1) How do commercial semi-truck crashes differ from non- commercial traffic collisions?

Commercial trucks have the potential of causing much more damage than most personal use vehicles. As a result, commercial trucks are highly regulated. Commercial trucks impacting interstate commerce must comply with detailed federal trucking laws and regulations.

Commercial trucks have higher insurance requirements than cars. Under federal law trucks including semis and LCVs must carry at least $750,000 of liability insurance coverage per accident. Smaller commercial trucks with non-hazardous loads need $300,000 in insurance for general goods. Trucks hauling HAZMAT materials must have at least $1M coverage of bodily injury and damage to property liability coverage. By contrast, Oregon law currently only requires $25k per person / $50k of liability insurance for per accidents for cars and light duty trucks.

Commercial truckers have more laws to comply with than lay drivers. For example, federal trucking rules and regulations set the correct method for loading, maintaining, operating commercial tractor-trailers. Federal trucking regulations also limit commercial truckers’ hours of service. A trucker or truck company violation of a safety rule establishes negligence as a matter of law (“negligence per se”).
Potential for catastrophic claims has led the trucking industry toward aggressive practices designed to limit their financial exposure. For example, it’s not unusual for trucking companies, their insurers and even attorneys to arrive at an accident scene, confiscate crucial evidence and sequester their truck drivers.

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2) I was hit by a commercial truck. Why is prompt investigation crucial?

In personal injury cases, the injured person has the burden of proof. Trucks can cause enormous damage. So, after a truck crash, trucking companies and their insurers race to the scene to develop facts unfavorable to you. You want your investigators at the scene as soon as possible to document evidence favorable to your case. Recreating an accident scene after evidence is gone is difficult and expensive. Examples of important evidence at the scene includes:

• Crash debris;
• Oil, fluid, or gas stains;
• Skid marks; and,
• Vehicle damages
• Eyewitness statements
• Nearby active video cameras

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3) What is a DQF and why is it important to my truck accident injury claim?

A “DQF” is shorthand for driver’s qualification file. Federal motor vehicle regulation 391.51 requires trucking companies to keep a DGF on each driver. The DQF file must include:

• Driving record;
• List of accidents a driver and truck;
• Road test results;
• Drug and alcohol test results;
• Driver’s employment record;
• HOS (Hours of Service) records;
• Training certificates;
• Vehicle maintenance records;
• Copies of licenses;
• Annual reviews;
• All medical certifications;
• Employment applications & Employee file;

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4) What are some red flags to look for in the DQF?

• No valid commercial driver’s license
• Flunked any driving test
• Under 21 years old
• Unable to read and speak English
• Unable to safely operate truck
• Difficulty loading and securing load
• Poor health or expired medical certificate
• Alcohol or drug involvement
• Driving in excess of HOS (hour of service) rules

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5) What is a spoliation or preservation letter and why is it important in crashes involving trucks?

Commercial trucks generate large volumes of information, some of which may be unfavorable to a trucking company. Trucking companies that race to the scene migh uncover evidence unfavorable to their own case. Should the trucking company destroy such evidence, it could save many thousands of dollars. Trucking companies may be tempted to destroy such evidence. To dissuade them from doing so, an attorney experienced with trucking claims will know to immediately send the trucking company a spoliation letter alerting it not to destroy such evidence. Then, if it turns out the trucking company did destroy evidence, your lawyer can ask the court for an order preventing the trucking company from presenting its own evidence.

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6) What evidence should be preserved?

• Truck’s black box data (for braking, RPMs, gear shifting info);
• GPS date for (location and speed)
• The DQF (driver’s qualification file)
• Photos, videos
• Police reports
• Ambulance reports
• The companies own records
• Federal and state agency files;
• Truck weigh station records

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7) Who is possibly responsible for a truck caused crash?

• Truck owner
• Trailer owner;
• Loader of truck’s cargo;
• Lessor of truck; and
• Truck manufacturer

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