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Who is liable in truck accidents?

Trucking regulations to help you determine liability in your accident lawsuit

Unlike car accidents, where it can be easy to determine liability, truck crashes have many more players involved, which can make it difficult to determine liability. As odd as it may seem, the truck driver and/or the car driver may not be the only ones at fault.

Because of the complexities of truck crashes, it is important to work with a lawyer who has extensive experience with accidents involving the trucking industry. If you have been involved in a crash with a semi-truck, call (844) 283-0656 to speak with one of our truck accident attorneys today.

Causes for Truck Crashes

The trucking industry regulations –Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) – examine several possible reasons for a truck crash and who could be held liable for the accident. Some causes of accidents are outlined below – your lawyer should be able to break down these FMCSR regulations and easily explain them to a jury.

Accidents caused by hazardous conditions or extreme weather

Truck drivers must use “extreme caution” when operating a commercial motor vehicle in hazardous conditions, such as those caused by:

  • Snow
  • Ice
  • Sleet
  • Fog
  • Mist
  • Rain
  • Dust
  • Smoke
  • Other conditions that adversely affect visibility or traction

When such conditions exist, the driver is required to reduce his or her speed, and even stop driving all together when conditions become “sufficiently dangerous.” Federal regulations governing driving in adverse weather conditions set the standard of care for a commercial driver. A driver who is involved in an accident during inclement weather is held to the standard of extreme care because of the regulations governing driving in adverse weather conditions.

Truck crashes caused by driver fatigue or lack of breaks

No truck driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.

However, in a case of grave emergency where the hazard to occupants of the semi-truck or other users of the highway would be increased by compliance with this section, the driver may continue to operate the big rig to the nearest place at which that hazard is removed.

The FMCSRs also outline break provisions for truck drivers carrying property. These drivers cannot:

  • Drive more than 11 cumulative hours following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • Operate a commercial vehicle for any period after having been on duty 14 hours following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • Drive a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle after having been on duty 60 hours in any 7 consecutive days if the employing motor carrier does not operate commercial motor vehicles every day of the week.
  • Continue to drive trucks after having been on duty 70 hours in any 8 consecutive days if the employing motor carrier operates commercial vehicles every day.

Additionally, the regulations state that any period of 34 consecutive off duty hours will reset the 7 or 8 consecutive days. Also, a driver with a sleeper berth in his vehicle must have at least 10 consecutive hours either in his sleeper berth or off duty or some combination of the two before beginning to drive.

If you get into a truck crash with a driver who is fatigued, both the driver and the motor carrier may be liable for the accident.

Accidents due to improperly loaded trucks

When a vehicle is improperly loaded, the load may shift causing the tractor trailer to jackknife or overturn. The truck driver will usually tell the investigating officer that something unusual with the load caused the vehicle to behave strangely leading to the accident.

The FMCSR states that a driver may not operate a commercial motor vehicle and a motor carrier may not require or permit a driver to operate a truck unless:

  • The commercial motor vehicle’s cargo is properly distributed and adequately secured.
  • The 18 wheeler’s tailgate, tailboard, doors, tarpaulins, spare tire and other equipment used in its operation, and the means of fastening the truck’s cargo, are secured.
  • The big rig’s cargo or any other object does not obscure the driver’s view ahead or to the right or left sides (except for drivers of self-steer dollies), interfere with the free movement of his/her arms or legs, prevent his/her free and ready access to accessories required for emergencies, or prevent the free and ready exit of any person from the commercial motor vehicle’s cab or driver’s compartment.

Truck crashes caused – even in part – by a failure to follow these regulations can be the fault of the driver, the motor carrier and anyone involved in loading the tractor trailer’s cargo.

Lack of truck driver qualifications can also play a role in crashes

The trucking company is required to maintain a driver’s qualification file on each driver. The truck driver’s qualification file must contain:

  • Driver’s application for employment
  • Written record of inquiries to prior employers and any responses received from them
  • Pre-employment MVR on the driver
  • Results of any road test or a copy of the driver’s CDL
  • Driver’s annual review
  • MVR on the driver related to the annual review
  • Driver’s certified list of moving violations and accidents provided in conjunction with the annual review
  • Medical examiner’s certificate of physical qualification

The documents in the driver’s qualification file must be kept by the company for as long as the driver is employed by the company and for an additional three-year period, except that documents related to the annual review may be discarded following a subsequent annual review and the ME’s certificate may be discarded every two years following the replacement with a new certificate.

If a trucking company employs a driver without proper qualifications and that driver gets into an accident, the company may be held – at least partially – responsible.

Hold the responsible parties liable for damages in your truck crash

It doesn’t matter if one person or several people are responsible for a truck crash. If you have been injured and your vehicle has been damages, you should be compensated. There is no fee or obligation for an initial consultation with one of our expert truck crash attorneys. Call (844) 283-0656 or use our online contact form today.

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