Published on:

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are nearly 4,000 fatal truck accidents each year.  Most of these deaths involve the driver or passengers of the smaller motor vehicle involved in the accident.  Many of those killed will leave behind grieving spouses, children, and other family members.  Losing your loved one in a truck accident is devastating and life changing.  You may find yourself emotionally and financially vulnerable following your tremendous loss.  There are steps that surviving spouses can take following the loss of their husband or wife to obtain compensation from the at-fault truck driver or trucking company.

Florida Wrongful Death Claims

The Florida Wrongful Death Act allows the survivors of a deceased individual killed due to negligence, recklessness, or deliberate actions to seek compensation for their lost support and services from the at-fault party.  Survivors able to bring the action include spouses, children, and parents.  In Florida, a wrongful death lawsuit will identify all potential beneficiaries to the action, including the estate. Each qualifying party can recover the value of their lost support and services from the date of the accident and including future loss of support.  Continue reading →

Published on:

A fiery California crash that cannot be explained by investigators has prompted the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to urge that all commercial bus and truck manufacturers install data recorders on their vehicles.  The NTSB states that it has been unable to determine why a tractor-trailer in California crossed the median and struck a bus transporting high school students on a college tour.  The accident killed eight bus passengers.  Flames encompassed the bus and emergency exits were blocked, forcing students to escape through windows.  NTSB officials report that had the truck or bus been equipped with a black box recording device, this could have shed light on the cause of the accident.

Our Miami truck accident lawyers find that this is not the first time the NTSB has urged for the installation of black boxes on all trucks and cars.  In fact, the NTSB has recommended data recorders for decades but the United States Department of Transportation has declined to mandate their installation in all larger motor vehicles.  The American Trucking Association responded by expressing its support for any technological devices that positively impact safety. Continue reading →

Published on:

While tractor-trailers transport enormous amounts of cargo on Florida roadways, large trucks that are overloaded or improperly loaded can cause horrific trucking accidents.  There are strict state and federal regulations that limit the maximum weight of a fully loaded semi-truck and that dictate rules for securing a load.  If trucking companies, shippers that load cargo, or commercial drivers fail to exercise reasonable care for the safety of other people on the road, the consequences can be permanent debilitating injuries and wrongful death.

Exceeding Maximum Weight for Tractor-Trailers and Cargo

When large trucks are overloaded with cargo, the excessive load can increase both the probability of a trucking accident and the severity of injuries.  Overloaded trucks tend to be less responsive when drivers must maneuver to evade obstacles or stop because of an interruption in the flow of traffic.  The maximum weight of a fully loaded tractor-trailer traveling on Florida roads is forty tons depending on the type of large truck.  Commercial trucks transporting excessive loads also tend to be prone to crashes because of excessive wear on brakes and tires.

Drivers of 18-wheelers and their employers often disregard safety regulations that impose weight limits on fully loaded commercial vehicles.  Overloading a big-rig creates a significant risk of catastrophic injuries that cause impairment of mental faculties, dismemberment, paralysis, disfigurement, and wrongful death.  Basic physics dictates that any collision involving a large truck will generate more energy.  Further, trucks with excessive loads will generate more force on the human body of passenger vehicle occupants because of the direct relationship between vehicle weight and the force of a collision.

Shifting & Unbalanced Loads Can Result in Potentially Deadly Cargo Shifts

A Large Truck Causation study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that loads that shift during transit contribute to more than one in ten collisions involving large trucks.  Cargo that was not properly secured during transit caused 2,316 single vehicle big-rig crashes and 65 multi-vehicle collisions during a one-year period.
Federal regulations establish requirements for properly securing cargo because a load that shifts during transit can cause the driver to lose control of the big-rig.  Commercial carriers must use appropriate cargo containment systems to ensure that loads do not shift and become unbalanced.  These containment systems must be calculated to resist forces caused by the following:

  • Deceleration while driving forward
  • Lateral acceleration
  • Deceleration while backing up

When commercial drivers and trucking companies fail to exercise reasonable care when balancing a load on a large truck, they put other individuals on Florida roadways at-risk of serious injury.  Liability may be based on a lack of reasonable care or a violation of federal regulations regarding proper securing and balancing of loads.  The trucking company can be financially responsible for an unbalanced load based on the following:

  • Insufficient training of individuals loading commercial vehicles
  • Negligence by drivers and other employees involved in the loading process
  • Inadequate investigation of a truck driver’s background resulting in drivers lacking experience
  • Deficient practices for safe loading

Unsecured Cargo Falling from Large Trucks

While inadequate loading or containment systems can result in an unbalanced load, the prospect of cargo falling into the roadway can present an even more dangerous scenario.  Large heavy items or projectiles can fall off of a commercial truck and crush a vehicle or penetrate the windshield of a vehicle.  In other cases, debris can fall into the roadway and create a dangerous obstruction or a slippery stretch of roadway.  When cars attempt to divert around these obstructions or lose traction with the roadway, multi-car collisions can occur as motorists attempt to evade hazards and/or maintain control of their vehicle.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Catastrophic Injuries and Wrongful Death in Trucking Accidents in Southeast Florida

If you or a family member has been injured in a commercial trucking accident, our Florida Semi Accident Injury Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

Published on:

Although the massive length and weight of large trucks poses an inherent risk to others on Florida roadways, these risks increase significantly when tankers or other commercial trucks are transporting hazardous materials.  While the amount of energy generated by a collision involving an 80,000 pound big-rig can cause catastrophic injury or wrongful death to occupants of passenger vehicles, our Miami truck accident lawyers find that toxic or corrosive substances released in a tractor-trailer crash can threaten the safety of anyone in the immediate vicinity of the crash, including residents in the surrounding area.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recognizes the potential for disaster when hazardous substances are released in a semi-truck crash.  The federal agency has enacted a range of special regulations that exclusively apply to semi-trucks and tankers transporting hazardous materials, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • States can ban large trucks transporting hazardous cargo from certain roadways if the state makes a determination based on evidence that such a restriction will protect public safety.
  • The driver must have a special hazardous materials endorsement and pass a test.
  • Large trucks transporting hazardous substances may not be parked on private property unless the property owner is aware of the hazardous cargo, knows the driver intends to park on the property, and consents to the vehicle’s presence.
  • The commercial vehicle transporting certain kinds or volumes of substances must display a diamond-shaped warning sign referred to as a warning placard.
  • The vehicle cannot be parked within 5 feet of a “traveled portion of a public street or highway.”
  • The truck driver or a “qualified representative” must monitor the large truck at all times.

These are just a handful of examples of the special rules that are designed to mitigate the risk associated with large trucks carrying harmful substances.  The DOT reports that 200 of the 5,000 fatal commercial trucking accidents each year involve vehicles transmitting hazmat substances.  Examples of hazardous materials transported by vehicles involved in these crashes include:

  • Gasoline
  • Radioactive material
  • Chemical gases and liquids
  • Petroleum products
  • Hazardous waste materials
  • Corrosive substances
  • Flammable substances

Even if passenger vehicle occupants manage to avoid catastrophic injuries from the force of impact with a heavy truck transporting harmful materials, there might be an increased risk of a vehicle fire or explosion following the crash.  A release or spill of corrosive, radioactive, or noxious substances also can cause severe debilitating injuries.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Florida Trucking Accidents

If you or a close family member suffers a serious injury or you lose someone you love in a crash involving an 18-wheeler, our Miami Large Truck Accident Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

 

 

Published on:

Trucking companies are quick to reference data suggesting that a majority of tractor-trailer accidents are caused by the driver of a passenger vehicle.  However, the failure of the trucking industry to adopt available technology that can furnish a complete record of the way a semi crash occurs would seem odd given this assumption.  Technology that provides a complete visual record of a truck driver’s actions and the road ahead immediately prior to a collision would encourage safe driving by truckers and demonstrate that the truck driver and trucking company did not cause the accident.  The slow adoption of this technology suggests that the trucking industry has some doubt about whether a complete crash record would exonerate commercial drivers and the companies for whom they work.

The “Smartdrive®” system, for example, is comprised of a multi-camera computer system that records video of a truck driver’s actions inside the cab of a semi-truck and the view from the cab available to the driver of the road ahead.  The computer combines this video content with other footage produced by cameras located on the truck to deliver real time footage of a trucking collision from a vast array of perspectives.  This technology could provide a commercial carrier with information about g-forces imposed on the truck, braking events, vehicle speed, engine RPMs, lane departures, following distance, and other vehicle and/or engine data.

If this system were adopted by the trucking industry, the footage provided along with black box data would simplify the process of determining exactly what happened in the wake of a fatal trucking accident.  The hesitancy of the trucking industry to implement this type of technology suggests that trucking companies are not so sure that unsafe passenger car drivers are the most significant cause of semi-truck crashes.  If the primary cause of serious trucking collisions was negligent drivers of passenger cars, this footage would provide a valuable tool for trucking companies to avoid liability claims.

Although the trucking industry predictably opposes this type of safety improvement based on cost concerns, these objections rings hollow.  Admittedly, installation of this type of system involves a financial investment, but trucking companies could reduce or avoid litigation costs, settlements, and jury verdicts resulting from commercial carriers mistakenly being determined to be at-fault for causing collisions.  The increased information also would permit trucking companies to more closely supervise and monitor its drivers, saving the company expenses related to regulatory fines, vehicle wear and tear, and/or damage to the vehicle from abusive driving practices.

Given these savings from use of a system that facilitates completely accurate reconstruction of a commercial trucking accident, it is fair to speculate whether the hesitation of the trucking industry is more related to an “ignorance is bliss” attitude than concerns about cost containment.  While trucking companies would have more information about unsafe practices by their drivers if they implemented this type of system, commercial carriers also would have limited ability to deny knowledge of hours of service violations and other regulatory violations by drivers.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Unsafe Trucking Practices

If you or a close family member suffers a serious injury or you lose someone you love in a big-rig crash, our Miami Trucking Accident Injury Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

Sources:

http://www.smartdrive.net/howitworks.aspx

 

Published on:

The days of truck drivers keeping dual books and manipulating driver fatigue records are numbered because the Department of Transportation (DOT) is mandating the use of electronic logging devices as part of a final rule set for publication on September 30, 2015.  This means critical evidence that can establish the fatigue of a commercial driver and indifference by a trucking company can no longer be so easily falsified.

Driver fatigue has long been regarded as one of the most significant threats to public safety posed by large commercial trucks and causes for trucking accidents.  Truck drivers are only earning pay when their tractor-trailers are on the road, so truck drivers often consider hours of service (HOS) rules as limitations on their ability to increase their income.  Similarly, trucking companies have a financial incentive to consider parked tractor-trailers as lost profits.

HOS rules are designed to keep roadways safer because drivers are required to document their hours driving and on-duty service when not behind the wheel.  Drivers are limited in terms of the amount of hours they can drive in a given period of time and subject to mandatory off-duty and break periods.  Written log books can be manipulated with false entries.  Many commercial driver keep separate log books for their employer and for law enforcement or trucking inspectors.  The electronic log books provide a tool to discourage HOS violations and establish driver fatigue as a potential cause of a trucking accident.

Requirements under the New Trucking Regulations

The new regulations include several provisions with the requirements for implementing electronic log records being the most important.  The specifics of the new rules include:

  • Electronic logging devices (ELDs) are mandatory for any commercial driver required to keep paper logs for 8 or more days out of 30 on the roadways.
  • All commercial trucks must be equipped with the devices within two years of the final rule date.
  • The device must be integrated with the trucks engine to record power status, miles driven, engine hours, and motions status.
  • A location system must be used to impede the ability of the driver or commercial carrier to tamper with the device.
  • The new rule also requires a driver to save documents that can be used to verify hours of service records.  The driver must keep no more than 10 supporting documents from any of the following categories for every 24 hour period: (1) expense receipts; (2) payroll records or other documents establishing the driver’s pay; (3) trip records, dispatch records, or similar documents; and (4) electronic mobile communications through fleet management systems.

Making Florida Roadways Safer for Truck Drivers and the Public

While hard copy written log books relied on the honesty and accuracy of the truck driver and trucking companies, ELDs will make it much more difficult to falsify evidence of compliance with HOS rules.  Inadvertent errors and intentional misrepresentations were common under the paper log book system.  In fact, these written records were so often altered that they are derisively referred to in the trucking industry as “lie books.”  While ELDs obviously should make the roads safer for other vehicle occupants and pedestrians, the electronic record system will also protect truck drivers who are compelled to violate HOS rules by trucking companies that impose unrealistic delivery schedules.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligent Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies

If you or a close family member suffers a serious injury or you lose someone you love in a big-rig crash, our Miami Semi-Truck Accident Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

 

Published on:

The massive length and weight of tractor-trailers threatens the safety of others on Florida roadways.  Large commercial trucks are less responsive in emergencies that require sudden braking or evasive driving maneuvers.  The trucking industry is subject to extensive regulations designed to promote safety in semi-truck maintenance; commercial carrier hiring, training, and supervision of drivers; and vehicle driving practices.  Because there is a lot of conflicting information circulating on the web about trucking accident litigation, this blog post clears up some common myths about trucking cases.

Myth #1: Trucking accident claims will be tied up in litigation for years.

Although some trucking accident claims take years to settle, many tractor-trailer injury victims receive compensation through a settlement in much less time.  Further, the vast majority of trucking accidents are settled without the need for a trial.  Even when a trucking case is intensely litigated, accident victims do not typically spend significant amounts of time in the courtroom.  An experienced Florida trucking accident lawyer can appear for the injury victim at most courtroom hearings.

Myth #2: Self-representation in a trucking accident lawsuit is a viable option.

The challenge of confronting trucking companies, insurance defense attorneys, accident reconstruction experts, medical experts, and extensive litigation resources is difficult for a layperson in any personal injury lawsuit arising out of a motor vehicle accident.  However, trucking litigation involves particularly problematic issues, such as understanding the complex matrix of trucking regulations, gathering and preserving evidence, and analyzing the dynamics of a large truck crash to identify the cause.  The complexity and cost associated with trucking litigation makes retaining an experienced trucking lawyer extremely important to protect the injury victim’s rights and pursue appropriate remedies.

Myth #3: Fatigue is not a significant cause of tractor-trailer collisions because federal regulations mitigate the risk of truck driver drowsiness.

Hours of service (HOS) rules do mandate rest periods and cap the number of hours drivers spend behind the wheel or otherwise engaged in job-relate duties.  However, these regulations are routinely ignored.  Commercial drivers frequently keep one logbook for law enforcement officers and a separate log for their employer.  These records are habitually falsified because truckers increase their pay by exceeding HOS limits.  Commercial carriers often look the other way because profits increase if big-rigs remain on the roads for more hours.

Myth #4: Black boxes installed on large commercial trucks makes proving fault easier in trucking cases.

The information stored in an electronic data recorder (also called a “black box”) can provide valuable information about causes that contribute to a trucking accident, but aggressive intervention may be necessary to prevent loss of the data.  Many types of evidence also should be sought to corroborate or supplement black box data, such as motel receipts, gas bills, tire purchase records, body damage to the large truck, and other types of proof.  The issue of determining fault or allocating fault among multiple responsible parties in trucking accidents is virtually never a straightforward matter.  Further, the commercial carrier and trucker’s insurers will more tenaciously dispute the severity of a trucking victim’s injuries when abundant evidence exists establishing negligence by the trucking company and its driver.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery from Negligent Commercial Carriers and Semi-Truck Drivers

If you or someone you love has been injured by a commercial driver or trucking company that puts profits above safety, our Miami Semi-Truck Crash Injury Attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. tenaciously pursue the fullest compensation for our clients.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

Published on:

The prospect of a rogue trucking company placing a hazardous semi-truck on the road with an unsafe driver behind the wheel seems like a frightening scenario.  However, our truck accident lawyers found a wave of trucking company shutdowns through the first six months of 2015 that suggest that drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians who share the roads with large commercial trucks could easily be placed at risk by a dangerous vehicle or an unqualified driver.

While these trucking companies might not be based in Florida, these commercial carriers operate in interstate commerce (i.e. across state lines), so they could easily end up next to your vehicle while you are traveling down the roadways of Florida.  The extent of the danger posed by commercial carriers indifferent to public safety is reflected by the scope and severity of violations by trucking companies shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) so far this year.  Examples of trucking companies that have been forced to take their trucks off U.S. roads through the first six months of 2015 are provided below.

Mortise Trucking

This company was shuttered due to numerous egregious violations discovered during eleven of twelve recent safety inspections.  These violations included the following:

  • Substandard and improperly maintained brake systems uncovered during a half dozen of these inspections
  • Semi-truck wheel hub seals with leaks
  • Discovery of a large truck with steering and brake system components saturated with oil
  • Large truck with excessively worn tires

These violations led to a more thorough investigation of the commercial carrier that revealed the following safety violations:

  • Lack of a maintenance program
  • No driver logbooks tracking hours of service (HOS)
  • Inadequate compliance with alcohol and drug testing requirements
  • Lack of maintenance records

Federal regulators revoked the operating authority for this commercial carrier and suspended its USDOT number, which means the company’s trucks will not return to our roadways for quite some time.

JDJD Transportation

Like Mortise Trucking, this commercial carrier engaged in widespread and egregious violations that resulted in the trucking company being order to pull its trucks off the roads.  These violations included:

  • Failure to produce hours of service records for the company’s drivers
  • No procedure for ensuring that drivers were properly licensed
  • Deficiencies in testing drivers for drugs or alcohol
  • Lack of a safety management system

Rhino Displays

A safety investigation conducted by the FMCSA found the company had committed multiple serious violations while transporting fireworks to a baseball stadium.  These violations included:

  • Transportation of open and improperly secured packages of fireworks
  • No fire extinguisher on board
  • Presence of alcohol inside the semi-truck
  • Driver without a valid commercial driver’s license, hazardous material endorsement, certification of medical fitness, driver logbook records, Hazardous Material Safety Permit (HMSP), hazmat placard, or mandatory shipping documents.

Prudential Carriers, Inc.

Federal regulators conducted an investigation into this commercial carrier following a series of collisions involving several of the company’s large trucks.  These accidents included a crash after a truck driver allegedly was instructed by the carrier to get back on a major interstate and complete his run with a tanker full of canola oil that was leaking badly from the vehicle.  The investigation revealed four separate crashes were allegedly caused by the spilled canola oil before the driver was stopped and arrested.  An investigation of the company following the accidents revealed the following violations:

  • No routine for inspection, maintenance and repair of vehicles
  • Failure to ensure compliance with hours of service (HOS) rules (i.e., anti-fatigue rules)
  • Allowing unqualified drivers to operate commercial trucks
  • Lack of random testing of drivers for drug and alcohol
  • Failure to ensure compliance with driver qualification requirements

Rogue Trucking Companies Increase Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Risks

These are only a few examples of the types of systematic practices engaged in by rogue trucking companies.  These trucking companies that have been forced out-of-service during the first 6 six months of 2015 demonstrate the scope of the danger to those forced to share Florida roadways with unsafe truck drivers.  Because of the desire to increase profits, some commercial carriers turn a blind eye to federal regulations that mandate safety rules designed to mitigate the danger posed by 80,000 pound tractor-trailers traveling at speeds of 70 mph hour.

While these companies were forced to remove their big-rigs and drivers from service, orders shutting down a trucking company do not happen overnight.  An investigation into a rogue trucking company can take months or even years which means potential deathtraps remain on the roads of South Florida.  Sometime trucking companies will evade regulatory authority by closing down and reopening under a new name.

There also are thousands of tractor-trailers that transport products on Florida roadways for commercial carriers that have no safety rating because the company has not yet been subject to a FMCSA inspection.  Given this pattern of widespread trucking violations, it is little wonder that most lawsuits for personal injury and wrongful death involving victims of negligent truckers and trucking companies are based on violations of safety regulations.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Injuries and Wrongful Death Suffered in Florida Trucking Accidents

If you or a family member has been injured in a Florida trucking accident, our Miami Commercial Truck Accident Attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

 

Published on:

When passenger vehicles collide with large commercial trucks, the probability of occupants in the passenger car, truck or SUV suffer significant injury is much higher than in collisions involving two passenger vehicles.  Our Miami truck accident lawyers find that a key reason for the increased risk of catastrophic injury or death is the massive weight disparity between the vehicles.  While a typical passenger car might weigh 3,000 pounds, large big-rigs transporting a full load can weigh 80,000 pounds, which amounts to a weight disparity of 26 times.

Although semis constitute a relatively small percentage of the total vehicles traveling Florida roadways, they account for a disproportionate number of traffic-related injuries and fatalities.  A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report indicates that 102,000 people experienced injuries in trucking accidents during 2012.  Further, this total represents an 18 percent increase over the number of injuries suffered in trucking accidents the prior year, which does not bode well for safety improvements in the trucking industry.  Trucking accident fatalities also increased during the same period from 3,781 to 3,921, which amounts to a 4 percent increase.

When dangerous big-rig collisions occur, the occupants of passenger vehicles are much more likely to suffer life-altering injuries and death according to the NHTSA.  Passenger vehicle occupants, pedestrians, bystanders, and cyclists accounted for 76 percent of those injured, and they accounted for 83 percent of trucking accident fatalities.  Put another way, the occupants of the other vehicle or non-vehicle occupants are three times as likely to suffer injury and four times more likely to die in a truck collision than the operator of a semi.

These sobering statistics make it important for individuals injured in trucking collisions to understand the challenges associated with proving liability in trucking litigation.  While many types of evidence are essential when pursuing a trucking accident lawsuit, the truck’s Electronic Control Module (ECM) (also called the “Black Box”) often constitutes a smoking gun by providing critical evidence of regulatory violations, improper maintenance, or other unsafe driving practices.

Understanding the Electronic Control Module (“Black Box”)

Most large trucks manufactured in the United States since the 1990’s are equipped with an ECM.  These electronic data storage devices are similar to black boxes on commercial airlines.  The devices are able to record a wide range of data over a period of time.  The types of information that can be preserved by the black box include maximum speed, air bag performance, revolutions per minute (RPMs), average speed, duration of time over 65 mph, idling time, and seat belt usage to note a few examples.

These electronic data recorders were originally created to facilitate the ability of semi manufacturers to identify purchaser abuse to defend against warranty claims.  However, our experienced Florida Semi Accident Lawyers often use factual data stored in ECMs to expose factors that contribute to a commercial truck collision.  We might use the device to investigate big-rig speed immediately prior to the crash, hard stops, and RPMs immediately prior to the crash.  Since the black box also stores usage data, this information can be used to verify the driver log book and expose manipulated and false entries that reveal hours of service violations.

Time Is of the Essence in Avoiding the Loss of ECM Data

Black boxes come equipped with limited storage that often amounts to thirty days though it can shorter depending on the year the vehicle was manufactured.  The storage capacity might be exceeded quickly if the vehicle is promptly placed back in service.  Once the storage capacity has been exceeded, the device will begin recording over previously stored data.

Our Florida Trucking Accident Attorneys will either negotiate an agreement to ensure the data is preserved or send a spoliation letter indicating that the information on the black box is the subject of litigation and must be preserved.  The spoliation letter will advise the commercial carrier that erasing, altering or otherwise destroying the black box data will subject the commercial carrier to sanctions.  There are multiple types of sanctions that can be imposed for spoliation of evidence, such as attorney fee sanctions or evidentiary sanctions.  Attorney fee sanctions involves the judge requiring the trucking company to pay a portion of the plaintiff’s attorney fees while evidentiary sanctions can result in the jury being instructed to assume altered or destroyed evidence was favorable to the plaintiff on a particular issue.  In some situations, we might file for an immediate protective order from the judge.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you or your family member has been injured in a Miami semi crash, our Florida Trucking Attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

Sources:

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811868.pdf

 

Published on:

Trucking companies can mitigate the risk of fines, litigation costs, and personal injury or wrongful death damages by conducting a proper background investigation of potential new hires. Despite these financial benefits, many commercial carriers elect to offer jobs without conducting an adequate background check.  Since trucking companies are aware that bad drivers will work for less than truckers with good safety records, carriers often elect to take a chance on immediate savings while dismissing potential expenses related to employing unqualified truck drivers.

Our experienced Miami truck accident lawyers carefully investigate the pre-employment screening conducted by employers of negligent truck drivers who cause crashes.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) impose strict safety rules on trucking companies regarding maintaining safety records, conducting pre-hiring background checks, and administering pre-employment drug and alcohol screening.  Evidence of negligent hiring of a commercial driver based on a failure to conduct pre-employment screening under 49 CFR § 391.23 often justifies imposing liability or punitive damages.

This regulatory provision imposes an affirmative duty on trucking companies that engage in interstate trucking (i.e. across state lines) to conduct an investigation into the background of potential hires, which includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Motor Vehicle Licensing Records: The commercial carrier must direct the inquiry toward every state that the potential hire holds or has held a driver’s license or permit during the previous three years.  A printed copy of the driving records must be obtained and kept on file by the prospective employer.
  • Prior Employment: Records also must be maintained regarding contacts with prior employers.  The commercial carrier must maintain a written record evidencing contact with prior employers or good faith efforts to establish such communication.  The information on file must at least include the date of contact or attempted contact, name and address of prior employer, and information provided about the hire.
  • Safety Performance Records: Pursuant to 49 CFR § 391.53, the hiring trucking carrier must retain safety records obtained from prior employers in the employee’s personnel file during the employee’s tenure and for three years after termination of the employment relationship.
  • Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing: Inquiry must be made regarding prior alcohol and controlled substance violations by a prospective commercial driver.  The scope of this inquiry must include refusals to submit to drug and alcohol tests, positive drug tests, or alcohol tests with a result over .04 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC).  Further, the employer also must compel applicants to submit to a pre-employment drug test.  The applicant may not be employed as a commercial driver without a verified negative controlled substances test.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Victims of Unsafe Truckers and Trucking Companies

If you or a family member has been injured in a semi-truck accident, our Florida Big-Rig Injury Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, P.A. tenaciously pursue the fullest compensation for our clients.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

Contact Information