, have slower response times, and less able to make good driving decisions.
Another factor that makes fatigued driving so dangerous is, according to the FMCSA is as follows: “Although many drivers feel that they know when they are getting drowsy, various laboratory tests have shown that persons are not good at estimating their own drowsiness.”
Included in the number of drivers who don’t recognize their own levels of fatigue are commercial truck drivers. So, when an accident happens, it’s crucial that black box data is preserved, with the right professionals on your side to investigate the safety record of the trucking company—and the sooner this investigation can take place, the better.
At Harrell & Harrell, P.A. we have our own experienced investigators who can delve into who is at fault for an accident, whether that’s the truck driver, the owner of the company, the employer, or perhaps even a broker. Our truck accident lawyers understand all the legal requirements for commercial trucking. In fact, our attorneys won the largest settlement to date in Clay County—$6.5 million—representing a young man who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury after a truck driver hit him head-on.
Increases in Truck Accidents
Using the most recent data provided by the FMCSA, there has been a 29 percent increase in fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses from 2009 to 2016, with the number of fatalities after a large truck cash increasing by 3 percent from 2015 to 2016 alone. Plus, the number of injury-producing crashes involving large trucks or buses has increased by 62 percent from 2009 to 2015.
If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident caused by someone else’s negligence, unreasonable behavior or careless acts, call our Jacksonville office today at 904-251-1111 or 1-800-251-1111 for a free consultation. Our experienced staff of truck accident attorneys will determine the best course of legal action for your personal injury or wrongful death claim.
A: If the accident has just occurred, it’s important to get medical attention first, but the more quickly that you can contact an experienced truck accident lawyer, the faster the investigation can begin—and, with these types of accidents, time truly is of the essence. You can contact our experienced Florida truck accident attorneys at 800-251-1111 for an immediate response.
A: At a high level, three things must be established:
At part of our process, we first offer a case evaluation to you at no charge to gather information about the accident. Determining the identity of the owner of the truck and hauler is a crucial first step that can sometimes be challenging. Typically, we can obtain the Department of Transport number and Motor Carrier Number found on the truck’s cab to trace legal ownership. In commercial transportation, the truck and hauler may belong to different entities or be separately leased.
We also request and obtain information known as engine control module data, or ECM data. This is information being recorded while the truck is in motion and can offer insights into how fast the driver was going, the braking patterns shortly before the accident and other data about what was taking place, up to the last 60 seconds before the crash.
Other key steps include determining whether the driver was within hours of service compliance and identifying and talking to witnesses. If you believe you’re entitled to compensation because of a truck accident, contact us online for a free case review or call 800-251-1111.
A: No two situations are ever exactly alike, including truck accidents, but we can say that fatigue is playing a significant role in vehicle crashes. Often referred to as “drowsy driving,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling this phenomenon a major problem” that involves “risk danger, and often tragic results.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in just one year alone, drowsy driving was the cause of:
The CDC, in fact, believes the situation is significantly worse than that, suggesting that up to 6,000 fatal crashes take place every single year because of drowsy drivers.
A: Each case is unique, so we encourage you to schedule a free case consultation with no cost or obligation to you to discuss specifics. When our truck accident attorneys determine you have a case, settlements can be successfully negotiated at multiple points along the process, including:
A: Experience matters. If you or a loved one has been in a truck accident, you won’t want to spend long amounts of time debating which attorney to choose, because time is of the essence. On the other hand, you need an experienced attorney. Some efficient ways to find the right lawyer is to check websites for case studies, testimonials and other clear indications of experience.
Harrell & Harrell, P.A., won the largest settlement to date in Clay County—$6.5 million—representing a young man who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury after a truck driver hit him head-on. You can find client testimonials on our site, along with our attorneys’ experience in tackling tough personal injury cases.
It’s crucial that your attorney is well versed in the transportation laws, both federal ones and those of your state, particularly the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Recently, the Florida legislature incorporated federal truck regulations into state laws. This ensures that the same laws that govern intrastate truck accidents do so for interstate ones, as well.
A: Although the similarities are apparent, the differences may not be. To protect drivers and passengers, trucking companies and their drivers must follow carefully-crafted laws and regulation, federal and state alike, to help keep the roads safe. This includes the requirement to maintain precise records of their driving hours and to stay within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act hours of service standards.
When a driver has been overworked, then the question becomes one of identifying liability. This could involve the driver, the owner of the trucking company or the employer. There may even be a broker involved in the situation.
Another way in which a truck accident differs from crashes involving passenger cars is the amount of information, or engine control module (EMC) data, that is recorded and then stored in an electronic device known as the “black box.” This can give investigators a rich source of data to explore, from speeds driven to when and how brakes were applied, perhaps whether the driver was wearing a seat belt, the tire pressure of the truck and more.
A: At Harrell & Harrell, P.A., we offer free case evaluations! To get started, you simply need to contact us online or call 800.251.1111. The sooner you contact us after your accident, the better. We look forward to talking to you about the specifics of your situation.
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