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Truck Accident Investigations

After a serious truck accident resulting in injuries, a complete and extensive investigation should be conducted as quickly as possible. Time is not on the side of an individual injured by a big rig tractor trailer. It is crucial to determine what caused the crash with numerous potential factors coming into play.

An experienced truck accident lawyer must promptly investigate the following issues:

  • Did the truck driver take drugs such as amphetamines?
  • Was alcohol involved?
  • What information does the truck’s black box also known as the electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) contain? It should include data regarding braking, speed changes, the truck’s speed when the brakes were applied, changes in RPMs, gear shifts, and other vital diagnostic information that can help a qualified accident reconstruction safety expert.
  • What information does the truck’s GPS device show? It should provide the truck’s precise location and speed just prior to impact.

A trucking company defendant may be found negligent in a lawsuit by using its own documents and files against it. For example, a trucking company may be negligent if it:

  • hires less than fully qualified truck drivers to its payroll
  • ignores past truck driver employee mistakes such as unsafe driving
  • turns a blind eye to truck driver use of alcohol or drugs
  • cuts corners by hiring drivers with little experience and insufficient training

An Investigation After a Truck Accident Should Include

Step 1: Obtain the truck driver qualification file (DQF) from the trucking company.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) requires that every trucking company keep a driver qualification file for all of their truck drivers. The information in this file can be very helpful in identifying factors that caused the crash especially if driver inattention, fatigue, or error played a role in causing the truck accident. A complete driver qualification file (DQF) should include:

  • The truck driver’s employment history
  • Road tests administered to the truck driver along with results
  • Alcohol and drug tests given to the driver along with results
  • Driving records including prior truck accidents that particular driver was involved in
  • Truck driver training programs completed and training certificates received
  • Records of service hours driving on the road
  • Maintenance records for vehicles driven
  • Copies of driving licenses
  • Documents showing results of annual reviews for the truck driver
  • Records of medical certifications
  • Employment application filled out by the truck driver when first applying for this job
  • Personnel records and or an employment file maintained for this truck driver employee of the trucking company

Step 2: Make certain that the truck driver involved in the accident meets the minimum legal standard for driving a truck under federal law

A qualified truck driver must:

  • Have an active valid commercial driver’s license
  • Be in good health and pass the company physical
  • Have a valid medical certificate
  • Have training in and be capable of loading and securing cargo prior to driving his truck
  • Be twenty one years old or older
  • Read and speak the English language

Trucking companies may refuse to send a DQF file knowing that it contains potentially damaging information that may be used against them. For this reason, it is vital to retain a truck accident attorney quickly so that a prompt written demand for the DQF file and other important discovery is sent. If the trucking company fails to respond or refuses to provide the needed evidence, a truck accident lawyer can file a lawsuit along with a motion or order to show cause to turn over the pre-action discovery. Alternatively, an experienced truck accident lawyer can serve a subpoena to obtain this discovery forcing the trucking company to turn over their records without delay.