In truck accident cases we are often confronted with aggressive trucking companies seeking to deny their dangerous conduct. Even good personal injury attorneys can miss important information necessary to get full value for their clients. Truck accident verdicts and settlements tend to be larger than car crash cases because big rigs, weighing up to 80,000 pounds can cause horrific damage to others on our highways and roads. An experienced truck accident lawyer will look to the trucking company’s conduct that violated standards or rules which caused our clients harms and losses. These rules, while well known in the trucking industry are too often unknown or overlooked by the public and many competent personal injury lawyers.
This blog is in part a guide to personal injury lawyers on some obvious, in some not so obvious, places to look for standards and rules to build your case. There are state laws, federal laws, and regulations Established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In a tractor trailer accident or other big rig crash lawyer should keep in mind that the rules are minimum safety standards.
The driver of the big rig must get a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Too many injury lawyers forget or overlook, that the CDL manual provides many rules involving driving, maintaining safe space around the big rig, in other safety rules. The CDL manual in New York State, like most states is based upon a national model commercial driver’s license manual. The rules in the CDL manual are often violated when there is a truck crash. Showing the jury that the accident was caused by the company or truck driver violating rules in the CDL manual makes it easier for reluctant jurors to find for the injured person and try to come to a fair verdict in the lawsuit.
Many trucking companies and CDL schools use the Smith System to teach individuals to pass the CDL test. Many trucking companies incorporate the Smith system in their safety and training materials. The Smith system goes back to the 1940s when Harold Smith started the driving school when hearing that the number of deaths from crashes was more than the number of Americans killed in the war. Mr. Smith used easy to remember terms for safe driving techniques described is the “Smith5Keys”.
After a few years the Ford Motor Company collaborated with Mr. Smith in a campaign to promote safe driving. Soon after, many other major corporations began using the Smith system to train their drivers. The Smith system safe driving training is based on five (5) keys. They are 1. Aim high in steering (the looking ahead 15 seconds), 2. (Have the big picture. (The driver must check a minimum of one (1) near each five – eight seconds). 3. Always keep your eyes moving. (Look around you at least every two seconds) 4. Always leave yourself and out. (The likelihood of a crash is higher if you are close to other vehicles) and 5. Make sure others see you.
The Smith system rules are taught for drivers to create space, have visibility and provide time for drivers to react – to reduce the number of crashes, and also to reduce the severity of damages if the crash could not be avoided for some reason.
Besides the general Smith System program, the company has a number of outstanding additional courses. One is the DriverDirect program which may involve on-site classroom teaching and on road certified Smith system trainer. The Smith System DriverTraining courses and certified instructors train the trainers who use the system to identify weaknesses in driving actions and allow personalized training individuals to correct the problems.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) require every trucking company and its employees shall be instructed in comply with the safety rules set forth in the regulations. The safety regulations should be known by the trucking company management and this truck drivers. A truck accident attorney will likely know the regulations, a general personal injury attorney may not. One example frequently seen in Buffalo truck accident cases and Western New York 18 wheeler crashes, in Erie County, Genesee County, Cattaraugus County and Chautauqua County is section 392.14 titled Hazardous conditions; extreme caution.
On our local roads and I-90 near State Thruway the weather can change quickly with lake effect snow or other hazardous road conditions. Section 392.14 requires the operator of a commercial motor vehicle to exercise extreme caution in conditions such as snow, ice, fog, mist which adversely affect either visibility or traction. The operator must reduce speed and if conditions become sufficiently dangerous the operator of the big rig must stop driving until the truck can be safely operated.
We have too many wrecks including crashes on the I 90 where 18 wheelers and big rigs are involved in truck accidents. The stress between Erie, Pennsylvania Fredonia, New York, Buffalo New York and between Buffalo and Rochester, particularly in the areas Pembroke and Batavia, New York. The defense lawyer’s argument that well it was bad weather should be seen the driver’s actions while considering section 392.14. Too often there is much pressure put on the drivers to make their load, that time is money, and to stay on schedule rather than waiting a few hours.
The majority of truck drivers are hard-working responsible professionals. However, there are the few that cheat, fudge their hours of service logs, to drive down the legal limits, and there are trucking companies that compromise safety by pushing their drivers too hard. If you or a loved one was hurt in a Chautauqua County truck accident, Erie County truck accident, or one in Genesee County or on the I 90, call Buffalo truck accident attorney John Feroleto at 716-854-0700 for a or confidential trucking lawyer consultation to discuss what you need to do to protect yourself and your family. John Feroleto has served as the chair of the interstate trucking litigation section of the American Association for Justice. The section includes the top trucking attorneys in the United States. John Feroleto is also recognized by his peers as a SuperLlawyer and the firm Feroletolaw is Recognized by the US News and World Report as a Best Law Firm.
Attorney John Feroleto
Attorney John Feroleto understands the value of hard work. He is known in the community and by his peers for his willingness to work and go the extra mile. Other lawyers often ask John to handle their trial matters to maximize clients’ recovery. Trial lawyers know who the best trial lawyers are. He was also named Trial Attorney of the Year in 2012 by the Western New York Affiliate of New York State Trial Lawyers Association. [ Attorney Bio ]