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Recordkeeping, hours of service play role in truck accident claim

Common sense tells us that truck accident injuries are likely to be extremely severe, and many times these crashes involve at least one fatality. The sheer size and weight of an 18-wheeler compared to a passenger vehicle are obvious reasons. Federal trucking regulations are in place to protect motorists, and California focuses effort and funding on highway safety to help lessen the risk for everyone.

Despite laws and targeted safety endeavors, truck wrecks will happen. When they do, and a fatality is involved, it becomes a question of potential liability for a wrongful death. Victims and survivors are entitled to seek compensation for their losses. As part of the claim preparation, an in-depth investigation of the accident facts will take place. To determine liability, a truck driver's actions at the time of the crash, as well as his driving history, will be put under a microscope so to speak. His or her employer will also be scrutinized for its compliance with federal regulations governing maintenance, recordkeeping and other driver-related requirements.

For example, drivers of these types of tractor-trailers are required by law to record their duty status for each 24-hour period. Those records must be made available to enforcement personnel when demanded. Trucking companies must keep the records on file for at least six months. The records can be handwritten logs or electronically recorded. The records must show start time, total on-duty hours, stop time and the previous seven-day total duty time for drivers operating outside a 100 air-mile radius of the start location.

Another sample of relevant fact is the number of hours a driver can work without rest in California. An intrastate carrier may not drive more than 12 hours per work period, nor can he or she drive after the 16 consecutive hours on duty. Ten consecutive hours off duty are required to begin another work period. Driving is limited after 80 hours on duty in any eight-day consecutive period. Thirty-four hours off may restart the cumulative total. There are some exceptions to these regulations for weather issues, breakdowns and the like.

The purpose of careful review of this information is to gain an understanding of the possible causes for the crash. Driver fatigue has often been a contributing factor, and if these or other laws have been broken, a family's case for compensation can be strengthened.

Source: California Highway Patrol, "Commercial Vehicle Section," accessed April. 16, 201

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