Thursday, June 25, 2015

Regulations for Trucks Transporting Hazardous Materials

A recent article in the Orlando Sentinel reported on a serious accident in Orange County Florida, where a truck carrying fuel was involved in a crash spilling its hazardous contents onto the roadway. The county HazMat team responded, along with the Highway Patrol and EMS, to attend to the injured parties and clean up the spill. This scene is far too common in the news in Florida and other heavily populated states. Thousands of trucks operate on Florida roads and highways annually, transporting different classes of hazardous materials. If an accident occurs on the roadway, while loading or unloading or parked, the results can be horrific. That is why truckers carrying hazardous materials are subject to much stricter regulations than other carriers. Are these regulations always followed? Unfortunately the answer is no. Hazardous materials are classified as explosives, flammable gases, flammable liquids, flammable solids as well as caustic and toxic materials. Many of these are carried in violation of regulations by unscrupulous companies, trying to avoid the high cost of compliance.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) adheres additional duties and requirements to those transporting hazardous or dangerous materials, as do others governing commercial transportation. Certain duties and responsibilities are in place when a trucker is transporting hazardous materials under these regulations. These regulations exceed the already strict requirements that apply to common transport.

For example, states have the right to designate specific roads as off limits for the transportation of hazardous materials. The state must, under the FMCSRs (§ 397.69) make “a finding supported by record,” that public safety will be enhanced. (§ 397.71)  The truck drivers, transporting hazardous materials, will be required to use alternate routes, if the finding is supported. Native American tribes also have the right to apply these restrictions.

Other restrictions that apply to truckers transporting HazMats include:

- Parking the truck within five feet of a traveled portion of a public street or highway.
- Parking on private property without the property owners knowledge of the contents, knowledge of the intent to park in the location and has not given consent to park there.

Ordinarily a trucker can park within five feet of a public street or highway for “brief periods when the necessities of operation” so require. A trucker may freely park on private property also if no hazardous materials are on board.

Semi-trucks carrying certain classes of hazardous materials are required to be monitored at all times under the FMSCA regulations, (§ 397.5 (d) (1)) with limited exceptions. The person in charge of the vehicle must be on the vehicle, awake, and not in the sleeper birth, or within 100 feet of the vehicle with an unobstructed view. This is contrary to the regulations that require a driver to take breaks to sleep after a certain number of hours behind the wheel. The limited exceptions apply in this case. 

The trucker may rest if a qualified representative attends the truck. This is a person that is qualified by:

- Being designated as the attendee.
- Having knowledge of the hazardous contents of the truck.
- Being instructed in emergency procedures.
- Having authorization to move the truck and the means and ability to do so.

Often, in cases of long distance transport of hazardous materials, the designated attendee is another qualified driver that travels as an alternate. If the truck is parked on the property of the trucking company’s property, or that of the shipper or consignee, it is, in those cases, considered attended.

Aside from the regulations mentioned above there are many others that apply to the transportation of hazardous materials. Truckers and trucking companies must learn the Safety Regulations and adhere strictly to them. Not only do they risk paying extremely high fines, if caught in non-compliance, they could be held responsible in the case of a mishap involving property damage, injury or death and pay additional civil damages that can be substantial. 

Dolman Law is an experienced truck accident law firm that has successfully litigated cases against trucking companies and shippers involving injuries and damage regarding the transport of hazardous materials. If you or anyone you know has suffered, due to a truck transporting hazardous materials, speak to one of our truck accident attorneys today. You may be entitled to a cash award. There is no obligation or cost to you.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765


Monday, June 22, 2015

Overloaded Truck Accident Injury Attorney

Large trucks always pose a danger to other vehicles on the road, but overload one, or load it improperly, and the risk increases tremendously. An overloaded big rig, or 18 wheeler, places undue strain on its equipment such as brakes, frame, suspension and tires. An overweight truck requires a longer stopping distance, especially while traveling downhill, and will jackknife easily on wet road surfaces. Overloaded trailers can roll over or actually buckle and split open, dumping the contents onto a busy highway. The driver of an overloaded truck may not be aware of the overweight load he is pulling and not apply the brakes soon enough. The attempt to stop the overweight vehicle in time may cause loss of control and rollover.  

The Danger of Exceeding Truck Weight Limitations
The amount of weight a truck is allowed to carry is determined by the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) which is calculated by the limitations of the brakes, powertrain, frame and suspension.  A large percentage of semi-trucks on the road are a combination of a tractor and a trailer which have never been previously hooked together, so the GVWR cannot be accurately determined. The driver is often an owner/operator who simply signs papers, hooks up and goes. There are weigh stations along most major truck routes to check the vehicles gross weight. These stations are often closed. If they are opened and a truck is determined to be overweight, the driver is issued a ticket and sent on his way; still overloaded. The trailer may even be dropped at a transfer yard and taken by a local driver within the state. The new driver may have a truck that is even less equipped for pulling the load. Overweight big rigs are traveling with the potential for a serious accident due to loss of control from the following:

- Increased braking distance, especially traveling downhill.
- Increased downhill speed. This is often a technique used to gain uphill speed on an approaching incline.
- Slow uphill speed. The overloaded truck may suddenly stall and even slide back.
- Loss of steering control, especially on wet road surfaces.
- Center of gravity elevation, leading to rollover.

When an overloaded truck loses control and crashes with other vehicles, the results are often catastrophic. Serious injuries and fatalities are common. Determining fault in these types of truck accidents can be difficult. The trucking company, the one who accepted the consigned load, will not admit to the truck being overloaded. They will point the finger at the consignee who loaded the trailer or the independent owner operator who accepted the overweight load. The trucking company will have a corporate law firm defending them who has vast experience in trucking accidents and will fight vehemently for their client. The truck driver will also challenge any case holding him responsible as his livelihood may be at stake. For the average person who suffered injuries caused by an overloaded truck accident, the barriers will appear insurmountable and low settlement offers will look tempting.

The Legal Help You Need to FightIf you are one of those unfortunate victims of an overloaded trucking accident, you need to hire a trucking accident attorney that has what it takes to fight to get you the compensation that you deserve. The experienced trucking accident lawyer will have the investigative resources to find out who was responsible and who had knowledge. Even if it means going through stacks of police reports, weigh station summonses and bills of lading. The untiring diligence of the attorney and staff will find the evidence.

Dolman Law Group has tenaciously represented victims of trucking accidents caused by negligence. They have successfully stood up to corporate law firms representing the largest trucking companies, winning significant settlements for their clients. If you were a victim of a trucking accident and suffered injuries call Dolman Law Group and speak with a truck accident attorney today. It will cost you nothing until the battle is won in your favor.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

Monday, June 15, 2015

What is a Compulsory Medical Examination?

Often times when cases go into litigation the defense will require my client to undergo an examination by a physician of their choice. This is referred to as a “Compulsory Medical Examination” (CME). Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.360 outlines the procedure by which the defense is to follow when scheduling a CME and the guidelines by which the examination is to take place. The operative word is that this type of examination is “compulsory” meaning the plaintiff is required by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure to attend. Most importantly, a CME is not performed by an independent medical examiner appointed by the court. Rather, a CME is conducted by a doctor hired and paid for by the insurance company to defend against your claim. Accordingly, a CME doctor is not a doctor who is retained to treat you for your injuries or provide you with medical care and guidance. The CME doctor’s sole purpose is to conduct an evaluation of your injuries for the insurance company that will invariably be favorable to the defendant.

Tips for Attending a Compulsory Medical Examination

Be Polite
Because this type of examination is mandatory and scheduled by the defendant, it is natural to feel apprehension prior to the appointment. It is important to be on time and to be polite. Regardless of the doctor’s demeanor towards you, remember to maintain courteousness throughout the evaluation.

Be Thorough and Truthful when Discussing your Injuries
Being truthful about the extent of your injuries and any past medical history you may have is critical. Withholding information about preexisting conditions or injuries you may have sustained in the past will only serve to hurt your case. Rather, be candid and honest in your responses. Always be thorough in your explanations of your injuries. This means describe to the CME doctor every specific complaint you are alleging is a result of the collision or incident at issue. If extensive time has passed between the incident and your CME appointment, review your prior medical records to refresh your memory regarding prior complaints you may have had directly following the accident that may have since resolved.

Do Not Speak about the Incident Itself
A defense doctor conducting a CME is allowed to inquire into extent of your injuries, but is to refrain from asking questions surrounding the incident itself—whether it be a car accident, slip and fall, etc. You are allowed to say that you were involved in a collision but the defense doctor is not a decision maker regarding liability so inquiry should be limited.

Address any Questions or Concerns with your Attorney
Attending a compulsory medical examination can be an unnerving event. Asking your attorney what to expect can alleviate apprehension you may have prior to the appointment. Our office always requires that a compulsory medical examination of any of our clients be conducted in the presence of a videographer that we hire to ensure the examination does not exceed the scope permissible under Florida law.

Call Dolman Law Group

Insurance companies are making it more and more difficult to obtain fair compensation for the harms and losses you’ve suffered as the result of someone else’s negligence. Filing a lawsuit against the wrongdoer and pursuing the path of litigation is often the only means available to level the playing field. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group are well versed in this area and can help navigate you through this process. For more information call 727-451-6900.