How Safety Regulations Will Affect Your Trucking Accident Case
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a crash that involved a tractor-trailer or other large truck, you’ll soon realize (if you haven’t already) that the legal cases that arise from these accidents are much more complicated than an ordinary car accident case.
One of the biggest reasons for that is the tangled web of federal, state, and local regulations that govern the maintenance and operation of commercial trucks. Below, we’ll discuss how these rules can affect your truck accident claim.
Trucks Must Follow Federal, State, and Local Trucking Regulations
Because of the unique dangers large trucks pose to other drivers, both federal and state governments as well as some municipalities have passed laws that impose special rules and restrictions on these vehicles. These laws apply to both the drivers who operate commercial trucks and the companies who employ them.
At the federal level, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for regulating our nation’s trucking industry. This agency has created a set of rules called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) which cover commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce. A truck typically must follow the FMCSRs if it weighs at least 10,000 pounds, carries hazardous materials, or transports more than eight people.
The FMCSRs cover a wide variety of truck safety concerns. They include:
- Hours of service rules: Truck drivers typically cannot drive more than 11 hours without a break. They must keep electronic log books that document their driving hours and other details to verify compliance.
- Truck maintenance rules: Drivers and trucking companies must adequately maintain their vehicles to ensure safe operation. They also must keep careful logs of the truck’s safety inspections, routine maintenance, and major repairs.
- Hiring and training requirements: Trucking companies must perform background checks and testing before they hire a driver. They must also adequately train their drivers about general safety and policies related to drugs and alcohol.
- Drugs and alcohol: Truck drivers cannot use drugs or alcohol before or during a driving shift. Trucking companies have a duty to drug test drivers when they suspect substance abuse.
- Illnesses and impaired driving: Drivers cannot drive a tractor-trailer if illness or fatigue will negatively impact their ability to operate the vehicle. They must also pass a Department of Transportation physical.
The regulations also prohibit trucking companies from pressuring drivers to operate their rigs unsafely, ignore regulations, or break the law.
RELATED ARTICLE: Truck Driver Fatigue and Employer Coercion: A Deadly Pairing
In addition to the FMCSRs, some states have their own trucking regulations, and these regulations can vary dramatically from state to state. Other states have adopted the FMCSRs for in-state trucking operations. Regardless of which regulations apply to your case, however, it’s typically in your best interest to consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer for help interpreting and applying them.
Trucking safety regulations also change frequently. At Seattle Truck Law, we carefully monitor proposed changes to the FMCSRs and other regulations and advocate for sensible rules that promote the safety of everyone on our highways. If you have questions about how the current FMCSRs might impact your truck accident claims, contact us.
Evidence of Violations Can Strengthen Your Case Against a Truck Driver or Trucking Company
Normally, when you file a personal injury lawsuit, you have to prove that the other party was negligent, which generally means showing that the person acted with less care and caution than an average reasonable person would.
However, trucking accident cases work a bit differently because they involve a theory of negligence called “negligence per se.” Under this legal theory, when a person or company violates a safety regulation or law, that violation is automatically considered negligence.
RELATED ARTICLE: Who Is Liable in a Trucking Accident, the Trucker or the Company?
In other words, truck drivers and trucking companies always have a duty to maintain and operate their tractor-trailers in a reasonably safe manner, and that duty includes following regulations. When there’s a relevant safety regulation in place, such as the FMCSRs, you don’t have to prove that a reasonable person would have acted differently as you normally would with a personal injury claim. Instead, you must simply show that the driver or trucking company violated the regulations and that the violation caused your injuries.
An Experienced Truck Wreck Lawyer Can Help You Identify Trucking Regulation Violations
While that might sound encouraging for your case, proving a truck driver or trucking company’s negligence can still be a complicated and challenging process. The insurance companies who represent truck drivers and trucking companies know the regulations inside and out, and they aggressively defend themselves against personal injury claims. They might try to hide evidence, pressure you to settle for pennies, or try to shift blame to other parties.
RELATED ARTICLE: Why Trucking Companies Destroy Evidence and How You Can Stop Them
Additionally, trucking regulations don’t require drivers and trucking companies to hold onto evidence forever. Under the FMCSRs, companies only have to retain driver logs for six months unless those logs pertain to an ongoing legal case. Once this window expires, most trucking companies quickly destroy these records. This means that if you wait to contact an attorney and take legal action, you might lose valuable evidence that demonstrates the driver or trucking company’s negligence.
An experienced truck accident lawyer should be able to help you:
- Preserve evidence, such as electronic logbooks and maintenance records
- Identify violations of safety regulations, including the FMCSRs
- Present expert testimony and other evidence that links the violations to your injuries
- Calculate the full extent of your damages, which might include your lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and punitive damages
- Identify all the insurance policies that cover your damages
- Negotiate with the insurance and trucking companies to demand fair compensation
- File a lawsuit or multiple lawsuits on your behalf and present your claims to a jury
Because truck wreck claims typically involve numerous legal causes of action and multiple insurance policies as well as the many rules and regulations that govern the trucking industry, they tend to be some of the most complicated injury claims. Without assistance from a lawyer, you could easily make mistakes that hurt your case. Rather than risk it, you should contact an experienced truck accident attorney if you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in a crash.
Contact the Seattle Truck Law Team If You’ve Been Injured in a Trucking Accident
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in an accident involving a large truck or bus, the Seattle Truck Law team is here to stand up for your rights and fight to get you the compensation you deserve. With years of experience and a sole focus on cases that involve large commercial vehicles, Seattle Truck Law Attorney Morgan Adams can guide you through the complex legal issues surrounding a trucking accident so you and your family can focus on physical and emotional recovery.
Contact Seattle Truck Law today at (866) 580-HURT | (866) 580-4878 or fill out our online contact form to get a free assessment of your truck accident case. We handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that you won’t pay for fees or case expenses unless we achieve a financial recovery for you.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.