Truck accident litigation is hard fought and complex. Our roadways are loaded with large trucks which are typically called 18-Wheelers. These 18- wheelers or tractor-trailers are mammoth vehicles that occupy their entire lane. Typically, they are driven by experienced drivers, but sometimes these drivers make mistakes.
Factors That Contribute to Tractor-Trailer Accidents
- Driver fatigue.
- Shifting or falling cargo.
- Faulty inspection and/or improper maintenance.
- Drunk driving.
Finding Insurance in Truck Collision Cases
The vast majority of trucking companies are entities that carry substantial insurance coverage. To some extent this is mandated by federal law. The federal agency that oversees interstate trucking is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Federal law requires the issuance of a MCS-90 Form which is an endorsement to interstate motor carrier’s insurance policies that provides essentially unconditional coverage to the public. This endorsement is to be attached to the underlying policy that the trucking company maintains. The language within this endorsement requires that the insurance company agrees to pay any final judgment recovered resulting from negligence regardless of whether or not each motor vehicle is specifically described in the policy. Under the terms of this endorsement the failure of the trucking company to give proper notice of the claim and their failure to cooperate may not be a basis for a denial of coverage. The purpose of this endorsement is to provide coverage where the underlying policy does not do so. It only applies to interstate motor carriers. Those terms are very specific and they are defined in the regulations.
Investigating Truck Accidents
In investigating these types of cases some helpful hints are the following:
- Go on-line to www.ai.volpe.dot.gov which is a website maintained by the federal government which provides helpful information.
- Obtain copies of all of the policies of insurance that apply to the tractor, to the trailer, to the trucking company, to their independent contractors and to the shipper.
- Establish that the trucking company is in fact a motor carrier and that it engages in interstate commerce.
- Familiarize yourself with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and also the International Fuel Tax Agreement. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require that a driver record duty status for a 24 hour period. Comparing these types of logs with fuel receipts, bills of lading, delivery manifest, GPS tracking information and accounting records may tell you precisely where the driver was at any point in time and for how many hours the driver had been on the road. Most motor carriers have a license issued pursuant to the International Fuel Tax Agreement. This statute requires quarterly reports that involve fuel receipts. This likewise may show you the extent of driving during any particular period.
- The black box logs may provide a wealth of information. This data is downloadable.
- Aside from the black box there is other electronically stored information in the GPS records, computer generated bills of lading and fuel receipts and other types of electronic communication between the driver and dispatcher.
Brien Roche is an experienced Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. attorney who has litigated truck and tractor trailer lawsuits. If you have been involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer or large truck, contact us.
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