The Columbus truck accident lawyers with GBM Law have been representing clients in cases involving big-rigs, tractor trailers, and semi-trucks for more than 30 years. We understand the unique and challenging aspects of these complex cases and have recovered more than $200 million in verdicts and settlements for our clients. If you were injured in a truck accident, contact us today to discuss your options. It is especially important to preserve evidence in truck crashes, so contacting a Columbus truck accident lawyer right away can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
Truck accidents in Ohio can be devastating events, resulting in catastrophic, life-changing injuries and fatalities in seconds. Of the 268 million vehicles registered in the United States, 11.5 million are large commercial trucks. Passenger vehicles are required to share the road with these massive vehicles every single day when we drive to work and school. Because of their weight and size, being involved in an accident with a commercial truck and not being injured is somewhat uncommon. While 18-wheelers and tractor-trailers play an important role in our economy, they are a huge hazard on U.S. roadways and interstates.
Get Legal Help As Soon As Possible
If you are injured in an accident involving a large truck, you should contact an experienced Columbus truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Evidence may be lost if it is not collected soon after the accident. In many cases, the proof of a truck driver’s fault can be found in his log book. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act, the trucking company can destroy log books within six months of a wreck. Many lawyers don’t know how to secure a truck driver’s log book or other important evidence before it is destroyed. An experienced Columbus truck accident lawyer will take immediate steps to preserve all of the important evidence before it is destroyed by the trucking company or lost forever.
The big transportation companies such as FedEx, UPS, J.B. Hunt, and Swift Transportation have teams of lawyers and investigators ready to minimize their liability and vigorously defend litigation. You need a truck accident attorney who has the resources to fight these transportation giants, and protect your legal rights.
How Will GBM Law Hold the Trucking Company Responsible?
We will immediately notify the motor carrier (trucking company) that we are on the case and demand that the trucking company preserve all relevant evidence by sending a legal notice called a spoliation letter.
From there, we will use every avenue available to find all evidence and establish the truck driver’s negligence and liability for all of the harm and damages caused by the wreck. We will immediately request the driver’s logbook which includes the number of miles traveled, duty-on and duty-off times, as well as the driving record. The truck driver’s medical records will be requested to determine with the accident was caused by sleep apnea and driver fatigue. Information about the truck driver’s prior driving record will be obtained to discover any evidence of prior DUIs and traffic offenses. We will also obtain the freight bill and bill of lading, which is issued as a receipt of goods, and establishes ownership of the property that was transported, and names of the contracting parties. Additionally, we will submit a Freedom of Information Act request to look at the entire safety history of the motor carrier and the people running it.
Motor carriers often equip trucks with electronic recording GPS devices or on-board computers to operate similarly to an aircraft cockpit voice recorder or “black box.” This information may reveal the vehicle’s traveling speed that day, last recorded speed before the collision, and when and if the brakes were applied prior to a collision. It is important to request this be preserved immediately because if the truck drives away from the scene, the data may be soon recorded over. Because evidence and witness recollections can disappear following an accident, you should not delay in contacting a Columbus truck accident lawyer.
Understanding Trucking Industry Regulation in United States
Since January 1, 2000, the trucking industry has been regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Their website mission statement reads, “The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”
The agency employs about 1,150 people and has field offices in all 50 states. The Ohio FMCSA field office is located in the Bricker Federal Office Building at 200 N. High Street in Columbus. State agencies, such as the Ohio State Highway Patrol, help the FMCSA with compliance and enforcement.
What Do FMCSA Regulations Cover?
FMCSA regulations are important because they outline the responsibilities of a commercial motor carrier (trucking company) and commercial driver. When an accident occurs, whether or not relevant regulations were complied with can determine liability of the truck driver, or the motor carrier. Carrier responsibilities, operational control, and liability are often disputed when accidents occur. For example, motor carriers have attempted to defend lawsuits by saying they are not supervising drivers in leased trucks. Some of the FMCSA regulations cover:
- Driver Qualifications: Just like any commercial pilot flying an airplane in the U.S., a driver of a commercial truck must be proficient in English. They must also have a valid commercial driver’s license and be at least 21 years of age.
- Minimum Insurance Requirements: The FMCSA recognizes that trucking accidents are often much more destructive and deadlier than a collision involving two passenger vehicles, and sets minimum insurance requirements. The minimum insurance is $750,000, but is much higher for vehicles carrying hazardous materials. States may also require higher than federal minimum liability limits.
- Drug Testing: Motor carrier companies are subject to strict drug testing requirements, prior to hiring or contracting with a driver, following an accident, whenever reasonable suspicion exists, or when returning to duty following a positive test or refusal to test. Additionally, commercial drivers must be randomly tested throughout the year.
- Truck Maintenance, Repairs, and Inspections: Drivers must make pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections and turn in a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) at the completion of each day’s work. Commercial vehicles must be thoroughly inspected per Minimum Period Inspection Standards, at least once every 12 months, including all components of the brake system, coupling devices, exhaust system, fuel system, lighting devices, loading equipment, steering mechanism, suspension, frame, tires, wheels and rims, windshield glazing, and windshield wipers.
- Driving Hours and Mandatory Rest: Hours of Service (HOS) regulations impose daily and weekly limits of driving for both property-carrying and passenger-carrying, after which driving is prohibited. There are also regulations which prohibit a driver from operating a commercial vehicle, and prohibit a motor carrier to operate a commercial vehicle if the driver is impaired by illness, fatigue or any other cause that makes it unsafe for the driver to begin or continue operating a commercial vehicle.
Why FMCSA Knowledge is Important
When an accident occurs, a truck accident lawyer with extensive familiarity and knowledge of the FMCSA regulations is important because these rules will apply to the trucking company involved in the accident. Violations are common. The trucking company will have a team of attorneys who will attempt to prove that the company didn’t violate any federal regulations, or, that the violations did not contribute to the accident.
For the best outcome of your case, you need a truck accident attorney who understands the defense counsel strategies. At GBM Law, we will work with some of the best Columbus truck accident lawyers, accident reconstruction engineers, and commercial vehicle safety experts to establish the sequence of events that led to the accident and your injuries. If the liable parties will not offer a fair settlement in a reasonable period of time, we will not hesitate to take your case to court.
Causes of Large Truck Accidents
The FMCSA has identified the top associated factors assigned in large truck accidents and their percentage of total crashes, based on a probability sample of 120,000 investigated large truck accidents involving at least one large truck and resulted in a fatality or injury:
- Vehicle: Brake problems (29%)
- Driver: Traveling too fast for conditions (23%)
- Driver: Unfamiliar with roadway (22%)
- Environment: Roadway problems (20%)
- Driver: Over-the-counter drug use (17%)
- Driver: Inadequate surveillance (14%)
- Driver: Fatigue (13%)
- Driver: Felt under work pressure from carrier (10%)
- Driver: Made illegal maneuver (9%)
- Driver: Inattention (9%)
- Driver: External distraction (8%)
- Vehicle: Tire problems (6%)
- Driver: Following too close (5%)
- Driver: Jackknife (5%)
- Vehicle: Cargo shift (4%)
- Driver: Illness (3%)
- Driver: Internal distraction (2%)
- Driver: Illegal drugs (2%)
- Driver: Alcohol (1%).
Many accidents will have several contributing factors, which may reflect the condition of the driver before the crash (i.e., illness, fatigue, drug use) or driver mistakes (i.e., inadequate surveillance, excessive speed, inattention). Regardless of the specific action, if negligence of the driver or trucking company caused your injuries in a truck accident, you are entitled to compensation. Damages include money for medical care, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
Contact Us Today
If you or a family member has been involved in a truck accident, fill out our free case evaluation form or call 877-706-6446 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Columbus truck accident lawyers. All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, so there are no fees for our services unless we recover money for you. We look forward to speaking with you and answering your questions.