Crosley Law Firm handles a multitude of trucking cases every year. These are usually cases where a driver of a much smaller passenger vehicle has been on the losing end of a crash with an 18‑wheeler. In one case our firm is currently handling, we discovered that the company safety director knew very little about the trucking industry. He had never had a commercial driver’s license, and had no prior truck driving experience. He seemed to prioritize protecting his position at the company over accident prevention.
Rules and Regulations
In trucking cases, the most important defense witness is usually the defendant truck driver himself. Running a close second to this is the trucking company’s safety director. In every trucking case, it is important that the lawyer representing the injured victim take the deposition of the trucking company’s safety director. This deposition will usually help to prove whether the trucking company is one that actually cares about safety, whether the driver’s conduct was adequately supervised by the company, and whether the safety rules and regulations that govern a trucking company and its drivers were followed at the time of the accident.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSR”) are the federal safety standards that apply to commercial vehicles engaged in interstate commerce. There are similar state rules as well. In addition to these regulations, trucking companies often have internal safety standards. Company safety manuals are usually issued to each driver upon beginning employment with the trucking company. It is important for the lawyer to cover all of the rules, regulations and safety standards that apply in any given case.
Ask the Right Questions
When handling a trucking case, the lawyer should research publications in the trucking industry to see if the recommendations made by the publishers in the field were followed by the trucking company in a particular case. Another area that the attorney needs to investigate in a trucking case involves the company’s level of supervision of the driver. Some areas to investigate include:
• Are there regular safety meetings?
• Is there annual retraining or testing?
• What does the company do to audit the information contained in the truck driver’s logs?
It is pretty common in the trucking industry that some truck drivers will fudge their log books so that they can get away with driving more than the federal regulations permit. This is one reason why it is important for a trucking company to routinely conduct log audits, and take corrective action when a truck driver’s reported activities are inaccurate.
Another important issue involves investigation of the accident. Usually, a trucking company will send an investigation team to the scene of any serious accident involving one of its trucks or drivers. Some important areas to focus on include:
• Finding out who attended and what information was gathered.
• What did the trucking company do as a result of information learned from his investigation? • Was the driver disciplined?
• Was additional training given?
• Was the driver fired because he posed an unacceptable safety risk?
Not only is it important to investigate what could have been done to avoid the accident, it is important to find out what the trucking company has done since the accident to prevent another similar mishap. Although every case is different, a thorough trucking safety attorney will always want to explore the trucking company’s policies and procedures concerning safety, and ultimately will want to take the deposition of the company safety director on these issues.
At the Crosley Law Firm, P.C., our attorneys have the experience and skills necessary to successfully handle cases in this complex area of law.
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