Trucking accidents can be some of the worst crashes on the U.S. highway system, often resulting in seriously injured victims and even fatalities in far too many instances. Experienced trucking accident attorneys, like Wayne Cohen, usually inspect the involved vehicles as soon as possible for evidence they can use in the discovery process of an accident claim. This can help establish negligence on the part of the operators, as all attorneys understand that evidence can get lost or erode quickly following an accident. That is why it is so important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The official accident report can also provide some solid evidence that could be very helpful in establishing negligence as well, but probably the most important part of the evidence compilation is the actual deposition by the truck driver. There are some standard questions that are used to identify the age and experience of the truck driver, but there also are three vital questions that can shed a more detailed light on the actual level of negligence exhibited by the truck driver.
- What did you eat and drink in the 48-hour period immediately preceding the accident?
This may seem like a question that will reveal immaterial case information, but the trucker may not realize that the rig has been inspected by the deposing attorney. Many times a truck inspection can result in the collection of food wrappers and beverage cans that indicate what may or may not have been consumed in the time period prior to the accident, but if those beverage containers are for alcoholic products there may be problems for the driver. While it may be too late to secure blood testing results, even the perception that the driver may have been drinking can impact a sympathetic jury that is charged with arriving at a comparative negligence percentage for the driver. And, many times drivers will not stop the rig when they are eating, which means it is possible they either did not eat or did not take a break according to the Department of Transportation work rules.
- When was the truck last inspected for maintenance problems?
Many drivers do not know when a vehicle was last inspected in between cargo runs, but will only be able to answer when they did a personal physical quick inspection of certain truck components. Internal problems with braking or acceleration pedals are usually repaired by the shipping company mechanic if they own the rig, but owner-operators should be well aware of the latest repairs to the vehicle. In addition, any problems that have been cited by authorities can serve as documentation that the company or truck owner have failed to keep the rig up to acceptable running condition. Big rigs are the biggest vehicles on the road and failure to maintain a truck will eventually result in an accident when mechanical problems arise.
- How long had you been driving when the accident occurred?
Truck drivers are usually prepared for this question because they know fatigued driving is a major contributor to many accidents. One of the most common federal regulation violations is actually driving beyond the number of allowable hours in a 24-hour period or failure for a shipping company to keep accurate vehicle location monitor records. The National Transportation Highway Safety Board has stated that fatigued driving is actually as serious of a safety concern as drunk driving, and drivers who violate the operational hours law are often under certain medications that may contribute to the ability to drive beyond this limit. While many drivers will not attest to using amphetamines to stay awake, other prescribed medications could reveal health problems for the driver that may not necessarily be revealed without direct questioning.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their insight into workers compensation practice.