North Dakota has a significant amount of trucking companies and truck drivers, moving goods and cargo throughout the state and the country. However, as the number of trucks on our roads rises, so does the risk of truck accidents and injuries.
After a serious truck accident, authorities conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the crash and at-fault parties. Your truck accident attorney can also launch their independent investigation as well as work with authorities when they take your case. Today we want to talk about how these investigations typically work.
The truck accident investigation process
Here’s how things will typically unfold after you’re involved in a truck accident. The process begins with first responders arriving at the scene. Their job is to assess the situation, provide emergency medical assistance, and safely secure the scene for others.
The police will also be called to the scene to fill out a report, investigate, and gather evidence. They’ll usually take photographs, talk to witnesses, and note any evidence that might help determine the cause of the crash. Police will also inspect the vehicles involved in the truck accident to note any obvious defects or issues that may have contributed to the collision.
Then, the police will generally determine who was at fault. In North Dakota, one or more parties may share fault for an accident. For example, perhaps the truck driver ran a red light, but the other vehicle’s driver was speeding. In this case, both drivers could share fault for the crash. Once the authorities determine fault, they may issue a traffic citation to the responsible party, which will outline the violation and penalties involved.
The responsible party or parties may also face a personal injury lawsuit from any injured accident victims. Our Minot injury attorneys can help you with this.
Investigating the truck driver
Because commercial truck drivers are held to a much higher standard than other drivers, after a truck accident, authorities will often investigate the truck driver to ensure they were following all federal and state rules and regulations.
The investigation will include things like a review of the driver’s electronic logging device (ELD) or logbook to ensure they were following hours of service (HOS) regulations. HOS regulations limit the number of hours a trucker can drive without taking a break. If this investigation shows a driver was operating a truck longer than their allowed hours, they can be penalized.
Authorities will also check their commercial driver’s license (CDL) to ensure it’s valid and the driver has no outstanding citations or any marks on their license. They may also check the truck driver’s medical records to ensure they are physically fit to drive a truck.
The truck driver isn’t the only one who may be investigated
It’s worth noting that truck drivers aren’t the only ones whose actions will be investigated; the other driver’s will, too. Those same authorities will check the vehicle driver’s license and registration, as well as their driving record. They will likely review cell phone records to see if the driver was talking or texting at the time of the crash. If there’s video surveillance anywhere, from closed circuit cameras or even video doorbells, the investigating agency may want that, too.
Authorities may also look at “low tech” information – AKA, tire tracks and physical damage to the vehicles and the surrounding area. For example, if the tire tracks show that the other vehicle sustained damage that it could only sustain if it hit the truck, then it may show that the driver was the one engaging in reckless driving behaviors.
Investigating the truck company
In some cases, it may not be the truck driver’s fault at all, or they may not hold 100% of the blame. Trucking companies, too, are held to a very high standard. They must ensure their fleet is in good condition and that their drivers follow all North Dakota and federal regulations. After a Minot truck accident, authorities will also investigate a trucking company to determine whether they were meeting the right requirements.
The investigation will include things like reviewing a company’s maintenance records to ensure the truck was in proper working order, as well as the company’s safety policies to ensure the driver was following company regulations and guidelines. If this investigation reveals any failure to follow regulations or wrongdoing on the part of the trucking company, the company can be found liable for damages and injuries that occurred as a result of the accident.
A note about federal regulations
The trucking industry in North Dakota is also subject to federal regulations, like hours of service, hazardous materials, and drug and alcohol testing programs. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is in charge of these regulations and works to ensure trucks are operating safely on the road.
After an accident, the FMCSA may step in to investigate to determine if the truck driver and the trucking company were following all regulations. This investigation can include a review of:
- The driver’s ELD or logbook
- The truck operator’s driving record
- The company’s maintenance records
- The company’s safety policies and procedures
They may also conduct an inspection of the truck to identify any defects or problems that could have contributed to the accident.
If this investigation reveals the company or driver was not following federal regulations, they can face penalties, fines, or even lose their operating license. The FMCSA may also require them to make changes to their policies and procedures to prevent future accidents from occurring.
As you can see, a lot goes into a truck accident investigation. These types of accidents are complex and can be challenging to try alone. That’s why you need an experienced Minot truck accident attorney if you were injured in a commercial truck crash.
At Larson Law Firm, P.C., we understand truck accidents. We understand how to identify all liable parties to secure the maximum amount of compensation available for your claim. Whether you were hit by a commercial truck, or are a truck driver injured in a crash that wasn’t your fault, we want to help. Get in touch with us today by calling our offices or filling out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We maintain offices in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo.
Mark Larson is a Certified Civil Trial Specialist and Certified Civil Pre-Trial Specialist focusing on personal injury, motor vehicle, wrongful death, and oil field claims. Since 1979, Larson Law Firm has served the injured throughout North Dakota. Read more about Mark V. Larson