Gary Bell: Good morning Colorado. Okay, today is another sequel on our series (Part 1 | Part 2) on trucking liability. Big rigs, big trucks, 18 wheelers. Before we get started on that, did you know that any truck outweighing over 10,000 pounds is a commercial vehicle.
Why does that matter?
Because if you’re a commercial vehicle, you have to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules and Regulations. We just call them the Federal Safety Rules of the Safety Rules but there are federal rules and regulations. If you’ve got a pickup truck hauling a trailer and in combination, they weigh over 10,000 pounds, that’s a commercial motor vehicle. The reason that we’re talking about big rigs, any other type of vehicle or combination of vehicles can quality. Many times, did qualify to be a commercial vehicle.
How does that help you, the injured person?
It helps you prove liability and responsibility once you’ve been injured. Let’s face it. Many of these injuries in this type of crashes are horrific, terrible, devastating, catastrophic injuries. Catastrophic events. Just to bring you up to speed. We’ve been talking about in the past few weeks about fatigue, that’s a big issue. Attorneys should look for fatigue. We always do when we have a trucking case. You also need to look for the log books. They’re usually, not always, usually, two sets of log books. One is falsified. If you find the falsified logs, you can compare them against the GPS devices just to see what the true location of the truck was and to prove the logs are false.
How does that help you?
It proves liability and then you get into your damages and your injuries. We’re talking about big rigs today. We’ve also talked about texting and talking on telephones. That’s illegal under the federal rules. Briefly, the state of Colorado has adopted by statute the Federal Motor Carrier Safety and Rules, so they apply. You know, Brad, let’s talk about disqualification of drivers first. There’s a whole provision and provisions on disqualification of drivers. What does that mean? Who cares?
Brad Pollock: It’s very important. There is a different standards to go with driving a big rig or a truck of this commercial vehicle. Some of the standards or some of the requirements that you must have or you become disqualified would not apply to driving a car. At times, when you look and say, well, this person can drive a car. They’re driving a pickup truck, they seem to get around fine. They’re very capable. That’s not good and necessarily apply to being able to drive a truck. For instance, in a truck, you’re disqualified to driving a big rig. Unless you have no impairment of a hand or finger, which interferes with power grasping. Well, a lot of people can drive a car with one hand or where the finger does interfere with power grasping. In a truck, you’re not going to be able to do that. You can’t be driving with a CDL license in one of these big rigs on that situation.
Gary Bell: That’s just one example. That’s just one example. Let’s face it. We say all the time that a truck accident is not just another ordinary accident, if there is such a thing as an ordinary accident. Certainly, not like a car accident. It is a completely different animal. The point we’re trying to make now are there are variety of reasons including medical conditions. Including impairments that can disqualify a driver from driving a big rig. Once they’re disqualified, they’re done. They’re disqualified. They can’t drive.
Brad Pollock: Now, some of these is a medical testing or a medical examination. They’re going to have to pass the medical examination to get back, to be able to drive. Someone’s going to maybe, or probably keep them in disqualified and for life. For instance, they have to have no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of diabetes currently requiring insulin for control. When you got a medical diagnosis of that, you’re going to have to get rid of that medical diagnosis but you still have the medical history. You probably going to have a problem if you’re driving, if you’ve got that kind of situation.
Gary Bell: What you need to understand with your attorneys that do these cases. You need to understand that you need to go after these medical records and medical conditions of the drivers. Normally, in a car accident case, that’s why we said this is a different type animal. Normally, in a car accident case, you don’t get the medical records, you can sometimes of the driver of the at fault driver, of the at fault party. You can’t … In under the federal rules, the driver cannot be driving that big rig or commercial vehicle as we’ve defined it if they’re disqualified.
One of the ways you’re going to be disqualified is a medical condition. One of the ways is diabetes. The drivers are taken off the road all the time because they have diabetes that’s controlled by insulin. If you have diabetes that is controlled by pills or other medical procedures or protocol, that doesn’t mean you automatically qualify. You can just have diabetes. You can be a non-compliant diabetic and have a syncopal or a fainting episodes and you can faint and lose control of the truck.
Brad Pollock: Some of these are very hard to deal with. For instance, clinical diagnosis for high blood pressure. That it’s likely to interfere with the ability to operate a commercial motor vehicle. It disqualifies you from driving. If there’s a certain medical histories of arthritic conditions or orthopedic conditions or muscular conditions. It’ll disqualify you from driving. It means, you’re a disqualified driver and that person who’s driving now and it doesn’t have their proper qualifications should not be driving.
It could hold both the entity that’s hired him, the truck driving company for the commercial entity. The Target, Walmart, whoever he’s driving for and him responsible. The problem Gary that you run into is, and it’s really … I want to say it’s a lack of education at the judge because it’s an attorney’s job to make sure the judge knows. The judges who don’t understand that or don’t know it, and therefore, refuse to give you the medical records or refuse to give you access to medical records to the driver.
Gary Bell: Exactly. Some of them are that way, they don’t understand, they don’t deal in the federal motor rules everyday. You have to have attorneys who understand it. To try that can put this. Matter before the court, trying to get to discovery, try to understand and get the medical condition and the medical records of the driver. Why does it make a difference? I mean, we keep saying and rhetorically, who cares? Well, we care a lot because you go after liability. You got to prove somebody did something wrong. One of the ways you can do that is to prove they shouldn’t even be driving. If you’re a disqualified driver, you shouldn’t even be behind the wheel. They said, “Well, you know, my medical condition didn’t have anything to do with the accident or the way the accident occurred.” Well, not so fast. Because many times, it does have something to do with the way the accident occurred.
Brad Pollock: It can be the small things that you’re saying. Hey, it shouldn’t have anything to do with it but the first thing you have to do before you is the attorney or use the injured person. Sometimes, very significantly injured before you as a person can determine whether it is. Is, you’ve got to know what the condition is and then look at all the symptoms that could arise from that and determine whether or not the driver was having a temporary problem as a result to that condition. You go back to the same thing. The driver shouldn’t have been behind the wheel.
Gary Bell: Right. He shouldn’t even be driving the truck to begin with. That’s a way, not the only way, that’s a way to prove liability, to prove responsibility and we do it everyday.
We’re talking today about big rigs, commercial vehicles. Usually, devastating consequences. You have to have attorneys that understand the rules and go after the federal rules on who violated what. One of the ways we’re concentrating on today is the condition or medical condition of the driver. You know, that also applies to the company Brad. Because once a driver is disqualified, he or she shouldn’t be driving 18 wheeler or the big rig but also, the company is prohibited, should not allow. I think the word, or should not allow the driver to be driving.
Brad Pollock: They cannot allow. They cannot permitted a driver who’s disqualified, is disqualified for all purposes. At that point, the carrier, the company that’s hired or that’s applying the big rig or sometimes, like we said, it could be the commercial company like Walmart.
Gary Bell: Right.
Brad Pollock: They’re not permitted to allow the driver to drive. Period. Now, there’s this extra duty. That’s not just the driver himself. You’re going, okay. Now, that brings up a whole new ray of questions. Because now, by in implication really by statute two when we get deeper into the rigs. We find out that there is responsibility to carry. Or to carry our certain medical examinations to stay on top of the medical file of the driver. To know what’s going on with the driver’s medical history and to get a full and complete disclosure and carry out medical examinations.
Gary Bell: You need to look at the companies, the carrier. You also need to look at the driver. Why do we look at them? We look at them to see if they’re responsible and liable. We look at them to see if they didn’t follow the federal motor rules exactly. All of police officers are well tuned into the federal motor rules, police officers are, sheriffs are. They investigate these accidents, that’s one of the things they look for. Obviously, one of the things they look for are the logs and where are the real logs. If so, but we’ve covered that in previous show.
We’re going to talk about some other medical conditions and they’re going to move on to, what does on duty, off duty mean. That sort of thing.
Gary Bell: Injured and confused? Confused about your injuries? Confused about the insurance company? Confused about which attorney to hire? Let’s talk about attorneys. Let’s get real clear on attorneys. I’m Gary Bell of the law firm of Bell & Pollock. You get to choose your attorney.
How do you choose?
Handles only injury cases, yes.
Someone the insurance company knows, yes.
Respect, of course.
Attorneys who have been very successful representing their clients, yes.
Attorneys who don’t deal on a hodgepodge of everything, only injury cases, mandatory.
Attorneys who know all the tricks of the insurance company? Absolutely.
Remember, at the top of the show, I told you, any vehicle or combination of vehicles that you see 10,000 pounds can be and usually are qualified as commercial motor vehicle. They have to comply with the federal rules. Sometimes, they don’t even know what the federal rules are. Now, we’re going to be talking about alcoholism and that’s one of the conditions. You can have a mental condition that disqualifies you. You can have a physical condition and alcoholism certainly is one of them. Generally, any condition that is likely to impede or impair the driver’s ability to operate the big rig is disqualified.
Brad Pollock: That’s really what they’re looking for, generally speaking. Obviously, they get more detail concerning certain things because they want to do away with … The regulations want to do away with the argument. It’s the old argument that we have in this state quite often now with marijuana is okay. Are five nano-grams really enough to make you impaired? Well, they want to weigh that argument and they’re not saying we’re going to do a presumption. They’re saying, “Look. If you have certain of these conditions, if you’ve been diagnosed with these conditions or if you have medical history, you’re done.”
We’re not going to have a hearing. We’re not going to have an argument. We’re not going to let you out there. Then, if the accident happens or you get pulled over, we’re going to just determine whether or not, based on presumptions. We’re just saying you’re disqualified. That’s a couple of other ones we’re talking about in a clinical diagnosis of alcoholism comes under these categories. It’s not going say, “Well, he’s clinically diagnosed with alcoholism but he’s still, whether he’s using or not or when he use or what, no.” The bottom line is, you’re disqualified. Don’t talk to him any further about the question.
Gary Bell: Exactly. There can be some discovery into this. Your driving record, if you have multiple DUI’s, obviously, you have an alcohol problem. The driver needs to be investigated by the company and the driving history and the history of the driver has to be investigated by the company. Don’t forget. Listen, there’s a position at these big, big trucking companies. It’s called the safety director. The safety directors are very, very important position. The safety director is the person in charge in making sure all the drivers, all the rigs and the company comply with the federal rules. Guess who you’re going to wanted to post if you’re the attorneys.
If your attorneys are not doing this if you’re in a trucking accident, you’re missing home base, you’re missing first base. You’re missing home plate because the safety director has to comply with the rules. What if you take the deposition of the safety director and they don’t even know what the rules are? Or, they only know part of the rules are. Or, they don’t give an adequate enough training. You know Brad, they’ve got to investigate the medical conditions every driver has to go through a physical. The company shouldn’t just stop there because this is the driver that the … The driver may have a condition that needs to be monitored like hypertension, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Brad Pollock: Right. The safety director, the first thing is that the company has to have a safety director. If the carrier doesn’t have a safety director, you better be really concern. Because now, you know there’s really problems because that’s like, there’s nobody overseeing the classroom. You’ve just got people running wild.
Gary Bell: That’s a good example.
Brad Pollock: There has to be a safety director. Period. Then, the safety director has to be somebody who’s on top of the medical conditions, on top of the physical conditions, on top of the social conditions. I know you say, what do you mean social? Social conditions and in and out, I classify something like the fact that they have to be able to read and write English language. A driver who cannot read and write English language is disqualify from driving.
Gary Bell: Disqualified. Done. Can’t drive. As in, can’t drive. As in, should not be behind the wheel. If you can’t read English or if you can’t speak English or both, you have to do both. Then, you’re disqualified. The federal rule say when you’re disqualified, you’re disqualified. You shouldn’t be and can’t be driving.
Brad Pollock: Some other simple things. Just very simple things. You’re looking to say, well, you’ve got to have a safety director. You have to have somebody who’s making sure that the driver can see. That the drivers are not color blind. Can distinguish red, green and yellow, kind of important. These are things that are spelled out and the reason they’re spelled out is because you’ve had people who sometimes ignore them, and sometimes don’t pay attention to them. You’ve got these things about here’s the minimum required eyesight and hearing ability the driver must have when we tested for. These things have to be done or they’re disqualified. It’s not a question saying, “Well, they’re right in the edge but really doesn’t have adversely affect and that’s only presumption. No.” It’s called disqualification. As the attorney, it’s the job of the attorney when an accident is occurred to find out this information.
Gary Bell: You have to do it and you can call us at anytime at 303-795-5900, 795-5900. Or in the mountains, 970-870-8989, that’s 870-8989. We have an office in Steamboat Springs. We have an office in Denver. We do cases all over the state of Colorado. Our website, championsofthepeople.com. We even have a trucking video on our website. Why? Because truckings, accidents are completely different. Completely different than a car crash. Car crash is very important. People’s lives can be drastically changed by car crashes.
We’re just trying to say that trucking crashes, big rig crashes are a completely different animal. You better have attorneys who understand the rules and go after this information. Let’s talk a little bit about when there’s an accident and we were talking about alcoholism, alcohol, driving records, that sort of thing. When there’s an accident, there has to be testing of the driver for alcohol. It has to be within 2-8 hours after the accident.
Brad Pollock: Alcohol and drugs. They’re going to look at both.
Gary Bell: That’s right.
Brad Pollock: When we’re talking about it, normally, there’s going to … If you can’t get it done within the 2 to 8-hour time period, you better have a stain minutes to why it wasn’t given. They better be darn good stain with it. There better be an explanation. Because the bottom line is, is that, that 2 hours is usually pretty to meet. If you’re give up to 8 hours and you haven’t tested, then, there’s pretty much going to be a question mark next to that drivers. To why that driver didn’t go get tested within the 8-hour time period.
Gary Bell: The way this works in the big trucking companies is if you’re a trucker, you’re a driver there, you have an accident, you report the accident. Somebody comes out to the scene or they say, “You got to report to this clinic, at this address right now to be drug tested and to be alcohol tested.” That’s the way it works. You go down to this clinic, at this address and you are drug tested and there’s c