NY State DMV Records

E-DriverFileAccording to a recent article in Heavy Duty Trucking (click HERE), the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles is making additional information available to prosecutors about a driver’s ticket history.

Specifically:

The information will be available for tickets issued during the past 10 years when the original charge was a point bearing violation, a drug or alcohol related offense, or was for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Currently, only data on convictions is available to prosecutors.

The article in HDT offers this explanation of why this is important:

Many times when a motorist goes to court, the original ticket is pled down to a lesser charge, according to a release. Often this is done because the prosecutor or the Another example of a blended scorecourt is not aware that the driver has a pattern of dangerous driving behaviors. As an example, it is common practice for courts and prosecutors to allow motorists charged with speeding offenses to plead those charges down to lesser offenses such as parking violations.

“By giving prosecutors a more complete story of a person’s driving history, they can make informed decisions and help ensure that potentially dangerous drivers no longer fall through the cracks,” Gov. Cuomo.

In 2010, in town, village, city and district courts, 129,628 speeding charges were pled down from a speeding violation to “parking on pavement.” In 2011, 112,996 such pleas were accepted. Speeding convictions result in anywhere from 3 to 11 points being placed on a license, depending on the miles per hour over the speed limit. If a motorist acquires 11 or more points within 18 months, their license may be suspended by the DMV. However, there are no points associated with a parking on the pavement charge.

Accident AnalysisOften following a tragic crash involving one or more fatalities, the prosecutor’s office may file criminal charges against the commercial operator.  Under this new process, the prosecutors might have more information about the driver’s history of violation activity than the safety director; therefore, it will become more important than ever before for commercial fleet operations to maintain excellent records on their drivers.

FredPoust School bus crashIn the case of Frederick Poust, a commercial school bus driver from Pennsylvania who was convicted of causing a fatality (after being video recorded missing ten stop signs and using both cellphone and MP3 player during the morning trip prior to the crash) the Pennsylvania DMV changed its policies about older violation records which might have prevented the school district from qualifying him as fit to drive (he had a prior fatal crash that did not get reported on his MVR). (Click HERE for article)  The state Representative pushing the change was quoted as saying:

“…if you do a simple Google search you could find out more about what Poust allegedly had done than what you could find out with PennDOT’s record”

Now PA will provide the entire (lifetime) history of violations for school bus drivers so that employers will be better equipped to qualify, train and monitor their drivers.

SUMMARY

Our chief concern, and what was not immediately made clear by the article in HDT, is whether both the fleet manager and the prosecutor’s office will receive the exact same data when an MVR (motor vehicle record) is pulled.

  • If the answer is YES, it would be fair and may actually help prevent crashes by making a more complete picture of past behaviors available to safety directors.  
  • If the answer is NO, then why should employers be “kept in the dark” about events that may be used against employee drivers?

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Spoliation of Evidence Following a Crash

EdiscoveryAlthough SafetyFirst has authored articles about spoliation over the past several years (Here) and (Here), this topic has been making the rounds of insurance carrier discussions lately. 

Spoliation of evidence is a fancy term for failing to safeguard information, documents, electronic data or other evidence that would (or could) be material to a lawsuit. 

For example, you are suing a manufacturer for a defective product that injured you.  They have “misplaced” or “lost” key quality control documents, inspection records and data on how the product had been tested to minimize those safety issues that might have prevented your injury.  You don’t know if they purposely destroyed the documents to cover up their own negligence or if they just made mistakes with their own document retention policy.  In court, a claim that they mis-handled the evidence, especially after becoming aware of your injury and/or lawsuit, could lead to serious consequences.  The judge could order any prospective jurors to assume the worst — that the missing evidence was damning to their case and would have proven our case that the injury was the fault of the defective product. 

In this recent article — Risk Managers: Spoliation Prevention has Insurance Underwriting Implications, too! (LINK) the author asserts that companies with strong record retention policies and well-defined filing programs can help build a strong defense when claims arise.  It’s better (in most cases) to argue the claim from a factual basis — knowing all of the relevant facts instead of trying to dispose of data (electronic or paper).

From the article:

Dollars are dollars, and they can balloon an account’s loss ratio if the company must spend an inordinate amount of money because it is unprepared for electronic discovery, or has spoliation of evidence issues posed against it. These dollars can balloon an account’s loss ratio which, in turn, may impact the availability and pricing of financial protection in the form of product liability insurance. [or other forms of liability insurance like Commercial Vehicle coverage, too]

The takeaway, therefore, is that companies with strong e-discovery, document- and evidence retention systems represent better risks. They have their proverbial “act together,” to put it in street lingo.

One way to do this is to strengthen the company’s document preservation and spoliation prevention systems and to be able to present a compelling case to insurance underwriters that the risk manager’s company is a sound risk for the underwriter and insurance company. Underwriters are the gatekeepers who determine whether or not a company represents an acceptable risk and at what price.

Thus, we can increasingly expect insurers to probe and ask about systems that facilitate efficient e-discovery, thwart spoliation and maximize retention of evidence.

This will be part of any insurance company’s due diligence process in assessing the fitness and desirability of an account for insurance placement or renewal. Questions about document preservation systems and e-discovery preparedness could be on the insurance application, could surface in pre-underwriting reviews, or arise during discussions with underwriters.

The very best defense against lawsuits is to avoid crashes and injuries in the first place.  Unfortunately, and despite everyone’s best intentions, crashes may occur.  In that event, preserving relevant data about the driver’s qualifications, regulatory compliance status, moving violations and crash history (among other things) may be critical to mounting an appropriate good faith defense. 

Check with your attorney, claims team, or insurance safety professional to learn more about how to protect your company’s specific interests.

Disclaimer:  SafetyFirst and the author of this article are not legal specialists or experts.  We are not attorneys and can not offer legal advice.  This article (or any associated/referenced articles by SafetyFirst and it’s staff) merely discusses a general topic and is not intended as specific advice on how to prepare for litigation or any other purpose.

Possible Liabilities When Employees Use Vehicles in Your Business — BizFilings Toolkit

Found this article today, and thought it was a good recap for businesses that operate vehicles in the course of their daily operations. Take a look.

Link to Article — Possible Liabilities When Employees Use Vehicles in Your Business — BizFilings Toolkit.