How to Get Help After a Semi-Truck Accident

This video features Joseph V. Camerlengo Jr., B.C.S., a Personal Injury attorney based in Florida.

Florida-Based Truck Accident Lawyer Handles Claims Nationwide

Video Transcript:

Joe Camerlengo:

Unfortunately, many of the truck drivers out there are not trained at all once they get their CDL license.

Rob Rosenthal:

So if you or someone you love is injured in a crash with a big rig, how do you figure out who's at fault and how do you get help? We're gonna find out right now, because that's what we're going to ask on this episode of Ask the Lawyer. Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers.com and my guest is a truck crash attorney, Joe Camerlengo, who is based in Jacksonville, Florida. I wanna tell you right off the top, if you wanna ask questions of Joe, you can go to AskTheLawyers.com, there's a button in the upper right hand corner that says, Ask a Lawyer. You can click on that, it'll walk you through the process, or you just call the phone number that's on the screen. Joe it's good to see you. Thank you for spending some time with us today.

Joe Camerlengo:

Rob, thanks for having me back. Great to be here.

Rob Rosenthal:

So truck drivers, they're essential workers, especially probably more during quarantining and COVID than any other time. There's a truck crash, there's injuries involved. Is it always the driver's fault in your experience, you've had a lot of experience in the sort of things. What have you seen?

Joe Camerlengo:

Well, no, there are plenty of safe professional truck drivers that get involved in crashes when car crash or car drivers don't do things that they should have done around a truck, like cut off their circular distance or for some reason, they've contributed to the crash. Well, those really good truck drivers, they drive like every car around them is filled with their wife and children, that's what they'll say, and they'll be patient when someone comes into their lane or does something. They give them space. Unfortunately, many of the truck drivers out there are not trained at all once they get their CDL license, so they are driving aggressively, not realizing that one small mistake can cause someone to die, or be catastrophically injured, and there's no better example than the statistics for companies that have installed driver-facing dash cameras in their tractor trailers. The numbers are staggering. 56% reduction in hard-breaking events, 57% reduction in distracted driving.

Rob Rosenthal:

Wow. 

Joe Camerlengo:

83% reduction in speeding violation, 83% reduction in unsafe following distance and 92% reduction in fatigue when companies install driver-facing dash cams. Why, what does that mean? That means that when truck drivers are not being monitored, many of them are speeding, following too closely, driving, distracted or driving fatigue, and when you talk about rain, fog, ice, those type of adverse weather conditions that are seen throughout the country, this time of year, that can affect visibility or traction, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations mandate that truck drivers drive with extreme caution, which means reducing speed by a third, getting off the highway if it's not safety continue, and only a handful of truck drivers know, and only a handful of truck companies actually train their truck drivers on that, so many times, it's the truck driver's fault.

Rob Rosenthal:

Let's talk about regulations a little bit. You mentioned that there's plenty of regulations and plenty of the entities regulating the trucking industry. Tell us a little bit about that.

Joe Camerlengo:

Sure. First of all, truck companies are supposed to have adequate safety management controls in place and monitor themselves and their drivers. It's part of the safety management cycle, and it's part of the promise that they make under oath when they swear to certain safety protocols in order to get their interstate operating authority, but ultimately it is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that is responsible for the oversight of trucking companies in conjunction with the commercial motor vehicle enforcement officers in each state.

Rob Rosenthal:

What are some of the basic limits on drivers? There's limits on hours and that sort of thing. What are some of the... I'm sure there's a big giant book full of regulations, but what are some of the things that you see most often cause problems? There you go.

Joe Camerlengo:

The Federal Motor Carrier, you see the biggest name on the book is Safety, right? 

Rob Rosenthal:

Right. 

Joe Camerlengo:

It's a big huge book and truck companies say, Oh my gosh, how are we supposed to comply with all of those, that's 'cause they swore under oath to comply with these applicable regulations. So drivers are limited by the maximum number of on-duty hours that they can be on duty, working 14, and the maximum driving hours typically 11, if you're talking about interstate commerce. And so if you think about that, how many of us work a regular job that's not physical or not so demanding, and after an eight-hour day, you're mentally exhausted, the truck drivers, driving up to 80,000 pound vehicles up to 120,000 pounds, if they have an overweight permit, can be on duty 14 hours and can drive those big rigs 11 hours at a time. So because of that, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations contain guidance that say if a truck driver is covering more than 500 or 600 miles in a day, the company should closely review their logs and data 'cause they're likely speeding or driving more hours than they should, and yes, unfortunately, electronic logging devices can be manipulated.

Rob Rosenthal:

In your experience, Joe, is when drivers get right up to the line on these limits, exceed these limits, is something the driver's done on their own, is it usually the companies that are pushing them to do this? What's your experience?

Joe Camerlengo:

It's typically both, right? The drivers are trying to make a living for their family, and so the... Well, the more miles they cover, the longer the wheels are turning, the more money they make. Most of the companies do not have drivers as full-time employees with benefits, so the drivers, the wheels have to be turning on the truck for them to make money, and it benefits the companies when that happens, so we have discovered all kinds of ways that companies tell or make their drivers exceed the maximum safe driving hours and the Safe On Duty hours without expressly telling them, Go violate the regulations. We've heard everything from, We need you to run hard. That's basically a company telling the driver that you're gonna have to be exceeding your hours on that trip, or the customer has to have a load by a certain period of time, again, trucking up the actual regulations say that truck drivers cannot be dispatched on a route that will require them to exceed the maximum safe speed limit in order to get the load done within the time frame the company has given them, but they do it anyway. And then all the way down to...We had one case where they expressly told the driver who had driven 24 hours to get to Alabama to pick up a load, they made him wait forever to actually load the load, and then he called the company and said, I'm exhausted, I can't make it back. And the company told him if he didn't have that load back to Florida by the next morning, he would be fired and they would make sure he never worked for another trucking company again.

Rob Rosenthal:

Wow. So the hours used to be, there was a paper log and they would keep track of their hours and time in a paper log that's all electronic now, is that evidence? Is that saved? Is it always helpful? Can it be altered? What have you found?

Joe Camerlengo:

Well, first of all, since 2017, all commercial vehicles over 26000 pounds with engines starting in 2000 or later must have electronic logging devices, so there are still plenty of trucks on the road that have 1999 or earlier engines that only have to do paper logs, which are easily manipulated. In fact, some companies are creating gliders and they're called gliders while they're order a brand new tractor trailer, 2021 or 2020 tractor trailer with no engine in it, and they'll put a refurbished 1999 engine in there, so it doesn't have to comply with electronic logging or the greenhouse gas and emissions limitations that are on current trucks. So for those that still are paper, obviously, some people call them coloring books, they'll have one log so that they can turn into the company to get paid if nothing goes wrong, which shows how many actual miles they covered, and they'll have a second log book that falsely shows they're always operating within hours in case they get pulled over by the Department of Transportation or if they get involved in a crash. Now, for the electronic logs, those also can be manipulated, but typically the electronic logging devices are constantly pushing the data from the device to a third party vendor and back to the company, but again, those things can manipulated as well.

Rob Rosenthal:

So we started off, Joe, talking about, how do you figure out who's at fault, who's responsible, there's the driver there's the owners of the trucks, the trucking companies. How does an attorney... What is it that you do to help figure and straighten all this out?

Joe Camerlengo:

Well, right from the get-go, we send preservation letters out, we immediately get to the investigating officers, the witnesses, we find the e-log company, hopefully the cell phone provider, we send preservation letters out and then we ask to image that data, not just download it. We want an image of all data on all the electronics, all the software, everything, and then we piece that together to find out everything we can about the truck driver's where-abouts in the last 24 hours leading up to the trip. And then if we have to go back from there, if it shows a pattern of over hours or driving fatigue or exceeding on duty hours, whatever it is, we keep hunting until we find everything we can help that client.

Rob Rosenthal:

I would imagine this is where your experience in handling these and having done so many of these for so many years really plays a part in making sure that you figure out, because there could be more than one person responsible figuring all that out. Is that true?

Joe Camerlengo:

In fact, it's so true, Rob, that I just gave a lecture last week to the Florida Justice Association to their room full of really good car wreck lawyers and personal injury lawyers, explaining to them that you cannot treat these cases like a truck wreck. Number one: the preservation in the beginning, those first few letters can make such a difference in how the defense... What they preserve and how they treat your case, how they evaluate your case, how they feel about the value of your case, that can make a big difference right from the beginning in how it's handled, but just as important is that the board-certified trucking lawyers are going to know all of the different players involved in the transportation cycle, so if you're in a catastrophic wreck, a car wreck lawyer that doesn't know any better may take the $1 million first layer off the truck that's offered and say, Sorry, Here you go, that's all we can give you in a catastrophic wreck, we're gonna get the trailer, covers the hidden motor carrier, the broker, the shipper, the logistics company, we're gonna look at everybody involved in the transportation cycle that move that product from point A to point B, origination, the destination, and anybody that got paid along the way, and all of those people must be brought to bear in a catastrophic truck wreck.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of great information, Joe. I always learn something when we talk. Thank you for helping us out today. 

Joe Camerlengo:

You're welcome. 

Rob Rosenthal:

That's gonna do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been attorney Joseph Camerlengo. I wanna remind you, if you'd like to ask questions about your situation, go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the button in the upper right and corner that says Ask a Lawyer, or you just call the phone number on the screen. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask the Lawyers.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

The Truck Accident Law Firm

1200 Riverplace Blvd. 

Jacksonville, FL 32207


AskTheLawyers

© 1999-2022 AskTheLawyers.com™

Terms and Conditions / Privacy Policy /
Report an Issue

Legal Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only. Use of this website does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Information entered on this website is not confidential. This website has paid attorney advertising. Anyone choosing a lawyer must do their own independent research. By using this website, you agree to our additional Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.