This trucker legal advice is provided by Atlanta trucking lawyer, Mr. Joe Fried.
Mr. Fried offers truckers, tips and action plans for issues concerning employment law, contract clarification, CDL issues, fines, tractor trailer accidents and other legal dilemmas truckers sometimes encounter.
Legal Help By Trucking Attorney, Joe Fried
The following questions were sent to us by actual situations encountered by some truckers. Mr. Fried has kindly responded to the questions in hope of giving the drivers a starting point and some clarification on legal issues.
CDL LEGAL ISSUES
Driver Concerned About Incorrect Accident Report
QUESTION: I had a roll over accident in Texas. The police asked me what happened. In my statement, I said I had lost air pressure and had no brakes, the low pressure indicator was flashing & beeping.
However, none of this information was included in the accident report. What should I do?
ANSWER: I would discuss this with my safety department, if I were an employed or leased on driver at time of the trucking crash. They may have a lawyer to assist you with this and they may also have a policy on how they would respond to this situation. Go there first.
If that is not available to you, I would write to the police officer, and send a certified letter, setting out that you explained this to him when you spoke to him at the scene and do not understand why it was not included in the report.
By doing this, you will have documented the issue and omission and your credibility will be higher, should you need to explain this to anyone down the line.
Lynn, Waco, TX
Company Driver Concerned About Truck Abandonment
QUESTION: I currently work for an owner operator out of Ohio. I’d really appreciate some advice from the trucker legal service.
Recently, the rig I was operating broke down in Memphis TN. The alternator and water pump blew.
I called my boss and he told me in a nutshell that there was no money to fix the truck. I have been out for over a week and have not been compensated for my work and now it seems he expects me to sit here without him making any effort to fix the truck.
My question is, if I catch a bus ride home and leave the vehicle where it is will I be liable for anything that happens to it or abandonment of the rig? And also how do I go about getting compensated for the work I’ve done I have all logs, bills, mileage etc that shows the work I’ve completed. (Erico, Akron, OH)
ANSWER: You need to document the situation. I recommend that you send a fax or email to the company setting out the situation as it is and telling them that you will give them until x time to advise you how to get the vehicle repaired and that if they don’t then you will be forced to leave the rig there and find transportation home. The reason for the documentation is so that you can show your position. It does not guarantee any other results for you.
As for being compensated, that is an issue specific to the state you are in. I would recommend contacting the labor department in Ohio and asking them those questions.
Company Driver To Sue For Lost Wages & Slander
QUESTION: I took advantage of an opportunity to receive company training with a starter company with minimal upfront costs. I was under contract for 1 year.
The company sent me to a 3rd party school, where I was rushed through the process, spent a week in a classroom after receiving my CDL, and was with a trainer on her truck for roughly 2 weeks. My co-driver was supportive & helpful, but he also had less than 6 months experience. I had 3 incidents, no tickets, no contact with DOT or local police.
I was terminated in December & have tried since May 2013, to land another trucking job. I did just that last week! After being dispatched from Toledo, Ohio where I live to Laredo, Texas, the current company calls me & states I need to stop the truck at the next safe location (outside Fort Worth, Texas). They received word from the 1st company that I hit a car & am now terminated.My question: I am in need of professional legal advice.
Can I sue the original company for slander, libel, lost wages & DOT violations for reporting to the other 30+ companies I applied to since May? Hitting a car would appear on my DAC report & there is nothing on it.
ANSWER: I would ask the company to give you a copy of what they got from the first company. If it is untrue, then it very well could be actionable. I am not sure what you mean by three “incidents.” If the first company is lying about you, then you could definitely have a viable lawsuit – you should consult a local lawyer who handles Slander cases. If you can’t find one, contact your local state bar.
Driver Claims Equipment Failure, Not Careless Driving
QUESTION: I received a ticket in Colorado recently for careless driving. The penalty carries a true point assessment if paid within 20 days or four point assessments if taken to court.
The problem was I was coming down a mountain and I shifted into low gear as instructed I did my brake check as well as instructed the Jake brake. I did not excessive self after the RPM’s begin to rise. I had maintained control of the vehicle but I had to make a decision on that would either cost a life or endanger someone or possibly my own life, so I choose the latter. I choose to salvage the truck into the side of the mountain.
But, I do maintain that I have complete control of the vehicle and it was not careless driving. It was a mechanical failure, where I decided to damage the truck rather than face a fatality. I was left without any brakes but yet still maintain control of the vehicle and chose the best option for safety.
Can a mechanical breakdown be considered careless driving? I wish to avoid the points and my home state is Pennsylvania. No other vehicle was damaged just my own truck.
Ray Primrose, Philadelphia PA
ANSWER: They will say that you put yourself into that situation and you are responsible for it. That said, this is often the position of law enforcement professionals who not really understand that driving a truck is a lot different than driving a car.
I am not disrespecting law enforcement here (I am a former police officer myself). I am just stating that many of them do not have specific training in commercial motor vehicles. Based on what you told me, if it is not impractical for you to do so, I would consider fighting the ticket. It would best to have a lawyer help you with that, but even if you go yourself and explain why you could not have anticipated this or prevented it and the basis for your conscious decision, a judge might just listen. It will also help if you have a clean record.
25 Year Old Charge Prevents Trucker From Getting a Job – Must Be More to the Story
QUESTION: I had a DWI in 1987 and one in 1989… a clean driving record since. My problem is they came off my record in Arizona but I can’t get them off my record in the state of Missouri. I am currently seeking to change employers and no one will consider me for employment with these on my record…saying its an insurance issue. If Arizona dropped them off from my driving record, why can’t Missouri do the same? These charges are 25 years old.
What can I do? Les Morris, Reeds Spring, MO, U.S.
ANSWER: There must be more to the story. No one that I know runs a 25 year MVR. Go pull your own MO MVR and look to see if anything else is on there.
Carrier Manipulating Drive Line on Truck – Is Driver Responsible?
QUESTION: I have two questions. One is about electronic logs and how to protect myself if ever involved in a accident.
The other question is about telling the truth on a application.
I live in Florida, and was able to obtain my training for a CDL through Vocational Rehabilitation Services. My Vocational Counselor had told me “never let any trucking company know you have received our services to obtain your CDL, because then they will want to know what kind of disability you have.”
I have been driving for over 2 years without any incident. However, I never told the truth on any application about my disability (learning disability that clearly didn’t interfere with my ability to learn how to drive a truck)…. I wonder if I end up in a accident one day, can that be used against me in court?
My other question is about electronic logs. The carrier or safety department is able to “manipulate my drive line”. I have witnessed them doing this.
If I ever get into a accident, how could I protect myself from the company possibly manipulating my logs before the are requested in court?
Brandon, Cocoa, FL
ANSWER: As a lawyer, I have to always tell people to tell the truth. Lying on an application is grounds for termination and is always used against someone in the event of litigation.
I am not aware of any place on the application that asks for learning disabilities.
Additionally, I do not believe that a trucking company would not hire you if you had learning disabilities that did not affect driving. The disabilities on the medical have to do with disabilities affecting driving.
As for electronic log devices/electronic on-board-recorders, the company should not be manipulating anything. If they are, this amounts to a log falsification. If they are, that is not a company you can count on to protect you and you should consider moving on.
I don’t know how you could protect yourself in such situations. If you are ever involved in litigation, there will be a detailed log audit. If discrepancies are found, it is usually the driver who is blamed.
MORE LEGAL HELP FOR TRUCKERS
- MORE LEGAL QUESTIONS & ANSWERS FOR THE COMPANY DRIVER
- LEGAL HELP FOR THE OWNER-OPERATOR PT 1
- MORE LEGAL ADVICE FOR THE OWNER-OPERATOR PT 2
TRUCKER LEGAL ADVICE – HEALTH RELATED ISSUES
Driver Not Medically Qualified
QUESTION: I went in for a DOT physical in September and was told I would need a note from my doctor stating that my high blood pressure medicine was stable and I would need a treadmill stress test before I could pass DOT physical.
I had coronary stent in Nov.,2009.So I retake physical Dec.15, 2014 at another clinic with a note from doctor saying patient is stable and doing fine. I wasn’t trying to deceive anyone when I answered no to heart disease and stent procedure as now I was past 5 years from procedure.
The first question asked about any illness or injury in the past 5 years I responded yes to hypertension as that is a current condition. I passed physical and got a 1 year card. I’m a non CDL, intrastate local only driver in Missouri .I drive my 26,000 lb. box truck 8 miles a day for work.
Now I understand that there is no 5 year limit on disclosure of a vascular procedure and I will need stress test to be legal. This is fine with me but do I go back to clinic and disclose situation to them or wait till next renewal date one year from now. Or go to another tester with stress test results in hand and start over.
ANSWER: You are technically not properly medically qualified right now. It does not matter where you go (back to same place or somewhere else), but you need to get medically qualified. You should not driver until you do. You should let your employer know the issue.
Driver Tries to Return to Work After a Stroke – FMCSA Stops Driver From Working
QUESTION: I’m asking about a truck driver’s rights after a minor stroke. My husband has been driving for a very large company for 8 years. He’s been a good driver/employee.
However, in May of this year, he woke one morning to find a large blind spot in his left eye. His anniversary date with his employer was coming up and he needed to burn off a week’s worth of vacation, or lose it.
He took his vacation and saw the ophthalmologist, who sent him to a retinal specialist. He had had a stroke in his left eye. Went thru ALL the testing (including vision field test) and he passed. Meanwhile, his Drs wanted him to get some tests, find out why he had this stroke in his eye. He’s 55 and in GREAT health. Saw a neurologist who took blood and ordered an MRI of his brain. Here it showed a second and new stroke in his left lobe, but NO impact on him at all! So 2 strokes within 6 or 8 weeks of each other.
Meanwhile, we got the paperwork from Drs needed for employer for sick leave (no pay). His blood test shows he has Factor V Lieden Mutation, which is a clotting disorder. He has since tried to get a local driving job but 2 DOT DRS have failed him because of the strokes. THAT is when we were told of the FMCSA rule stating he cannot drive for a minimum of 12 months, per FMCSA Expert Panel Recommendations Stroke and Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Safety, pages 12 – 13.
So, NOW what?
His employer is sending threatening letters to terminate his employment if he doesn’t return to work, even though they KNOW he’s had 2 strokes. We KNOW the employers own DOT physician will NOT pass him!
We have also paid for 8 years, LTD insurance that would pay him for up to 2 years. Not much, but better than nothing Do we let the employer terminate him? Will LTD insurance still cover him? The LTD insurance company sent him papers to fill out and want to know his limits….which are none! It’s just the FMCSA rule that won’t allow him to work! Not the Drs!
It’s been since early June now that we’ve had ANY income, trying to figure out what to do. We’ve asked the employer and they just say they don’t know, other than if he doesn’t return back, he’s terminated. But again, we know FMCSA will not allow him to return to work. What a mess. We are residents of Illinois.
Tami Mulder, Freeport, IL, US
ANSWER: Sorry for what you guys are going through. It is close to impossible to get around the rule that you discuss. I would recommend that you start the disability process. You should not say no limitations though, because he has a disabling injury for being a truck driver. At some point the disability carrier will likely look for a way to get him off disability since he is costing them money. That will present you with an opportunity to show that he can safely return to work as a driver. By then the mandatory wait period will be up.
Driver Claims Incorrect Sleep Apnea Diagnosis – Need Legal Advice to Reverse
QUESTION: What are you to do when you are intolerant to a CPAP machine? I was diagnosed, I believe incorrectly, with obstructive sleep apnea by the company’s approved Sleep Center.
I reported to them immediately all the health issues I was having……nose bleeds, spitting up blood, sleep deprivation, memory loss, weakness, face swollen so that eyes were only little slits and nothing was done. I should also state that they had me continue to drive like this. This went on for almost a month.
Eventually, I was told to get a note from a Dr disputing the diagnosis, which I did. The company does not accept this.
I went for my DOT physical and they said I was a severe diabetic. I was almost blind in my left eye and right eye was marginal, and certainly needed glasses.
This was proven to be false by a DOT approved optometrist. They refused to sign my medical forms verbally stating I was non compliant to CPAP. Only thing written on the report to take to primary care Dr was diabetes. They stripped me of my truck within minutes and this was in March.
How do I go about getting my job back? I’ve had no income in 5 months now and can’t use the machine. What do I do? They refuse to sign my physical. Can you please advise what type of lawyer I need to fight this?
Joe, NJ, US
ANSWER: First I am sorry for what you are going through. The problem is that once you get the obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis the company becomes liable for you and they can’t take that chance. This is a very difficult situation to fight.
I would recommend that you contact a DOT compliance expert like Larry Cole in Arkansas or Joe Morrison in Indiana.
These guys usually work for companies that run into compliance issues, but they should be in the best position to know how to address this for you. Best of luck.
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