How to Defend an FMCSR Violation After a Trucking Accident
Proving compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in Georgia
on August 31, 2021
Updated on April 25, 2022
Commercial trucks are enormous. On account of their immense size, tractor trailers pose an inherent safety risk to the public. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that more than 4,000 people were killed in large truck accidents in the United States in 2020 alone.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has comprehensive safety rules—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR)—in place to help reduce the risk of large commercial truck accidents.
After a trucking accident, a company may face potential sanctions for an alleged safety violation. Truckers and truck company owners need to know how to protect their rights. Here, you will find an overview of the key steps to take to defend FMCSR violation after a truck accident in Georgia.
Four Steps to Take to Defend Yourself Against an Alleged FMCSR Violation After an Accident
- Make Sure You Understand the Allegations
As a starting point, it is imperative that you understand the specific nature of the allegations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations are complicated. Trucking companies from Georgia that operate in interstate commerce are required to follow a wide range of safety rules. If your trucking business is alleged to have violated a safety regulation in relation to an accident, you must know the specific regulation in question.
You should also figure out if the FMCSA’s rules even apply. “There’s going to be times where the federal motor carrier regulations will govern, even if it’s a state situation. There will be other times when the state regulations are going to apply,” says Billy Davis, a transportation attorney at Bovis, Kyle, Burch & Medlin in Atlanta. “A lot of that has to do with where the trip originated, where it was going, where the cargo originated. … The distinction there, generally, is intrastate commerce versus interstate commerce—whether the entire trip was completed in the state versus crossing a state line.”
- Proactively Investigate the Accident
All large trucking accidents require a comprehensive investigation. The sooner you initiate an investigation of a crash, the less likely important evidence or information is to be lost. Whether you are an independent owner-operator or you own/manage a sizable trucking company, it is essential that you have a process in place for investigating accidents. You do not want to fall behind federal regulators, Georgia state regulators, or opposing insurance companies.
“For my biggest clients, we operate a 1-800 number so their drivers can contact us immediately upon the occurrence of an accident,” says Davis. “The most important thing a company can do is get very early involvement of competent council—from the moment an accident happens. With an attorney leading the investigation, you then gain the benefits of some of the protections of the attorney client privilege and the attorney work product doctrine.”
- Gather All Relevant Documents, Records, and Information
Beyond the investigation of the accident itself, it is also important to get your company's documents and information in order. Trucking companies should also gather, assemble, and organize all relevant records. Among other things, this includes driver logs, driver safety records, and inspection reports. The more information you have, the better position you will be in to defend yourself and/or your business against an alleged violation of FMCSA trucking safety regulations.
- Seek Professional Representation from a Georgia Transportation Law Attorney
Commercial trucking regulations are extraordinarily complex. A company facing a potential citation for a safety violation after a serious accident could face major sanctions, including significant financial penalties. You do not have to go up against federal or state agencies alone. A lawyer who has a deep knowledge of FMCSA regulations will help you find the best path forward.
“We’ve found that the early intervention of attorneys, from the moment of the accident, can help avoid a great deal of missteps,” Davis says. “It gives us a measure of control—there is real comfort in attorney client privilege and the attorney work product doctrine, which gives the lawyers and the client an opportunity to freely communicate with each other without being punished.”
If you have any questions or concerns about defending an FMCSR violation after a commercial trucking accident, an experienced Georgia transportation attorney can help protect your rights. For more information on this area of the law, see our overviews of trucking accidents and transportation and maritime law.