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Long form medicals are a treasure trove when a trucker’s medical condition is at issue

Written by Steve Gursten Posted February 5th, 2016

When the defense lawyer raises a “sudden emergency” defense and a truck driver’s medical condition is in controversy in causing a wreck, or where there’s a medical waiver, don’t forget to examine the DOT long form medical sheets

medical screening truck drivers, image

I’ve been litigating very serious truck accident cases for over 20 years. There are certain cases, however, where the negligence was so egregious that even years later they still trouble me.  I will never forget a horrible truck crash I handled several years ago that left a man (who was a wonderful father and husband) dead.  In this tragic case, a truck driver who was behind the wheel with a serious medical condition, ran this innocent husband and father off of the highway and into a median wall where he was crushed.   My legal investigation into the driver revealed that immediately after the crash, the truck driver presented a document to the investigating officer:

A DOT waiver for epilepsy.

But how was this possible?

Driving a transport truck is a very difficult task. In fact, the cab in a semi-truck looks more like the inside of an airplane. These trucks are much larger and obviously much heavier than ordinary passenger vehicles.  A fully loaded semi-truck can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds, although the truck in this case was way over weight as well. In order to even be able to operate a truck or any type of big-rig commercial vehicle, truckers must receive special training, and pass a test to receive a Commercial Drivers License. And the trucker must be examined by a medical examiner to make sure he or she is medically fit to operate a commercial truck.

You may recall that our truck accident lawyers have previously written blogs about changes that have been implemented in the medical examination process.  Now, there’s a national registry and truck drivers must see DOT certified medical examiners to ensure they’re medically qualified to operate a semi-truck. Truckers must be re-certified every three years.

There are certain medical conditions that will automatically disqualify a person from being a truck driver. Driving a fully loaded semi-truck is difficult and can be extremely dangerous if a trucker is careless or not qualified. For instance, if a person suffers a medical emergency and loses control of their transport truck, the results can literally be deadly. That is why the DOT has put such an emphasis on ensuring that commercial drivers are medically fit to drive a semi-truck before putting them behind the wheel.

But if a person has a medical condition that could raise questions about his or her ability to safely drive a semi-truck, it does not necessarily mean that person is excluded. The DOT has the ability grant a waiver to a person who has a medical condition.

This begs the question: What conditions are subject to waivers, and which are not?

Truck lawyer tip: Refer to the long form medical

When a truck driver gets examined by a qualified medical professional, that medical examiner generates a document called a “Medical Examination Form,” or you may have heard it more popularly referred to as a “long form medical.”  The great thing about this document is that it has several pages attached at the end which detail a wide variety of medical conditions and when a waiver may, or may not, be issued under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

If you have a case where a truck driver’s medical condition is in controversy, consult the long form medical.

Here’s the form for your convenience.

Sometimes, you may even find out that their “waiver” was completely bogus.  And in case you’re wondering… no, a truck driver cannot get a medical waiver for epilepsy – like the driver tried to pass off in my case.

Here’s the regulation saying you can never get an epilepsy waiver:

Epilepsy §391.41(b)(8)

A person is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if that person: Has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of epilepsy or any other condition which is likely to cause loss of consciousness or any loss of ability to control a motor vehicle. Epilepsy is a chronic functional disease characterized by seizures or episodes that occur without warning, resulting in loss of voluntary control which may lead to loss of consciousness and/or seizures. Therefore, the following drivers cannot be qualified: (1) a driver who has a medical history of epilepsy; (2) a driver who has a current clinical diagnosis of epilepsy; or (3) a driver who is taking antiseizure medication.

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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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