What Is a DOT-Recordable Accident?

Truck Accidents | June 8, 2021

There are many unique issues you will encounter during a commercial truck accident lawsuit in California. One is the presence of federal rules and requirements under the Department of Transportation (DOT) and its subset, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The DOT requires truck accidents to be reported if they reach a certain severity. Investigating a trucking company’s history of DOT-recordable accidents could provide evidence against the company during a personal injury claim.

DOT-Recordable Accident Criteria

The Department of Transportation requires truck drivers (also known as motor carriers) to report certain traffic accidents to the DOT as part of the procedure for keeping track of collisions that involve commercial motor vehicles. Truck accidents that meet the criteria to be reported to the DOT are called DOT-recordable accidents. According to Section 390.5 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, the criteria is as follows:

  • Bodily injury that requires immediate medical care away from the scene of the collision.
  • Fatality (either at the scene or within 30 days of the accident).
  • One or more disabled vehicles that must be towed away from the scene.

If a traffic accident involves a commercial motor vehicle and causes injuries or damage to this extent, it is a DOT-recordable accident that must be reported to the Department of Transportation right away. Fault for the commercial truck accident does not matter; if the collision meets these criteria, it must be reported. Note that this rule does not apply to accidents that occur while getting in or out of the truck or loading cargo.

How Does a DOT-Recordable Accident Get Reported?

A DOT-recordable accident gets reported to the Department of Transportation by the driver of the commercial vehicle or the trucking company. The reporting party must fill out an official accident report and submit it to the nearest Department of Transportation office for recordkeeping. The accident report must contain at least the date of the collision, the city or town where the accident occurred, the truck driver’s name, the number of injuries and/or fatalities, and whether the motor vehicle released any hazardous materials (other than fuel from the tank).

What Happens After a Truck Company Reports an Accident to the DOT?

The DOT keeps recordable crash data for three years. It uses this information to understand crash numbers and statistics, such as calculating the number of truck accidents per 1 million road miles driven. Reporting truck accidents to the Department of Transportation allows the FMCSA to keep track of annual serious injury and fatal collisions, as well as the most common causes of serious accidents. Collecting this data may allow the federal government to pass new laws and regulations to improve the safety of the trucking industry.

The DOT also uses crash data to rate motor carriers. If a carrier surpasses a certain threshold of DOT-recordable events, he or she may face additional scrutiny or sanctions against driving a big rig. The DOT could penalize the carrier for violations such as speeding or driving under the influence in a similar way that the Department of Motor Vehicles adds points to a driver’s license.

DOT Records and Your Truck Accident Claim

As the injured victim of a truck accident in Southern California, DOT truck accident records may be able to provide evidence against a trucking company or truck driver during your injury claim. If a motor carrier has a history of being involved in DOT-recordable accidents, regardless of fault, this may serve as proof that the truck driver is not acting safely or prudently behind the wheel.

A history of serious accidents (an unsatisfactory safety rating) could provide evidence that the truck driver did something or failed to do something that a reasonable truck driver would not have in the same situation, and that this increased the odds of a truck accident. A Los Angeles truck accident lawyer can help you gather evidence of fault after a DOT-recordable accident.

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