Trucking accidents involving collisions with tractor trailers, 18 wheelers, dump trucks and other large commercial vehicles often result in life-altering injury or death due to the speeds and weights of the vehicles involved. To reduce this risk as much as possible, state and federal laws exist to help regulate the way trucking companies and their drivers operate. Commercial trucking companies may be liable for failure to hire properly licensed and trained employees. Drivers must maintain work logs and companies must maintain maintenance logs to ensure compliance with rules and regulations. Failure of trucking companies to maintain their commercial trucks can result in tire blowouts, loss of steering and hydraulics, and brake or engine failure. Failure of truck drivers to follow the rules, by texting while driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or driving with inadequate rest can result in terrible accidents. It is important to retain counsel who are experienced with the extensive regulations and rules to maximize value in trucking accident cases. If you have been a victim of an accident involving a commercial truck, contact us to discuss the legal options available to you.
Commercial Trucks – A Necessary Evil
Our modern, globalized economy can be fantastic for consumers. A wide variety of goods can be economically designed, manufactured and sold across the globe at reasonable prices to consumers. For example, an item of clothing could be conceived by a fashion designer in Italy, with the fabric sourced from Kenya, and assembled in Vietnam. The resulting garment could then be shipped via container ship to Los Angeles, travel by railroad across the country to Columbia and then travel by tractor trailer to Charleston. It is a remarkable system, but one where safeguards must be employed and regulations adhered to in order for it to be a safe system because of the inherent dangers that these massive trucks present to the motoring public.
Motor carriers are overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Motor carriers must register with the FMCSA and obtain an USDOT number in order to operate legally. Interstate motor carriers are required to meet certain minimum safety fitness standards including having adequate safety management controls. These safety areas include properly licensed drivers, financial responsibility, qualified drivers, use and driving of motor vehicles, document retention, driver fatigue, and adequate inspection, maintenance and repair. The FCMSA operates the Safety And Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System to track motor carrier’s safety ratings.
Motor Carrier Liability
Motor carriers can be held liable for accidents under a number of theories of liability, including employer liability, lease liability, and negligent hiring, entrustment and retention. When the at fault truck drier is a company employee who works for the motor carrier, and he is acting within the course and scope of his employment, then the motor carrier can be vicariously liable for his negligent acts and omissions under the legal theory of respondeat superior. Under an owner/operator lease, a motor carrier can be held liable for a leased driver’s negligent acts and omissions because the company, by allowing the driver to operate under its interstate authorization, who would otherwise be unregulated and not allowed to operate. Negligent hiring involves a claim that the motor carrier should not have hired the driver because they should have known that he was incompetent and unfit for the job. Negligent entrustment involves a claim that the motor carrier should not have entrusted the truck, which is a dangerous instrumentality, to a driver who did not have the experience to operate it safely. Negligent retention involves a claim that the motor carrier failed to terminate a driver when it knew he was incompetent and unfit.
Minimum Insurance Requirements
Federal regulations require motor carriers of non-hazardous loads to have insurance in the amount of $750,000 to cover liability for injuries caused to the motoring public. A carrier of certain hazardous materials must have insurance in the amount of $5,000,000. Many motor carriers have layers of excess and umbrella insurance for many millions more. The existence of this insurance is a benefit to people who have been injured by the actions of commercial truck drivers – if you have competent counsel who are equipped to fight these large trucking companies and their insurance carriers.
Trucking Accident Attorney
It is important to retain counsel who are experienced in evaluating and litigating trucking accident cases to maximize the value of your case. Trucking accident cases are complex cases, often with massive injuries to the plaintiff and a defendant who will play hard ball, so it is important to choose your counsel wisely. If you have suffered a life altering injury or had a loved one killed in a trucking accident, contact us to discuss the legal options available to you.