In 1935 Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act, in large part due to the hazards presented by large commercial trucks operating on our highways. The Motor Carrier Act created the Bureau of Motor Carriers of the Interstate Commerce Commission. This commission created the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR); these rules and regulations must be followed by truck drivers and trucking companies..
As part of these rules and regulations, drivers and carriers must keep extensive records of hours driven, repair records, and vehicle inspection reports. However, they are not required to keep these records as long as the statutes of limitations governing personal injury claims in most jurisdictions. As a result, valuable records may be destroyed before an injured victim brings a lawsuit. Therefore, it is critical that we begin the process of discovery as soon as possible.
Discovery is the pre-trial stage in a lawsuit in which both sides can obtain needed evidence.
In the case of a truck accident, discovery often starts with a letter to the trucking company and its insurance carriers advising them of an injury claim, and describing the documents, inspections, and other discovery that will be initiated. This letter often concludes with a notice that their failure to maintain this evidence could result in a separate claim for spoliation of evidence.
Trucking Records and Logs
Many truck collisions occur because of driver fatigue from over-driving or exceeding the maximum hours of service for truck drivers established in the FMCSR. Under the FMCSR, the trucking company is required to keep both driver logs and supporting documentation for the logs for 6 months.Many trucking companies destroy these records after the 6-month “hold” period required by the FMCSR. In addition to the logs and supporting documentation, the FMCSR requires that the company keep routine maintenance, inspection, and repair records for 18 months and driver vehicle inspection reports (which are conducted every 90 days) for a period of 14 months.
For these reasons, it is optimum to file your injury claim within 6 months of a collision, if possible. If the filing is close to the 6-month deadline, the carrier is advised of the claim of the records that will be requested, and that evidence must not be destroyed.
Even if the 6-month period has passed and the carrier has destroyed the logs, as a truck accident lawyer, I will attempt to obtain these records from the driver as some drivers retain their own logs.
Your Options for Recovery
If you’ve been in an accident involving a commercial truck, I would invite you to call me so that I can explain your options for seeking recovery for the injuries and damages you sustained. I can also explain how we will work for you in promoting your case, and how the defendants and their insurance carriers likely will seek to avoid liability.
Please call me as soon as possible after your accident so we can begin the process of gathering evidence to support your claim.