Truck accidents can happen because of driver fatigue, dangerous weather, distracted motorists on the road, wind and a variety of other reasons. When a truck accident happens, a victim can call a truck accident lawyer to help in recovering compensation. Because accidents with large trucks often involve higher speeds and more weight, the injuries motorists suffer tend to be severe or permanent. These are some important aspects to understand about truck accident laws.
Laws Regarding Truck Driver Conduct
There are federal laws from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation that truck drivers must follow. Most federal laws that concern truckers are found in the Code of Federal Regulations in Title 49. Also, there are individual state laws for truck driver conduct and requirements. Some of the most important laws are about commercial driver’s licenses, load weight and rest requirements.
For licensing, truck drivers must pass and maintain a commercial driver’s license, which is commonly called a CDL. To maintain this license, regular health screenings are required for conditions that may bar renewal, such as sleep apnea. Also, truck drivers who are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lose their CDL. If a driver who is in an accident is under the influence or does not have a proper license, the penalties for the driver and the driver’s employer can be especially strict.
When drivers are transporting a load, they must not exceed limits for the type of load and truck. For example, two-axle trucks can carry up to 34,000 pounds, and single-axle trucks can carry up to 20,000 pounds. Loads should also be balanced, and drivers are supposed to exercise caution when transporting liquids or loads that can shift. A careless driving hauling liquid in a tank may cause serious injuries and face significant liabilities. Additionally, rest is important for all long-haul drivers. There are hours of service rules that determine how long truck drivers can be on the road without taking a break. Today, many trucks have digital logs that log miles and hours, adding more accountability for truck drivers. Sleepy drivers are often the cause of truck accidents.
Truck drivers or the companies that employ them are required to maintain vehicles. Regular inspections and maintenance are critical to ensure safe operation of the vehicles and to protect drivers and other motorists. Neglecting maintenance can cause serious accidents. Another potential problem is improperly hauling hazardous waste. If a truck driver hauling hazardous waste illegally causes an accident, the waste can worsen damages or injuries.
In some cases, liability is a clear-cut issue. For example, if there is what the law calls “negligence per se,” it may be easy to determine liability. Imagine that a truck driver is drinking while driving. If he causes an accident and the police find that the driver is intoxicated, there is evidence of the driver’s liability. The injured motorist can easily prove the truck driver’s negligence in such a case. However, if the driver is sleepy and is not intoxicated, it may be more difficult to prove liability or negligence in some instances.
When an attorney handles a truck accident case, the attorney usually also looks to see if the driver has a negative driving record or has caused accidents in the past. Having the help of an attorney is important when trying to prove negligence for liability.
When a truck driver or company is liable, the injured motorist is entitled to compensation for qualifying damages. In every truck injury case, the judge will want to see a list of itemized damages with corresponding values. Damages include physical, property, economic and others. For example, a person who is injured in a truck accident may have lost wages from having to miss work. The individual may have additional medical expenses for ongoing treatment or a new disability. Also, the person may lose the capacity to earn income. There are other issues that people may not immediately think of, such as loss of companionship if a disability makes a marriage difficult or breaks it.
All forms of damages must be presented and evaluated. Since it is hard for people to determine current and future costs, it is important to work with an attorney who has handled many truck accident cases. A truck accident lawyer knows how to work with physicians to obtain a mental and physical health prognosis and determine values for all types of damages or losses.
Going through a truck accident is a traumatic experience. The effects can be devastating emotionally, physically and financially. However, with a good truck accident lawyer, it is easier to cope with the changes life brings and receive a fairer settlement for damages.