Road law
Accidents: What you can and can't escape from

By Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, attorneys at law

We get a lot of calls from drivers who were involved in wrecks. Some of the drivers were issued tickets, some weren’t. Some of the drivers were found to be “responsible” by their company and some weren’t.

What really happens to your driver record when you have an accident? What really happens to your CSA score when you are in a collision? It’s always best to understand what can happen when you’re involved in an accident, whether you or a loved one were driving a commercial vehicle or four-wheeler at the time.

I was driving my truck on a Texas highway when the car in front of me slammed on their brakes for no good reason. It had been raining, and I couldn’t stop my truck in time to avoid hitting the car. The driver of the car said they weren’t hurt, and the police gave me a ticket for, “Following Too Close.” I tried to tell the officer that I was not following the car “too close” and I wouldn’t have even hit it if the driver hadn’t slammed on their brakes. The officer still gave me the ticket and said that I could just pay it if I didn’t want to come to court. Now what do I do?

First, let’s talk about the actual incident. The officer on the scene made an accident report. So, the word “accident,” regardless of who’s at fault, will often appear on your permanent driver record. Second, your ticket, i.e. “Following Too Close,” is considered a “serious” category violation according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. If you’re convicted of the charge, your commercial driver license might be disqualified if you have a previous “serious” violation conviction.

You’ll need to plead not guilty and set your matter for a trial so you can appear in court to testify. Third, because an accident report or a Driver Vehicle Examination Report was made when you received the ticket, those documents may be reported to CSA and you may receive CSA points as a result.

For the best chance of having CSA remove these points from your score, you’ll need to be found not guilty, have your case dismissed, or get the original charge amended to a lesser or no-point offense. If any of these outcomes occur, you’ll need to obtain a certified/file-stamped copy of the disposition for your DataQ challenge with CSA.

I had an accident in my truck, and my company says it was non-preventable. But when I went to court for the “Too Fast for Conditions” ticket, the judge found me guilty and told me I had to pay fines and costs for this ticket. How can I be found guilty in court when my company says the accident was non-preventable?

Your company’s decision that your accident wasn’t your fault has nothing to do with whether a judge finds you guilty of violating a traffic law. The judge is required to consider all the evidence such as the officer’s testimony, other witness testimony and, of course, your testimony. For basic traffic infractions, the judge only has to find that the state, by 51 percent of all the evidence presented, proved that you violated state law. On the other hand, your company’s decision isn’t a legal one but is usually the result of their prior experiences and your statement of facts. LL

Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; call 405-242-2030, fax 888-588-8983, or email roadlaw@att.net.

This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone's legal situation is different. Consult with an attorney for specific advice on your situation.