Being involved in an accident can be scary and upsetting. A crash involving a commercial motor vehicle, though, is especially confusing and stressful. Commercial vehicles are governed by many state and federal laws. They are all complex and also ever-changing. Although you may be entitled to financial compensation after a commercial motor vehicle accident claim, you may find it harder to obtain than if you had been involved with a smaller passenger vehicle. If you have suffered serious injuries, our Baton Rouge trucking accident lawyer can assist with your claim. Below are the most important things to know before you file.
How Much Insurance is Commercial Motor Vehicles Required to Carry?
Like all other vehicles on the road, commercial vehicles must be covered by a certain amount of auto insurance. The insurance requirements for motor vehicles, however, are far more complicated than those for passenger vehicles. The minimum amounts that must cover commercial vehicles are as follows:
- $300,000 for non-hazardous freight when the vehicle weighs below 10,0001 pounds
- $750,000 – $5,000,000 for freight, depending on what is being transported
- $750,000 for non-hazardous cargo
- $1,000,000 for oil and other specific hazardous cargo
- $5,000,000 depending on the type and volume of hazardous chemicals and applying to cargo weighing 3500 gallons or more
- $1,500,000 for vehicles that transport 15 passengers or less
- $5,000,000 for vehicles that transport 16 passengers or more
What Driver Qualification Records are Required?
It is critical for drivers of commercial vehicles to be properly qualified to operate their vehicles safely. The qualification records of any driver must be kept throughout the term of the driver’s employment and for three years after employment has terminated. Some of the most important qualification records to be kept include:
- The driver’s application for employment
- Any previous employee inquiries
- Any inquiries to state agencies
- Results of any road tests
- A medical examiner’s certificate
- National registry verification
- Annual review of qualification
How Long Should Driver Drug and Alcohol Testing Records Be Stored?
As with qualification records, any documents pertaining to a commercial driver’s drug and alcohol testing also must be stored for a certain period of time. The length of time these records must be kept depends on the type of record that is collected. Any drug and alcohol testing results that are negative or canceled must only be kept for one year. Records pertaining to the drug and alcohol collection process must be stored for two years.
Certain drug and alcohol records must be retained for five years. These are as follows:
- Alcohol test results that show a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.02% or more,
- Any verified test results that are positive for controlled substances,
- Any document relevant to a refusal to take an alcohol or drug test
- Driver referrals and evaluations
- Calibration documents
- Administration records about alcohol and drug testing, including any violations
- Annual summaries
Records of education and training records for certain testing personnel must be stored indefinitely.
How to Obtain Information After a Commercial Vehicle Accident
There is a significant amount of paperwork after a commercial vehicle accident, and injured victims do not always know how to obtain the necessary records. For example, if you do not think the commercial vehicle driver who hit you had the proper training, you may not know how to obtain their employment records.
Generally speaking, most documents can be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Your request must be in writing, and you can send it by mail, fax, or email. You must include your name, address, and telephone number within your request so the agency can contact you if they have questions about your request. Within your request, you should specify that you are asking under the Freedom of Information Act.
Your request should include the specific documents you are trying to obtain and the reason for the request. If you are asking for documents about a specific motor carrier, include the name of the motor carrier as well as their principal place of business or, if available, the Department of Transportation number. If you request information about yourself, you must complete a Privacy Waiver form and submit it, as per the Privacy Act.
What is Considered an Accident By the FMCSA?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) is a federal agency that governs commercial vehicles and the trucking industry. The agency defines an accident as any collision that results in:
- A fatality,
- Bodily injury to any person that requires medical treatment soon after the crash,
- One or more of the vehicles involved sustaining disabling damage caused by the crash, and that requires the vehicle to be towed away from the scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle
Any collision that involves one of the above factors is considered a recordable accident. When an accident qualifies as recordable by the Department of Transportation (DOT), certain information must be included on the motor carrier’s accident register. Although these registers are simply internal documents created by the motor carrier, there is specific information they must contain. Under Section 390.15 of the FMCSRs, this includes:
- The date of the accident,
- The city, town, or closest location where the collision occurred,
- The state in which the accident happened,
- The name of the commercial vehicle driver,
- The number of injuries caused by the collision,
- The number of fatalities resulting from the crash, and
- Whether a motor vehicle was carrying hazardous materials other than fuel spilled from the vehicle’s fuel tank, and whether any of the hazardous material was released.
Under the law, motor carriers must retain the information on their accident register for at least three years.
Our Trucking Accident Lawyers in Baton Rouge Can Provide Sound Legal Advice
Commercial vehicle accidents are traumatic, and the aftermath is extremely complex. At Big River Trial Attorneys, our Baton Rouge trucking accident lawyers can advise you of the legal avenues available to you to obtain compensation and will help you obtain the full and fair damages that are justly yours. Call us now at (225) 963-9638 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.