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Truck Crashes

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Truck Crashes

Brien Roche

On Saturday, September 5, 2020, a woman was killed in a truck crash.  The collision occurred on Interstate 95.  The crash was at approximately 10:00 a.m.

Ms. Anna Beatriz Cruz-Bonilla was the driver that was killed.  She died at the hospital.  The crash occurred near the bridge over the Occoquan River.  This is in Fairfax County.  The tractor trailer involved was traveling south on Interstate 95.  It went out of control near mile marker 161.  

The truck ran off the left side of the highway.  The truck had come upon stopped traffic and was unable to stop, apparently because of speed.  As a result, the truck struck the guardrail and continued down the shoulder.  It struck one car and then struck the Cruz-Bonilla vehicle.  

It then crossed the express lanes and hit a jersey wall before coming to rest near the shoulder of the bridge.  

No one in the first car was injured.  

There was a passenger in the vehicle driven by Ms. Cruz-Bonilla who was also seriously injured.  

Bing Kun Tse, 59 of the Bronx, NY was the truck driver.  He was charged with reckless driving.  

Truck accident lawsuits are hard fought and complex. Our roadways are loaded with large trucks. They are called 18-wheelers. These are mammoth vehicles. They occupy their entire lane. They are driven by experienced drivers. However these drivers make mistakes.

Truck Crashes-Causes

There are about 500,000 tractor trailer crashes in the U.S. each year.  Driver error is the most common cause of crashes. However other factors may be weather, road conditions or vehicle performance.

There are an estimated 2 million tractor trailers on the road nationwide.  The primary causes of tractor trailer crashes and how to address those causes are discusssed below:

Substances

  • The use of drugs. They account for nearly 26% of crashes. Get all U. S. Department of Transportation mandated or allowed testing of the driver involved in the truck accident. This includes testing of alcohol and/or drug usage. Many companies use third-party administrators. Get all of the records from that third-party administrator. This includes how drivers were notified of impending tests. If the driver was given adequate forewarning that would allow time to change behavior. Likewise, the criteria used for labeling a test as negative or positive must be closely looked at. Certainly some medical review officers view the presence of prescription drugs in the results as not requiring a report. The trucking company has a right to know of all drugs, legal or illegal, that the driver is taking. All of this must be disclosed. In addition the company’s response to such info is needed. Therefore any evidence of any drug usage means you must get the entire prescription history of that driver.
  • Use of over-the-counter drugs. They contribute to 18% of crashes. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Speed or Movements

  • Speeding or traveling too fast. They account for nearly 23%.
  • Failing to use a turn signal or making some other illegal maneuver. This accounts for about 9% of crashes.
  • Aggressive driving. This accounts for nearly 7% of crashes.
  • Poor evasive action. This accounts for nearly 7% of the crashes.

Lack of Attention

  • Being lost or driving in unfamiliar areas. They account for nearly 22% of crashes.
  • Failure to check blind spots and observe all sides of the truck before making a turn. They account for 14% of crashes. Certainly these trucks have large blind spots.  As a result drivers must avoid these blind spots. They are at the rear of the truck and the side of the truck.  Likewise the connecting point between the truck and its trailer is a blind spot.  In other words if you can’t see the driver in the driver’s mirrors then the driver can’t see you. You should get out of that spot.
  • Fatigue accounts for 13% of crashes. Sleep apnea must be considered. This results from the muscles in the back of the throat relaxing. As a result this blocks normal breathing. It results in the person waking up at night. This waking up may occur many times causing inadequate sleep. Some common characteristics of people with apnea are a deviated septum, allergies, sinus problems, a larger than average neck or obesity. Men over 40 are most likely to have this. As a result you should delve into this issue if fatigue is a factor. Do a thorough investigation of the driver’s medical history. In addition most drivers are paid by the mile. The more time they spend behind the wheel the more money they make. Any downtime for refueling, loading and unloading is not counted within the driver’s paycheck. You need to know about this. Drivers push on when they need sleep. Therefore if it is suspected that a truck driver is asleep at the wheel there are several things to look at:

Exams

  • Any pre-employment or employment medical exams called for under the U.S. regs. They report any medication that the driver is on.

Truck Crashes-Load

  • If the trailer is refrigerated then the loading time is much more than if the trailer is a “dry van”. This waiting time is not productive time for the driver. The maximum time that a driver can be on duty in an eight day period is 70 hours. As a result if he is spending 40 of those hours loading and unloading, then that only leaves him 30 hours of time on the road. In other words there may be incentive on the driver’s part to misreport the amount of loading time. Therefore logs and “in” and “out” times at dock facilities are needed.

Truck Crashes-Driving Time

  • Credit card receipts at gas stations show date and time and place of purchase. However many fueling facilities have agreements with trucking companies not to show date and time. This info should be available from the credit card company.
  • Some transponder companies do not record date and time of passing tolls. Therefore get this info from the entity that monitors the toll booths.
  • Trucking company manuals are sources of info. They record maximum speeds in various states. This informs drivers as to what time frames they need to record on their daily log. Also the manuals tell the drivers precisely what documents the company will be looking at to determine driving time. In other words this is a message to the driver to make sure that the paperwork is all consistent.
  • Some trucking companies only keep driver’s logs for six months. However under the Fair Labor Standards Act they must keep them for a minimum of two years.
  • Driver inattention. This accounts for nearly 8% of the crashes. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Load or Maintenance

  • Shifting or falling cargo.
  • Faulty inspection and/or improper maintenance. How trucks are maintained needs to be looked at. In a case in Texas a shaft broke off underneath the truck. It flew into an oncoming lane. The 20-pound metal shaft crashed through the window of a car. It killed the driver.The joint holding the shaft in place had melted. There was a lack of oil. This allowed the shaft to rip out of its placement. The lawsuit claimed that the U-joint had not been oiled for at least four to six months before the crash. However the U-joint manufacturer recommended oiling every 5,000 miles.In addition the Plaintiffs asserted that the president of the trucking company knew that the fleet manager lacked the necessary skills to deal with these issues. However he remained in that position. During the discovery it was learned that a mechanic at the truck company knew of other U-joints in the trucks that had failed because of lack of oiling.

Truck Crashes-Investigation

In investigating these crashes, aside from focusing on the causes above, consider the following:

Motor Carrier Issues

  • Confirm the trucking company is a motor carrier engaged in interstate commerce.
  • Go online to www.ai.volpe.dot.gov which is a website maintained by the U.S. that provides helpful info.
  • Study the Federal Motor Carrier Safety (FMCS) Regulations. Also the International Fuel Tax Agreement.  The FMCS Regs require that drivers record duty status for a 24 hour period.  Furthermore compare these types of logs with fuel receipts, bills of lading, delivery manifests, GPS tracking info and accounting records. This will tell you where the driver was at any time. They will show for how many hours he has been on the road.  Most motor carriers have a license issued pursuant to the International Fuel Tax Agreement.  This statute requires quarterly reports. In addition they show fuel receipts.  Likewise this will show you the extent of driving during any particular period.
  • The FMCS Regs have adopted a model CDL manual.  Gather books used by truck driver schools or defensive driving schools as useful sources of info.

Truck Crashes-Insurance

  • Get copies of all of the policies of insurance. They apply to the tractor, the trailer, the trucking company, their independent contractors, the shipper and the company loading the truck. In addition U.S. law requires the issuance of a MCS-90 Form. It provides unconditional coverage to the public.  This is attached to the primary policy. Therefore the insurer must pay any final judgment. This is whether or not each motor vehicle is described in the policy. The purpose is to provide coverage where the underlying policy does not. In addition it voids lack of notice or cooperation as a defense.   However it only applies to interstate motor carriers.  The minimum coverage is $750,000.  If the tractor and trailer are separately owned then separate policies apply.
  • The company loading the truck may be an insured under the MCS-90 even though not named on the policy.
  • Check the FMCSA’s Analysis and Information website for insurance info.
  • Ask for admissions that the truck company is a motor carrier and that it engages in interstate commerce.
  • Run a Dunn and Bradstreet report

Truck Crashes-Electronic Data

  • The black box logs offer a wealth of info. This data must be downloaded.
  • There is other electronically stored info. For instance computer generated bills of lading or fuel receipts. Also other types of electronic communication between driver and dispatcher.
  • Identify anything within the cab that is a source of info. This includes cell phones, texting devices or videos. Also freight tracking equipment and any satellite based navigation or communication system. All of those need to be identified. Finally the data must be extracted.
  • When a truck accident occurs the insurance carrier and its lawyers are promptly on the case. However the plaintiff takes time to retain counsel. That lapse is critical. In addition many important records dealing with the truck accident only need to be retained for six months. Therefore get a letter out to the trucking company requesting that they preserve all records and data relating to this crash. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Truck Crashes-Intrastate

  • If the truck only operates intrastate, each state has adopted most of the of the U.S. regs.
  • Most of these vehicles weigh over 10,000 lbs. They are commercial motor vehicles if being used for that purpose.  However a landscape pickup truck pulling trailers could qualify.  Although these drivers may not be required to have a CDL, most of the other trucking safety rules apply.

Driver Status

  • The driver in many cases is an independent contractor. That does not mean he is not an employee.  Independent contractor is included within the definition of employee if the truck is a commercial motor vehicle.  Likewise owners or operators may be employees. See another page on this site for a look at independent contractor status.

Systemic Issues

  • Look for systemic failures within the company.

The Scene and the Truck

  • Visit the scene with a trucking expert and/or reconstruction expert. You may need an investigator. She can locate any witnesses not identified on the police report.

Truck Crashes-Investigation Made Easier

Truck accident investigation is easier with the advent of the Compliance Safety Accountability Program by the FMCS Administration. The data from CSA must be requested through FOIA. This is designed to identify potentially high risk trucking companies. Also the system uses a number of different factors to provide a rating. Those are:

  • safety of the driver
  • driver fatigue
  • driver fitness
  • use of drugs or alcohol
  • vehicle maintenance
  • cargo problems
  • number of reported crashes

However make sure the data you have relates to the company you are dealing with. When a company changes hands it receives a new Department of Transportation number.

In addition, the U.S. has implemented a pre-employment screening program. This is open to carriers relating to potential hires. If the defendant uses that system, if applicable, it will help.

Finally, certain carriers that have been non-compliant with log requirements must have an electronic on-board recorder. These recorders are less susceptible to manipulation. Furthermore in reviewing any data from these recorders be aware of any audits of this equipment. These are conducted so as to identify any changes to the log.

Call, or contact us for a free consult. Also for more information on truck accidents see the pages on Wikipedia. Also see the other pages on this site.

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Truck Crashes

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Truck Crashes

Brien Roche

On Saturday, September 5, 2020, a woman was killed in a truck crash.  The collision occurred on Interstate 95.  The crash was at approximately 10:00 a.m.

Ms. Anna Beatriz Cruz-Bonilla was the driver that was killed.  She died at the hospital.  The crash occurred near the bridge over the Occoquan River.  This is in Fairfax County.  The tractor trailer involved was traveling south on Interstate 95.  It went out of control near mile marker 161.  

The truck ran off the left side of the highway.  The truck had come upon stopped traffic and was unable to stop, apparently because of speed.  As a result, the truck struck the guardrail and continued down the shoulder.  It struck one car and then struck the Cruz-Bonilla vehicle.  

It then crossed the express lanes and hit a jersey wall before coming to rest near the shoulder of the bridge.  

No one in the first car was injured.  

There was a passenger in the vehicle driven by Ms. Cruz-Bonilla who was also seriously injured.  

Bing Kun Tse, 59 of the Bronx, NY was the truck driver.  He was charged with reckless driving.  

Truck accident lawsuits are hard fought and complex. Our roadways are loaded with large trucks. They are called 18-wheelers. These are mammoth vehicles. They occupy their entire lane. They are driven by experienced drivers. However these drivers make mistakes.

Truck Crashes-Causes

There are about 500,000 tractor trailer crashes in the U.S. each year.  Driver error is the most common cause of crashes. However other factors may be weather, road conditions or vehicle performance.

There are an estimated 2 million tractor trailers on the road nationwide.  The primary causes of tractor trailer crashes and how to address those causes are discusssed below:

Substances

  • The use of drugs. They account for nearly 26% of crashes. Get all U. S. Department of Transportation mandated or allowed testing of the driver involved in the truck accident. This includes testing of alcohol and/or drug usage. Many companies use third-party administrators. Get all of the records from that third-party administrator. This includes how drivers were notified of impending tests. If the driver was given adequate forewarning that would allow time to change behavior. Likewise, the criteria used for labeling a test as negative or positive must be closely looked at. Certainly some medical review officers view the presence of prescription drugs in the results as not requiring a report. The trucking company has a right to know of all drugs, legal or illegal, that the driver is taking. All of this must be disclosed. In addition the company’s response to such info is needed. Therefore any evidence of any drug usage means you must get the entire prescription history of that driver.
  • Use of over-the-counter drugs. They contribute to 18% of crashes. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Speed or Movements

  • Speeding or traveling too fast. They account for nearly 23%.
  • Failing to use a turn signal or making some other illegal maneuver. This accounts for about 9% of crashes.
  • Aggressive driving. This accounts for nearly 7% of crashes.
  • Poor evasive action. This accounts for nearly 7% of the crashes.

Lack of Attention

  • Being lost or driving in unfamiliar areas. They account for nearly 22% of crashes.
  • Failure to check blind spots and observe all sides of the truck before making a turn. They account for 14% of crashes. Certainly these trucks have large blind spots.  As a result drivers must avoid these blind spots. They are at the rear of the truck and the side of the truck.  Likewise the connecting point between the truck and its trailer is a blind spot.  In other words if you can’t see the driver in the driver’s mirrors then the driver can’t see you. You should get out of that spot.
  • Fatigue accounts for 13% of crashes. Sleep apnea must be considered. This results from the muscles in the back of the throat relaxing. As a result this blocks normal breathing. It results in the person waking up at night. This waking up may occur many times causing inadequate sleep. Some common characteristics of people with apnea are a deviated septum, allergies, sinus problems, a larger than average neck or obesity. Men over 40 are most likely to have this. As a result you should delve into this issue if fatigue is a factor. Do a thorough investigation of the driver’s medical history. In addition most drivers are paid by the mile. The more time they spend behind the wheel the more money they make. Any downtime for refueling, loading and unloading is not counted within the driver’s paycheck. You need to know about this. Drivers push on when they need sleep. Therefore if it is suspected that a truck driver is asleep at the wheel there are several things to look at:

Exams

  • Any pre-employment or employment medical exams called for under the U.S. regs. They report any medication that the driver is on.

Truck Crashes-Load

  • If the trailer is refrigerated then the loading time is much more than if the trailer is a “dry van”. This waiting time is not productive time for the driver. The maximum time that a driver can be on duty in an eight day period is 70 hours. As a result if he is spending 40 of those hours loading and unloading, then that only leaves him 30 hours of time on the road. In other words there may be incentive on the driver’s part to misreport the amount of loading time. Therefore logs and “in” and “out” times at dock facilities are needed.

Truck Crashes-Driving Time

  • Credit card receipts at gas stations show date and time and place of purchase. However many fueling facilities have agreements with trucking companies not to show date and time. This info should be available from the credit card company.
  • Some transponder companies do not record date and time of passing tolls. Therefore get this info from the entity that monitors the toll booths.
  • Trucking company manuals are sources of info. They record maximum speeds in various states. This informs drivers as to what time frames they need to record on their daily log. Also the manuals tell the drivers precisely what documents the company will be looking at to determine driving time. In other words this is a message to the driver to make sure that the paperwork is all consistent.
  • Some trucking companies only keep driver’s logs for six months. However under the Fair Labor Standards Act they must keep them for a minimum of two years.
  • Driver inattention. This accounts for nearly 8% of the crashes. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Load or Maintenance

  • Shifting or falling cargo.
  • Faulty inspection and/or improper maintenance. How trucks are maintained needs to be looked at. In a case in Texas a shaft broke off underneath the truck. It flew into an oncoming lane. The 20-pound metal shaft crashed through the window of a car. It killed the driver.The joint holding the shaft in place had melted. There was a lack of oil. This allowed the shaft to rip out of its placement. The lawsuit claimed that the U-joint had not been oiled for at least four to six months before the crash. However the U-joint manufacturer recommended oiling every 5,000 miles.In addition the Plaintiffs asserted that the president of the trucking company knew that the fleet manager lacked the necessary skills to deal with these issues. However he remained in that position. During the discovery it was learned that a mechanic at the truck company knew of other U-joints in the trucks that had failed because of lack of oiling.

Truck Crashes-Investigation

In investigating these crashes, aside from focusing on the causes above, consider the following:

Motor Carrier Issues

  • Confirm the trucking company is a motor carrier engaged in interstate commerce.
  • Go online to www.ai.volpe.dot.gov which is a website maintained by the U.S. that provides helpful info.
  • Study the Federal Motor Carrier Safety (FMCS) Regulations. Also the International Fuel Tax Agreement.  The FMCS Regs require that drivers record duty status for a 24 hour period.  Furthermore compare these types of logs with fuel receipts, bills of lading, delivery manifests, GPS tracking info and accounting records. This will tell you where the driver was at any time. They will show for how many hours he has been on the road.  Most motor carriers have a license issued pursuant to the International Fuel Tax Agreement.  This statute requires quarterly reports. In addition they show fuel receipts.  Likewise this will show you the extent of driving during any particular period.
  • The FMCS Regs have adopted a model CDL manual.  Gather books used by truck driver schools or defensive driving schools as useful sources of info.

Truck Crashes-Insurance

  • Get copies of all of the policies of insurance. They apply to the tractor, the trailer, the trucking company, their independent contractors, the shipper and the company loading the truck. In addition U.S. law requires the issuance of a MCS-90 Form. It provides unconditional coverage to the public.  This is attached to the primary policy. Therefore the insurer must pay any final judgment. This is whether or not each motor vehicle is described in the policy. The purpose is to provide coverage where the underlying policy does not. In addition it voids lack of notice or cooperation as a defense.   However it only applies to interstate motor carriers.  The minimum coverage is $750,000.  If the tractor and trailer are separately owned then separate policies apply.
  • The company loading the truck may be an insured under the MCS-90 even though not named on the policy.
  • Check the FMCSA’s Analysis and Information website for insurance info.
  • Ask for admissions that the truck company is a motor carrier and that it engages in interstate commerce.
  • Run a Dunn and Bradstreet report

Truck Crashes-Electronic Data

  • The black box logs offer a wealth of info. This data must be downloaded.
  • There is other electronically stored info. For instance computer generated bills of lading or fuel receipts. Also other types of electronic communication between driver and dispatcher.
  • Identify anything within the cab that is a source of info. This includes cell phones, texting devices or videos. Also freight tracking equipment and any satellite based navigation or communication system. All of those need to be identified. Finally the data must be extracted.
  • When a truck accident occurs the insurance carrier and its lawyers are promptly on the case. However the plaintiff takes time to retain counsel. That lapse is critical. In addition many important records dealing with the truck accident only need to be retained for six months. Therefore get a letter out to the trucking company requesting that they preserve all records and data relating to this crash. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Truck Crashes-Intrastate

  • If the truck only operates intrastate, each state has adopted most of the of the U.S. regs.
  • Most of these vehicles weigh over 10,000 lbs. They are commercial motor vehicles if being used for that purpose.  However a landscape pickup truck pulling trailers could qualify.  Although these drivers may not be required to have a CDL, most of the other trucking safety rules apply.

Driver Status

  • The driver in many cases is an independent contractor. That does not mean he is not an employee.  Independent contractor is included within the definition of employee if the truck is a commercial motor vehicle.  Likewise owners or operators may be employees. See another page on this site for a look at independent contractor status.

Systemic Issues

  • Look for systemic failures within the company.

The Scene and the Truck

  • Visit the scene with a trucking expert and/or reconstruction expert. You may need an investigator. She can locate any witnesses not identified on the police report.

Truck Crashes-Investigation Made Easier

Truck accident investigation is easier with the advent of the Compliance Safety Accountability Program by the FMCS Administration. The data from CSA must be requested through FOIA. This is designed to identify potentially high risk trucking companies. Also the system uses a number of different factors to provide a rating. Those are:

  • safety of the driver
  • driver fatigue
  • driver fitness
  • use of drugs or alcohol
  • vehicle maintenance
  • cargo problems
  • number of reported crashes

However make sure the data you have relates to the company you are dealing with. When a company changes hands it receives a new Department of Transportation number.

In addition, the U.S. has implemented a pre-employment screening program. This is open to carriers relating to potential hires. If the defendant uses that system, if applicable, it will help.

Finally, certain carriers that have been non-compliant with log requirements must have an electronic on-board recorder. These recorders are less susceptible to manipulation. Furthermore in reviewing any data from these recorders be aware of any audits of this equipment. These are conducted so as to identify any changes to the log.

Call, or contact us for a free consult. Also for more information on truck accidents see the pages on Wikipedia. Also see the other pages on this site.

Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Contact Us For A Free Consultation