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Chicago Truck Accident 101: Everything You Need to Know

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Why They Happen, Regulations that Apply, and a Guide to Hiring the Right Lawyer to Handle Your Illinois Truck Injury Case


In this guide, we’ve made a comprehensive list of the things that are important for you to know if you are in a trucking accident in Illinois. Whether you are the driver of a commercial vehicle or are the driver of another vehicle, it’s importing to understand how these types of accidents happen. We also cover the Federal regulations that apply to commercial vehicles and give some important tips on how to hire the right lawyer for your truck accident case. These are the topics we cover in this guide:

  1. What are the most common causes of Illinois truck accidents?
  2. How to Document Your Illinois Truck Accident Case
  3. How to Hire the Right Injury Lawyer for Your Illinois Truck Accident
What are the major causes of trucking accidents? Get answers from The Kryder Law Goup, a top Chicago trucking injury Law firm.

What are the major causes of trucking accidents? Get answers from The Kryder Law Group, a top Chicago trucking injury law firm.

For a free legal consultation, call (312) 598-0739

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

If you were injured in an Illinois truck accident or collision involving a commercial vehicle, it was probably caused by one of the factors discussed in this guide.  Here we discuss the most common reasons truck accidents happen in the Chicago area.

Accidents involving semi trucks and commercial vehicles cause some of the worst imaginable injuries in Illinois.  The size, speed and mass of a commercial truck or semi-truck simply crushes smaller passenger vehicles leaving the occupants seriously injured.  Commercial vehicles cause a higher percentage of serious injuries or death than a regular auto accident.  We have compiled some of the most common reasons for semi-truck and commercial vehicle collisions from our experience of over two decades of handling transportation injuries.  In addition, we have provided citations to rules and regulations that apply in each instance.  Some of the most common factors for collisions that we will cover in this guide include: driver fatigue, distracted driving, alcohol and drug use, speeding and overtaking, poor maintenance, poor training and unqualified drivers, lack of experience, improper cargo loading, weather conditions, road conditions, unsafe driving practices, and construction zones, temporarily reconfigured roadways, and unfamiliarity with roads.

It is important to note that oftentimes multiple factors combine to cause a wreck.  For instance, distracted driving may combine with temporally reconfigured roadways to cause a collision.  Or, improper cargo loading may combine with road conditions to cause a roll over accident.

Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue is a common factor in semi-truck collisions.  This makes sense.  We have all experienced driver fatigue at some point in our lives.  Perhaps it is late at night or you have had a hard day at work.  A drowsy feeling can take over and your head nods down for just a few moments.  When a vehicle is traveling between 55 and 70 miles per hour, it can travel hundreds of feet in seconds.  That short period of time is all it takes for a collision to occur.

Now imagine you drive for a living and you drive thousands of miles in any given week.  Professional drivers are on the road for hours on end.  In some instances, driving through the night when they otherwise would be sleeping.  Other times drivers may feel pressure from their employer to make deliveries within a specified period of time and continue driving even though fatigue has already set in.  Additionally, some drivers are paid by the mile giving them an incentive to drive longer distances within a shorter period of time without taking a break.  This can lead to fatigue.

Federal rules limit the number of hours a driver can drive within a day’s time.  The same rules dictate that drivers should take periodic breaks.  However, enforcement of these rules falls largely on the drivers themselves.  If that same driver feels pressure to make a delivery, they may ignore safety rules.

Here are examples of driver fatigue commonly seen on Illinois expressways and roads:

  • Reduced reaction time
  • Reduced awareness or reaction time
  • Reduced ability to judge time, distance and speed
  • Falling asleep at the wheel or momentarily nodding off behind the wheel
  • Weaving on the roadway or erratic driving
  • Medication side effects

Driver fatigue can materialize in several forms.  It does not necessarily always mean falling asleep at the wheel.  When drowsy, a driver’s judgment can be compromised.  A driver may not be able to fully comprehend depth, speed and distance.  A driver may not react to changes in the roadway ahead.  Driver fatigue also reduces alertness and awareness.  All of these factors can cause or contribute to very serious traffic accidents making driver fatigue a common cause of truck accidents in Illinois.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Rules for Commercial Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration updated its rules in 2020.  A Chart summarizing the maximum hours a  property-carrying or passenger-carrying driver can drive is below.

HOURS-OF-SERVICE RULES
PROPERTY-CARRYING DRIVERSPASSENGER-CARRYING DRIVERS
11-Hour Driving Limit May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.10-Hour Driving Limit May drive a maximum of 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
14-Hour Limit May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.15-Hour Limit May not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours, following 8 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period.
Rest Breaks May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes. Does not apply to drivers using either of the short-haul exceptions in 395.1(e). [49 CFR 397.5 mandatory “in attendance” time may be included in break if no other duties performed]60/70-Hour Limit May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
60/70-Hour Limit May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. NOTICE: The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 was enacted on December 16, 2014, suspending enforcement of new requirements for use of the 34-hour restart, pending a study. Based on the findings from the study, the 34-hour restart rule in operational effect on June 30, 2013, is restored to full force and effect. The requirement for two off-duty periods of 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. in section 395.3(c) of the Agency’s hours-of-service rules will not be enforced, nor will the once-per-week limit on use of the restart in 395.3(d).Sleeper Berth Provision Drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth, and may split the sleeper berth time into two periods provided neither is less than 2 hours.
Sleeper Berth Provision Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving remains a problem with all drivers.  However, the consequences seem much higher when a commercial truck driver or semi-truck driver is distracted.  The velocity with which larger trucks collide with smaller vehicles often creates a devastating outcome.

Many seemingly innocent activities can create momentary distractions that result in accidents.  Here are examples of distracted driving that happens on Illinois roads and expressways:

  • Sudden, erratic vehicle movements or drifting within lanes
  • Sudden Breaking
  • Blinding sun light
  • Cutting off other drivers while changing lanes
  • Driving while on the phone
  • Testing and driving
  • Eating and driving

At times, driving can become tedious, and this can lead to inattentiveness.  Because commercial truck drivers are on the road hour after hour, they can be more susceptible to distraction.  Even slight distractions can divert the driver’s attention for just a few seconds.  If a semi-truck is traveling 55-75 miles per hour it can travel hundreds of feet in just a few moments.  Distractions may seem brief or momentary, but seconds matter when a fully loaded commercial vehicle is traveling on a roadway.  It can make the difference between avoiding a collision or causing a collision.

To address distracted driving, as it relates to commercial drivers and semi-trucks, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has provided guidance and rules for drivers.  Drivers are prohibited from texting except in emergency situations.

Federal Motor Carrier Acts that Apply to Distracted Driving

§392.80   Prohibition against texting.

(a) Prohibition. No driver shall engage in texting while driving.

(b) Motor carriers. No motor carrier shall allow or require its drivers to engage in texting while driving.

(c) Definition. For the purpose of this section only, driving means operating a commercial motor vehicle, with the motor running, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays. Driving does not include operating a commercial motor vehicle with or without the motor running when the driver moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway, as defined in 49 CFR 390.5, and halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.

(d) Emergency exception. Texting while driving is permissible by drivers of a commercial motor vehicle when necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.

§392.82   Using a hand-held mobile telephone.

(a)(1) No driver shall use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving a CMV.

(2) No motor carrier shall allow or require its drivers to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving a CMV.

(b) Definitions. For the purpose of this section only, driving means operating a commercial motor vehicle on a highway, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays. Driving does not include operating a commercial motor vehicle when the driver has moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway and has halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.

(c) Emergency exception. Using a hand-held mobile telephone is permissible by drivers of a CMV when necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.

Alcohol and Drugs

Impaired driving causes thousands of accidents each year.  Predictably, drug and alcohol use among commercial drivers is a significant concern.  Intoxication or impairment from alcohol and drugs is a leading cause of truck and commercial vehicle collisions in Illinois.  Additionally, use of prescription medications can contribute to accidents.  Prescription medications often have side effects that can cause grogginess or decreased focus.  Many medications strictly prohibit the operation of commercial vehicles or equipment while using the medication.  Even over the counter medicines can have negative effects.  Cold and flu medications often have warnings that drowsiness can occur.  The side effects can lead to decreased reaction times, impairment, drowsiness and diminished focus.  All these factors can cause or contribute to serious accidents.

Common signs of drug or alcohol use for semi-truck and commercial vehicle operators may include:

  • Impaired Judgement
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Diminished perception of distances, speeds and the roadway
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination and motor skills
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Compromised ability to operate the vehicle due to impairment and intoxication
  • Inability to focus

If drug or alcohol use is confirmed, or even suspected, it is important to investigate whether the trucking company, investigating police agency or employer performed any post-accident drug testing.  This can be accomplished through a simple blood test, breathalyzer or urine test.  Obviously, a positive test for drugs or alcohol in a truck driver’s system is important to determine.  A positive test does not necessarily confirm intoxication or impairment at the time of the collision, but it does raise many questions.  For instance, many states have legalized marijuana.  A drug test could be returned positive for THC (the active ingredient in Marijuana) but that does not confirm intoxication at the time of the accident.  THC typically remains detectable for 30 days or longer.  The presence of THC would raise a negative inference of intoxication or impairment, but further expert analysis would be needed.  A test for alcohol would likely yield more concrete answers.  Alcohol is metabolized by the body at a more consistent rate.  Accurate testing exists that would be able to determine specific levels of alcohol in the system and determine whether a person was intoxicated.  As will be discussed later, the presence of alcohol or drugs is a factor that can require expert analysis.  The critical task is to determine if testing was done and preserve the evidence.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Rules that Apply to Drug and Alcohol Testing

The need for drug and alcohol testing in the transportation industry was addressed in 1991 when Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act.  This legislation tasked the Department of Transportation with establishing drug and alcohol testing for transportation employees who could impair safety. The Act provides specific instructions regarding how testing should occur.  The provisions of the Act also discuss the circumstances under which an employee can return to their duties after violating a drug or alcohol regulation. These rules also spell out who should be tested and when such testing should occur. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is responsible for defining drug and alcohol testing regulations for truck drivers, bus drivers and other drivers who require a commercial driver’s license.

If you suspect drugs or alcohol played a part in your crash, you should have your lawyer consult section 382.303 of the Federal Motor Carrier Act.  This part of the Act describes what should happen after an accident.

§382.303   Post-accident testing.

(a) As soon as practicable following an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle operating on a public road in commerce, each employer shall test for alcohol for each of its surviving drivers:

(1) Who was performing safety-sensitive functions with respect to the vehicle, if the accident involved the loss of human life; or

(2) Who receives a citation within 8 hours of the occurrence under State or local law for a moving traffic violation arising from the accident, if the accident involved:

(i) Bodily injury to any person who, as a result of the injury, immediately receives medical treatment away from the scene of the accident; or

(ii) One or more motor vehicles incurring disabling damage as a result of the accident, requiring the motor vehicle to be transported away from the scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle.

(b) As soon as practicable following an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle operating on a public road in commerce, each employer shall test for controlled substances for each of its surviving drivers:

(1) Who was performing safety-sensitive functions with respect to the vehicle, if the accident involved the loss of human life; or

(2) Who receives a citation within thirty-two hours of the occurrence under State or local law for a moving traffic violation arising from the accident, if the accident involved:

(i) Bodily injury to any person who, as a result of the injury, immediately receives medical treatment away from the scene of the accident; or

(ii) One or more motor vehicles incurring disabling damage as a result of the accident, requiring the motor vehicle to be transported away from the scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle.

(c) The following table notes when a post-accident test is required to be conducted by paragraphs (a)(1), (a)(2), (b)(1), and (b)(2) of this section:

Table for §382.303(a) and (b)
Type of accident involvedCitation issued to the CMV driverTest must be performed by employer
i. Human fatalityYES NOYES YES
ii. Bodily injury with immediate medical treatment away from the sceneYES NOYES NO
iii. Disabling damage to any motor vehicle requiring tow awayYES NOYES NO

(d)(1) Alcohol tests. If a test required by this section is not administered within two hours following the accident, the employer shall prepare and maintain on file a record stating the reasons the test was not promptly administered. If a test required by this section is not administered within eight hours following the accident, the employer shall cease attempts to administer an alcohol test and shall prepare and maintain the same record. Records shall be submitted to the FMCSA upon request.

(2) Controlled substance tests. If a test required by this section is not administered within 32 hours following the accident, the employer shall cease attempts to administer a controlled substances test, and prepare and maintain on file a record stating the reasons the test was not promptly administered. Records shall be submitted to the FMCSA upon request.

(e) A driver who is subject to post-accident testing shall remain readily available for such testing or may be deemed by the employer to have refused to submit to testing. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the delay of necessary medical attention for injured people following an accident or to prohibit a driver from leaving the scene of an accident for the period necessary to obtain assistance in responding to the accident, or to obtain necessary emergency medical care.

(f) An employer shall provide drivers with necessary post-accident information, procedures and instructions, prior to the driver operating a commercial motor vehicle, so that drivers will be able to comply with the requirements of this section.

(g)(1) The results of a breath or blood test for the use of alcohol, conducted by Federal, State, or local officials having independent authority for the test, shall be considered to meet the requirements of this section, provided such tests conform to the applicable Federal, State or local alcohol testing requirements, and that the results of the tests are obtained by the employer.

(2) The results of a urine test for the use of controlled substances, conducted by Federal, State, or local officials having independent authority for the test, shall be considered to meet the requirements of this section, provided such tests conform to the applicable Federal, State or local controlled substances testing requirements, and that the results of the tests are obtained by the employer.

(h) Exception. This section does not apply to:

(1) An occurrence involving only boarding or alighting from a stationary motor vehicle; or

(2) An occurrence involving only the loading or unloading of cargo; or

(3) An occurrence in the course of the operation of a passenger car or a multipurpose passenger vehicle (as defined in §571.3 of this title) by an employer unless the motor vehicle is transporting passengers for hire or hazardous materials of a type and quantity that require the motor vehicle to be marked or placarded in accordance with §177.823 of this title.

Speeding, Passing and Improper Operation

Common knowledge tells us that speeding can contribute to an accident, yet many commercial vehicles are frequently found driving too fast for conditions or exceeding posted speed limits.  Likewise, passing other vehicles creates a hazard associated with many wrecks.  Commercial vehicles are typically bigger and have cargo which makes them heavier.  A speeding commercial vehicle has a longer stopping distance than cars used by the general public.  Thus, a speeding truck does not have the ability to stop as quickly as a car.  In addition, when a commercial vehicle is forced to make a sudden stop from a higher speed it can cause the cargo to shift creating shifting inertia within the trailer or cargo area.

Commercial vehicles are often built to haul freight.  As a consequence, the engines are geared for hauling heavy cargo, not rapid acceleration.  The trucks normally transport a standard 53 foot trailer.  This means the semi-truck and trailer can approach 70 feet in length.  When a commercial vehicle attempts to pass another vehicle it must be prepared to fully pass the entire length of the truck and trailer.  This sets up a situation where a large truck, not designed for rapid acceleration, must change lanes and potentially enter oncoming traffic.  If the driver misjudges the speed of oncoming traffic or the ability to pass, it can create a head on collision.

It is easy to see how the speed of a vehicle, when combined with other factors already discussed can combine to cause an accident.  As an example, a driver who is fatigued may start to speed so he can finish his route.  The driver changes lanes to pass another vehicle.  However, his perception of speed is compromised because of fatigue.  He misjudges the distance of approaching traffic.  At this point several outcomes can occur, none of which are ideal.  A head on collision could occur.  He may have to rapidly slow his truck and abandon his effort to pass.  This could shift his freight.  The driver could end up striking the vehicle he intended to pass.  Even if a collision is avoided, none of these scenarios demonstrate the safe operation of a commercial vehicle.  Each example demonstrates how multiple factors sometimes combine to cause an accident.

Poor Training and Unqualified Drivers

Commercial drivers are required to hold a special license.  However, to safely operate a large commercial vehicle, drivers need proper training and experience.  Some companies offer training to employees before they begin, but others do not.  Every driver should be familiar with the semi-truck or commercial vehicle they are assigned.  Training provides the driver with essential information and practice before entering the roadway.  Here again, it is easy to see how poor training can combine with other factors in this article.  Proper training can prepare new drivers to develop safe driving habits rather than let new drivers develop improper driving.

Federal Guidelines for Driver Qualifications

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Act, employers must maintain a file for each employee.  This file can be revealing.  According to section 391.51 the following must be contained in the file.

Section 391.51 General requirements for driver qualification files.

(a) Each motor carrier shall maintain a driver qualification file for each driver it employs. A driver’s qualification file may be combined with his/her personnel file.

(b) The qualification file for a driver must include:

(1) The driver’s application for employment completed in accordance with § 391.21;

(2) A copy of the motor vehicle record received from each State record pursuant to § 391.23(a)(1);

(3) The certificate of driver’s road test issued to the driver pursuant to § 391.31(e), or a copy of the license or certificate which the motor carrier accepted as equivalent to the driver’s road test pursuant to § 391.33;

(4) The motor vehicle record received from each State driver licensing agency to the annual driver record inquiry required by § 391.25(a);

(5) A note relating to the annual review of the driver’s driving record as required by § 391.25(c)(2);

(6) A list or certificate relating to violations of motor vehicle laws and ordinances required by § 391.27;

Lack of Experience

New drivers with little experience are attractive to some companies because they can be paid less than more experienced drivers.  This sets up a situation where a relatively new commercial driver can be told to drive complex equipment that he or she is unfamiliar with.  Oftentimes the shipping routes can take new drivers through heavily congested expressways where operating a large vehicle is difficult and stressful.  Inexperienced drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents.  Like any occupation, experience matters.  Less experienced drivers can represent a hazard.

Poor Maintenance

The purpose of a commercial vehicle is to drive mile after mile, day after day.  Over time, normal wear and tear occurs.  Tires wear out.  Brakes need to be replaced.  Routine maintenance is required.  However, not every company makes maintenance a top priority.  Some companies will defer maintenance or ignore needed maintenance.  If an accident occurs you need to secure the maintenance records for the truck.  In some instances, the maintenance records can reveal a history of maintenance neglect.  If a mechanical failure occurs while a semi-truck or commercial vehicle is being driven the results can be horrific.

Experienced drivers conduct pre-trip system checks before starting a route.  Here again, the culture of a company may influence how well a truck is maintained and how diligently a driver performs regular inspection.

What are the most common examples of poor maintenance that can contribute to accidents?

  • Break failure
  • Tire failure
  • Lights out
  • Turn signals that do not work

Trucking companies are required to maintain records.  If you suspect poor maintenance played a part in your accident know this: The motor carrier must either inspect, repair, maintain, and keep suitable records for all vehicles subject to its control for 30 consecutive days or more, or cause another party to perform such activities. The motor carrier is solely responsible for ensuring that the vehicles under its control are in safe operating condition and that defects have been corrected.

Federal Regulations for Motor Carrier Maintenance

§396.3   Inspection, repair, and maintenance.

(a) General. Every motor carrier and intermodal equipment provider must systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles and intermodal equipment subject to its control.

(1) Parts and accessories shall be in safe and proper operating condition at all times. These include those specified in part 393 of this subchapter and any additional parts and accessories which may affect safety of operation, including but not limited to, frame and frame assemblies, suspension systems, axles and attaching parts, wheels and rims, and steering systems.

(2) Pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights in buses shall be inspected at least every 90 days.

(b) Required records. Motor carriers, except for a private motor carrier of passengers (nonbusiness), must maintain, or cause to be maintained, records for each motor vehicle they control for 30 consecutive days. Intermodal equipment providers must maintain or cause to be maintained, records for each unit of intermodal equipment they tender or intend to tender to a motor carrier. These records must include:

(1) An identification of the vehicle including company number, if so marked, make, serial number, year, and tire size. In addition, if the motor vehicle is not owned by the motor carrier, the record shall identify the name of the person furnishing the vehicle;

(2) A means to indicate the nature and due date of the various inspection and maintenance operations to be performed;

(3) A record of inspection, repairs, and maintenance indicating their date and nature; and

(4) A record of tests conducted on pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights on buses.

(c) Record retention. The records required by this section shall be retained where the vehicle is either housed or maintained for a period of 1 year and for 6 months after the motor vehicle leaves the motor carrier’s control.

Improper Cargo Loading

Semi-trucks and commercial vehicles are designed to move freight.  Semi-trucks carry one, or possibly two trailers.  Some commercial trucks or “box trucks” have a cargo area.  If freight is not properly loaded it can cause or contribute to accidents.  If a load shifts during transit it can cause a semi-truck to veer abruptly.  If freight is not properly secured on a flatbed trailer, it can fall into the roadway creating obstructions for vehicles that are trailing.

What are examples of cargo that has been improperly loaded that leads to an accident with a semi-truck?

  • Cargo that is not evenly loaded to allow for proper weight distribution
  • Failure to secure freight with straps, braces and anchors leading to shifting cargo
  • Overloading vehicles so that its weight limit is exceeded affecting deceleration distances
  • Loading cargo with a high center of gravity creating the potential for rollovers
  • Loose items that fly off the truck during transit

Federal Guidelines for Cargo Loading

Some important guidelines are outlined in Section 392.9 of the Federal Motor Carrier Act.

§392.9   Inspection of cargo, cargo securement devices and systems.

(a) General. A driver may not operate a commercial motor vehicle and a motor carrier may not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle unless—

(1) The commercial motor vehicle’s cargo is properly distributed and adequately secured as specified in §§393.100 through 393.136 of this subchapter.

(2) The commercial motor vehicle’s tailgate, tailboard, doors, tarpaulins, spare tire and other equipment used in its operation, and the means of fastening the commercial motor vehicle’s cargo, are secured; and

(3) The commercial motor vehicle’s cargo or any other object does not obscure the driver’s view ahead or to the right or left sides (except for drivers of self-steer dollies), interfere with the free movement of his/her arms or legs, prevent his/her free and ready access to accessories required for emergencies, or prevent the free and ready exit of any person from the commercial motor vehicle’s cab or driver’s compartment.

(b) Drivers of trucks and truck tractors. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(4) of this section, the driver of a truck or truck tractor must—

(1) Assure himself/herself that the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section have been complied with before he/she drives that commercial motor vehicle;

(2) Inspect the cargo and the devices used to secure the cargo within the first 50 miles after beginning a trip and cause any adjustments to be made to the cargo or load securement devices as necessary, including adding more securement devices, to ensure that cargo cannot shift on or within, or fall from the commercial motor vehicle; and

(3) Reexamine the commercial motor vehicle’s cargo and its load securement devices during the course of transportation and make any necessary adjustment to the cargo or load securement devices, including adding more securement devices, to ensure that cargo cannot shift on or within, or fall from, the commercial motor vehicle. Reexamination and any necessary adjustments must be made whenever—

(i) The driver makes a change of his/her duty status; or

(ii) The commercial motor vehicle has been driven for 3 hours; or

(iii) The commercial motor vehicle has been driven for 150 miles, whichever occurs first.

(4) The rules in this paragraph (b) do not apply to the driver of a sealed commercial motor vehicle who has been ordered not to open it to inspect its cargo or to the driver of a commercial motor vehicle that has been loaded in a manner that makes inspection of its cargo impracticable.

Construction Zones, Temporarily Reconfigured Roadways, Unfamiliarity with Roads, Weather Conditions, and/or Road Conditions

These factors are “conditions” or “situations” that frequently combine with driver inexperience or poor training to cause accidents.  As a professional driver it is nearly impossible to avoid these conditions all together.  This likely proves the need for proper training before a driver is allowed to move forward.  Proper training can help drivers avoid dangerous situations or at least minimize the dangers associated with such conditions.

How to Document Critical Evidence after an Illinois Semi Truck Accident

Documenting evidence after an Illinois commercial trucking accident takes skill and knowledge.  To do it properly, a law firm must act swiftly and have the resources to preserve all of the evidence.  Depending on the issues involved, attorneys at the Kryder Law Group have traveled throughout Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri to secure critical evidence.  The trucks involved in these types of accidents travel thousands of miles.  The lawyers you hire to preserve evidence need to be prepared to do the same.  Lawyers at the Kryder Law Group have a rapid response plan that is launched when a significant accident has occurred.  A critical first step is to notify all transportation that they must preserve evidence related to the collision.

What evidence should be collected to document a trucking accident?

Here are some examples of how evidence related to the collision with a commercial truck is preserved:

Evidence Preservation Letter

An evidence preservation letter is typically sent by an attorney early in the case.  Usually as soon as the Defendants are identified.  The purpose of this letter is to notify a person or company that the circumstances of a particular accident are under investigation.  The letter places an affirmative duty on the recipient to identify, gather and preserve requested items.  This is important because litigation can be a slow and lengthy process.  Some companies have written policies in effect that only require them to hold documents for 30 days.  After that time they are subject to destruction.  The evidence preservation letter can prevent destruction of evidence.  If the evidence preservation letter is ignored and the requested evidence is destroyed anyway, attorneys can potentially use this against the recipient.  This is one of many reasons it is important to hire a lawyer immediately after an accident.  A lawyer investigating a commercial truck accident would want to send a preservation letter to the truck owner immediately.

PRO TIP:  Remember the truck and trailer may have different owners.  The evidence preservation letter should be sent to both owners if they are identified.

What is included in an evidence preservation letter?

Every accident is different, but at a minimum, a highly qualified injury lawyer should request the following items be preserved and made available for inspection and or review:

  • Driver Employment File
  • History of Driver’s Traffic Violations
  • Evidence of Driver’s work history
  • Evidence of Driver’s training History
  • Driver Logs detailing miles driven, hours worked and breaks taken
  • Any and all drug tests taken in the 5 years prior to the accident and after the accident
  • Maintenance Records, Repair Records, Inspection Reports for the truck
  • Interviews and statements
  • Dashboard video from the truck and responding police vehicles
  • “Black Box” data downloaded from the Truck
  • Body Camera video from investigating officers
  • Police Reports
  • Accident Reconstructions Reports
  • The Vehicles involved in the crash

Freedom of Information Requests (FOIA)

Nearly all public agencies are subject to Freedom of Information requests.  In the context of a trucking accident, a FOIA request could be made for police reports, Department of Transportation Records, body camera footage or dashboard footage from responding police officers, reports from a coroner’s office, and other agencies depending on the facts of the collision.  Directions on how to make a proper FOIA request are usually found on the web site for the particular agency.

Subpoenas

When investigating a serious trucking collision, a subpoena is your friend.  Your attorney can issue a subpoena with the court’s approval and the subpoena allows you to dictate how rapidly the requested documents must be produced.  A subpoena also carries with it enforceability measures.  A court can enforce the subpoena with monetary fines or in extreme circumstances, detainment.  A subpoena acts as a legal magnifying glass and allows your attorney to demand cooperation from a trucking company that does not have an incentive to do so.  The drawback is that a lawsuit typically must be filed to have subpoena powers.  It is not always possible to file a lawsuit quickly.  Depending on the status of the investigation your lawyer may need to start with Evidence Preservation Letters, the move to FOIA requests and follow through with subpoenas.

Expert Inspections

Your attorney may also retain the services of an expert inspector to obtain specialty evidence like black box data or an accident reconstruction report.

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What Evidence Should be Collected for a Truck Collision?

Just as important as gathering and preserving evidence, is knowing what evidence to ask for, and why.

When investigating an Illinois or Chicago commercial truck collision, The Kryder Law Group utilizes the help of various experts.  The type of expert needed depends on the issues.  However, utilizing experts can greatly enhance the evidence collected and later in the case, help maximize the recovery. Examples of evidence collect by experts can include:

Learn what a highly qualified truck injury lawyer can do for you if you are involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle.

Learn what a highly qualified truck injury lawyer can do for you if you are involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle.

Understanding the benefit of documenting evidence is important.  Every injured person asserting a claim against a commercial vehicle or semi-truck must ultimately prove their case.  The injured person has the “burden of proof.”  You must prove a commercial vehicle was negligent and that it acted or failed to act in such a way that it caused an accident, which caused injury.  This is the fundamental issue in nearly every accident.  Put another way, you must prove who is at fault and why.  Evidence provides a basis for who is at fault and why.  Evidence tells us why an accident happened.  Evidence explains who is at fault and why.  This is why every attorney investigating a Chicago truck accident must gather all potential evidence as early as possible.  An experienced accident lawyer will use an evidence preservation letter, FOIA request, or subpoena to immediately seek to obtain the following documents:

Driver Employment File

As noted above, each employer is required to maintain an employee file.  Within the file will likely be a wealth of background information on the commercial truck driver who caused the accident.

History of Driver’s Traffic Violations

In extreme situations, a pattern of moving violations may be admitted to show a pattern of dangerous driving.  This information could also be useful if the driver was fired from prior companies because of their driving record.  It would also call into question the wisdom of the new company’s hiring practices if they were willing to overlook a history of traffic violations.  This could set up a separate cause of action against the company for negligent hiring.

Evidence of Driver’s Work History

Work history can be relevant for a number of reasons.  First, to some extent it shows the experience level of the driver.  However, it can also be useful because it will likely provide information about what types of trucks the driver is accustomed to operating in past positions.  It could reveal that a fairly experienced driver found themselves operating a totally new type of truck.  This may suggest that operator error or lack of training played a role in the accident.

Evidence of Driver’s Training History

Training is very important.  Even experienced drivers can benefit from periodic training.  Safety, proper techniques and good habits are frequently emphasized in training.  The type of training provided or the absence of training is important to investigate

Driver Logs Detailing Miles Driven, Hours Worked and Breaks Taken

Driver logs establish how long the driver has been driving and how many miles have been driven.  This information can be cross referenced with the route driven, speed limits and resting requirements to see if the commercial truck driver is following guidelines set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Act.

Any and All Drug Tests

As discussed above, drug and alcohol testing is mandated after certain accidents.  A positive test for illegal substances or alcohol can explain tragic accidents.  Not only could drugs or alcohol cause the accident, they may also support a claim for willful and wanton conduct.  This is much more difficult to prove, but would open the door to punitive damages. A knowledgeable CDL accident attorney will request all drug tests for the five years prior to the accident and any tests taken after the accident.

Maintenance Records, Repair Records, Inspection Reports for the Truck

The equipment a commercial truck driver uses is just as important to investigate as the driver.  So, often we look at the driver of a commercial vehicle as the cause of a collision.  However, sometimes mechanical failure can cause a Chicago truck accident.  Whether the truck owner performed periodic and required maintenance should be examined.  For this type of case it is even more important to secure an inspection of the vehicle with a mechanical expert.

Interviews and Statements

Some witnesses provide written statements after a collision.  Sometimes officers may summarize in a report what a witness has said.  If possible, always have your lawyer interview the witness again.  Additional details can be forthcoming.

Dashboard Video from the Semi-Truck or Commercial Vehicle

For liability and insurance purposes, many commercial trucks are equipped with outward facing dash cameras.  When inspecting the semi-truck you should look for evidence of dash cameras.  Sometimes they will be removed prior to the inspection.

Cell Phone Records

The dangers of distracted driving are well documented.  As noted in this guide, the Federal Motor Carrier Act prohibits texting while driving and the use of hand held phones.  Despite these regulations, frequent violations occur.  Determine the cell phone carrier and phone number and issue a subpoena immediately.  You may also request the driver’s cell phone bill.

“Black Box” Data Downloaded from the Truck

Your lawyer will need to have access to an expert in order to preserve the black box data.  Special equipment is needed to download and save the data.  The information that is extracted from the truck’s computer is essential.

Body Camera Video or Dashboard Cameras from Investigating Officers

Today many officers are equipped with personal body cameras or their police car may have a dash camera.  The cameras document the interaction between other emergency personnel and witnesses at the scene.  Indirectly, the body cameras may also show the scene of the accident, position of the vehicles and other relevant information.  As an example, the officer may arrive on scene first and the body camera could capture the vehicles involved positioned together.  Then, the fire department may arrive and in order to extract a victim, the fire fighters dislodge the vehicles.  This disturbs the scene somewhat.  The point is that different videos from different participants could show different information.

Police Reports

Police reports are typically available shortly after a collision occurs.  This report is important to obtain and contains helpful information.  The vehicle owners should be identified.  Insurance information is often included.  Additionally, the investigating officer traditionally provides a narrative of how the collision occurred.  The police report may also include traffic citations that were issued.

Accident Reconstructions Reports

In serious truck accidents, some people do not survive.  Their testimony becomes a missing part of the puzzle.  An accident reconstructionist can recreate how an accident occurred when little witness testimony exists.  An accident reconstructionist will document points of impact, speeds, vehicle paths, force of impact, and much more.  This type of expert can illuminate how a collision occurred using evidence from the scene and the vehicles involved.

The Vehicles Involved in the Crash

For many reasons, your lawyer should demand access to the semi-truck or commercial vehicle.  It is potentially useful to have your accident reconstructionist examine the truck for points of impact and other details.  Consider taking photographs or video of the truck while you have the opportunity.  Your attorney should also secure permission to download data from the truck’s computer, which will establish speed.  This data can also be supplied by the owner if they have had a reputable company retrieve the data.

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How to Hire the Right Lawyer for Your Truck Accident

Hiring the right Illinois trucking accident lawyer to pursue your case is probably the most important decision you will make after an accident.  On average, commercial vehicle collisions produce more significant injuries than other Chicago motor vehicle accidents.  This is because the force of impact is so much greater.  Smaller passenger vehicles can’t withstand the size, weight and mass of lager semi-trucks.  Sadly, the results are oftentimes fatal.  The Kryder Law Group knows that there is only a limited time to gather evidence and knows how to execute a strategic plan to gather and preserve evidence.

Why Hire The Kryder Law Group to Handle Your Trucking Accident?

  1. We have a rapid response team on standby to quickly investigate and preserve needed evidence.  When a death or catastrophic injury occurs, our attorneys will travel nationwide, if needed, to document evidence.  Once we are hired, we will immediately begin work on your case.  We understand how critical time is after an accident.
  2. Our lead attorney has over two decades of litigation of experience.
  3. We employ needed experts such as accident reconstructionists, maintenance and mechanical experts, roadway experts, cargo and shipping experts, as well as medical experts.
  4. We have the technical experience and resources needed to successfully pursue trucking accidents.

The Kryder Law Group will handle your case on a contingency fee, which means there are no fees unless money is recovered.  The Kryder Law Group also advances the cost of litigation expenses so there is no upfront cost to pursuing a case.

Call our attorneys at the Kryder Law Group at 312-223-1700 if you have questions about your trucking accident.

Call or text (312) 598-0739 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form

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