Has a loved one been injured or killed in a commercial truck crash, or have you yourself been injured? Truck crash victims could be eligible for compensation due to injury and loss. There are three main considerations when filing truck accident claims: state and federal laws, who is liable, and hiring the right attorney.
State and Federal Laws
The potential for danger surrounding commercial trucks makes this industry a highly regulated one. The federal and state governments have laws in place to help protect drivers from crashes involving big rigs. If it is discovered that a violation of one of these regulations occurred and an accident ensued, the violation itself could provide proof of negligence. Here’s an overview of some trucking laws.
The federal agency in charge of safety oversight and regulating commercial motor vehicles is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA. Due to the massive problem presented by driver fatigue, it is a major focus of these regulations. A regulation put in place by the FMCSA forces limits on the number of hours a commercial trucker can spend driving before taking a break. The following are some highlights of the hours of service regulation:
- After a trucker spends eight consecutive hours driving, the driver is required to take a 30-minute off-duty break.
- As well as daily limits on driving, the Hours of Service rules place a restriction that only allows 60 work hours in every seven-day period or 70 in every eight-day period.
- If a truck driver takes off-duty time for 34 consecutive hours, the driver is allowed to start a new work week of 60 or 70 hours at the end of the off-duty period.
Additional federal regulations for truck drivers include:
- Medical requirements regarding fitness for duty
- Workplace alcohol and drug testing
- Texting prohibition while driving
- Hands-free usage of phones while driving
- Electronic logging
- Cargo securement
- Hazardous material transportation
In the state of Georgia, a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds that is used for commercial purposes has strict regulations whether the driver has a CDL (commercial driver’s license) or not. The Georgia Department of Public Safety applies many of the same FMCSA rules statewide that govern commercial vehicles federally. Below are some specifics regarding Georgia’s regulations:
- The rules apply if a vehicle is used commercially and is over 10,000 pounds.
- Driver must annually submit to a DOT (Department of Transportation) physical exam.
- Driver is prohibited from using radar detectors.
- Driver is required to do pre-trip and post-trip safety inspections of commercial vehicle.
- Driver must strictly observe hours of service rules and keep time records.
- Commercial vehicles must undergo annual safety inspections.
- Additional rules exist applying to all commercial truckers, whether short-haul or long-haul drivers.
Relative to short-haul drivers, strict rules in Georgia govern their hours of service, too. For example, they are only allowed to drive up to 11 hours after being off for 10 hours. It is imperative that the driver’s employer keep accurate time records for the past 6 months. If the employer cannot provide accurate time records, a presumption can be made that records would show the driver as being overly tired.
Multiple Parties May Be Liable
Injured individuals may believe they will be seeking compensation from the insurer of the commercial truck driver who caused a collision, but the actual dilemma this presents is rather complicated. For example, the trucker is employed by one company, but may transport products for multiple companies. In addition, the commercial truck driven by the trucker could be maintained and serviced by an entirely different company than any of the others mentioned already. Further, the parts used in maintenance have been made and distributed by even more companies.
When making a personal injury claim from a truck accident, multiple parties could be liable to the victim, with each company having its own insurer. The following circumstances give insight into where multiple parties could be found negligent in a single trucking accident.
- The driver of the truck works for Company X that owns the truck. When the accident occurred, the driver showed positive for illegal drugs. The victim’s attorney discovered the trucker had failed a drug test before. Company X knew about the earlier failed test, yet dispatched him to drive anyway. In such case, Company X could be liable to the victim for damages.
- The same truck had been serviced by a forgetful mechanic who did not perform a crucial safety check before releasing the truck as road worthy. The safety check would have shown a mechanical defect that helped lead to the collision. Due to his negligence, the mechanic could also be liable to the victim for damages.
- The mechanically defective part was manufactured by Company R and distributed by Company E, two more parties that could be liable to the victim for damages.
- A separate warehousing company placed cargo into the truck before the accident occurred. The victim’s attorney finds evidence that a sudden load shift took place inside the truck’s trailer, and the trucker then lost control. This warehousing company could also have liability to the victim for damages.
Hire an Experienced Attorney for Your Claim
From the above information and examples given, it can clearly be seen that trucking accidents involve many more angles than a collision between two passenger vehicles. Neither type of accident is desirable, but it is imperative that a truck accident victim seek the assistance of an attorney who has sufficient experience and skill to handle the complexities of a truck accident lawsuit.
The right attorney can prove to be invaluable in discovering evidence, finding proof of liability, and researching insurance policies. Whether an avenue of settlement is pursued or the case requires litigation, an accident victim needs a legal firm that has successfully handled such truck accident cases.
The Eichholz Law Firm will examine such things as:
- All underlying potential causes of the crash
- All potentially liable parties
- The severity of the victim’s loss, including physical, mental, emotional, and financial
Have you Been the Victim of a Truck Crash?
If you or a family member have been injured in a commercial truck crash, our law firm is reaching out to offer you help. The team at The Eichholz Law Firm will assist you in getting through complex issues that can seem overwhelming to victims. There is no reason to stand back and wonder what might take place if you choose to seek justice.