Recently, a toll way worker was killed and a state trooper seriously injured after a trucker allegedly drove a commercial vehicle in excess of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours of Service (HOS) regulations.
If these allegations prove true, then if this driver had been following the law, the driver would never have been on the road and the truck accident would never have happened.
Most truck drivers are professional, solid drivers who adhere to the strict regulations imposed on them by the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
However, as with any profession, sometimes there are those that cut corners, which can lead to safety violations and risk of injury.
One of the most significant regulations on truckers is the HOS or “Hours of Service” regulations, which govern how long a trucker can drive a commercial vehicle. HOS regulations protect the community against fatigued driving, which is a growing problem on our roads.
Truckers, who often have strict delivery time limits, are often tempted to exceed these HOS regulations in order to meet the demands of a recovering economy.
HOS Regulations in Simple Terms:
- 11 hours of driving time once the trucker starts his/her day
- Cannot drive after the 14th hour of coming on duty (e.g., if the trucker starts his/her day at 6:00 am, he/she cannot drive after 8:00 pm that night)
- Rest period after 14th hour must be 10 consecutive hours before going on duty (some exceptions apply) for a “new” day of driving.
Enforcement of HOS Regulations
- Electronic logs (“e-logs”) are helping truckers and trucking companies adhere to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations concerning HOS
- Trucks have “black boxes” and GPS mechanisms to monitor where truckers are traveling in their trucks
- Supporting documents such as fuel receipts, toll road tickets, and other documents to confirm truth of record duty logs
- Mandates from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires use of electronic logs going forward
Hours of service violations are serious. Violations of these regulations have the highest statistical probability of leading to a trucking wreck involving injury or death. For instance, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations have the lowest intervention threshold for HOS violations (exceeding 50th percentile will lead to intervention by the FMCSA and state Department of Public Safety). This is a lower threshhold than even driver controlled substance/alcohol regulations!
If you or someone you love has been injured in a trucking accident, contact Columbus Georgia Lawyer Mark Jones today for a free consultation regarding your case at 706-225-2555.Read More
Subrogation stinks. Subrogation is a legal principle whereby an insurance company that has paid your medical bills can seek reimbursement from your personal injury settlement or judgment. This blog by Columbus, Georgia Lawyer Mark Jones discusses three points about subrogation on your personal injury settlement.
(1) Generally speaking, subrogation by anyone other than your employer’s health insurance company is prohibited in Georgia
Georgia follows the made whole doctrine. That just means that Georgia does not permit subrogation by insurance companies that have made health insurance payments from an injured person’s car wreck or slip and fall settlement unless that person is “made whole.” See OCGA 33-24-56.1; Duncan v. Integon Gen. Ins. Corp., 267 Ga. 646, 647 (482 S.E.2d 325) (1997)(insured-claimant’s automobile insurance carrier that paid “medical payments” benefits to insured could not subrogate against insured’s settlement with liability carrier); Thurman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 278 Ga. 162, 164 (598 S.E.2d 448) (2004) (same).
Being made whole means that you have been fully compensated for all your medical bills, lost wages, and damages for pain and suffering. OCGA 33-24-56.1. Under Georgia case law, the only real way to be completely compensated is through a special verdict by a jury where the jury lists what it has awarded for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Cf. Paschall Truck Lines, Inc. v. Kirkland, 287 Ga.App. 497 (2007) (settlement made it impossible to determine amounts apportioned to pain and suffering versus medical bills). Since 90% of cases resolve without a trial, generally speaking, this means that an injured claimant will not be made whole by a settlement. Note that Alabama does permit a health insurer to subrogate against a personal injury claimant’s settlement in a car wreck or slip and fall so long as the contract expressly renounces the made whole doctrine.
(2) Generally speaking, subrogation by your employer’s health insurance company will be permitted, assuming the paperwork is in order
If you are like 75% of Americans, you work for a major corporation and if you are lucky enough to have health insurance, you get your coverage through your employer. In this case, assuming the plan documents are in order (oftentimes they are not), your health insurance company may be able to seek reimbursement from your car accident or slip and fall settlement for medical payments it made. This is due to federal pre-emption of state law via the Employees Retirement Income Security Act. Generally speaking an ERISA plan that has been properly drafted will pre-empt state anti-subrogation statutes such as Georgia’ OCGA 33-24-56.1 Of course, the paperwork for the plan must be in order. Oftentimes it is not. You should contact a lawyer such as Mark Jones to obtain the plan documents and review it for compliance under the current case law.
(3) Subrogation may be offset by other coverage you have
Sometimes you may have a valid claim for subrogation made against your settlement. Oftentimes, these”subrogation” claims are being made by low level debt collectors. Ingenix comes to mind here. Quite often, they will reduce their subrogation claim if you hire an attorney well-versed in defending subrogation claims in a car wreck or slip and fall situation. It is important that you hire a lawyer who knows the law in this area. Many attorneys do not understand the law in this area of practice, which is to the detriment of their clients.
If you currently have a claim against your personal injury claim by an insurance company that paid you health benefits, or if you ever hear the word “reimbursement” or subrogation, pick up the phone and call lawyer Mark Jones immediately. He can assist you in reducing or eliminating the claim. Call Mark today at 706-225-2555.