What is Transportation Law?
Transportation law is the body of law that relates to everything to do with transportation. This includes commerce and how companies transport goods, shipping and aviation, highways and railroads, and transportation infrastructure.
Laws that impact transportation exist at the federal and state level. Many local governments also have transportation laws, including municipal and county governments. The U.S. Constitution reserves the ability to regulate interstate commerce and transportation to the federal government. Several federal agencies are responsible for transportation laws:
- U.S. Department of Transportation
- Federal Aviation Administration
- National Transportation Safety Board
- Federal Highway Administration
- Federal Railroad Administration
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
- Federal Transit Administration
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
States regulate many aspects of transportation too, including traffic laws, vehicle safety, insurance, licensing, and registration for vehicles, boats, and airplanes, through a Department of Motor Vehicles or similar state agency.
What Are Transportation Lawyers?
Transportation lawyers are experts in all areas of the law related to transportation. Some specialize further in specific types of transportation or legal issues, such as aviation law, maritime law, or personal injuries resulting from car accidents.
A transportation lawyer may work for a company, representing their interests in transporting goods, or for individuals. Some of the issues they handle include:
- Compliance with transportation regulations
- Transporting hazardous materials
- Transportation agreements and contractual disputes
- Commercial and individual litigation
- Collection of freight charges
- Cargo claims
- Environmental compliance
- Employment issues
- Personal injury and property damage
When Do I Need a Transportation Lawyer?
Many business owners and companies of all sizes work with transportation lawyers. If the company transports goods by truck, rail, or air, having a legal expert in transportation is essential. You may not be a business owner, but there are good reasons you may end up needing a transportation lawyer at some point:
- You suffered injuries or property damage in a vehicle accident
- You were in a railroad, boat, or airplane accident
- You lost a loved one in a transportation accident and want to file a wrongful death lawsuit
- You’re a truck driver, and your employer has pushed you to violate regulations, such as the number of hours you drive without a break
- You have a cargo claim because a company lost or damaged goods it shipped for you
- You have a dispute with your auto insurance company or the company that represents someone who caused an accident and injuries
How a Transportation Lawyer Can Help You
If you’re not sure you need a transportation lawyer for a particular situation, it’s worth talking to a lawyer for advice. They can evaluate your case, determine what they can do for you, if anything, and provide guidance. There are several benefits of working with a transportation lawyer when you have a legal issue:
- Expert advice
Transportation law is broad and complicated. It also changes often. A transportation lawyer has the expertise and deep knowledge of the laws you need to decide what to do next.
- A chance to recover damages
If you suffered damages in an accident, a commercial truck damaged your property, or a company lost your transported goods, you lost money. A lawyer with expertise in transportation law gives you the best chance of recovering damages to make up for that loss.
- A quicker resolution
Without a lawyer, you can try to resolve a dispute or recover damages, but it can take a long time. Insurance companies, for instance, are not motivated to pay you any time soon. A lawyer can make it happen faster and get you the damages you’re owed.
- Settlement instead of a trial
You may find it necessary to sue over damages in a transportation incident, but a trial can take a long time and not give you the result you want. An experienced lawyer knows how to negotiate and can probably get you a settlement without going to court.
- Top-notch defense
If you’re on the other side of a claim, you need a good defense. Experienced transportation lawyers advocate for plaintiffs, but they also work for and defend those accused of negligence, damages, or breaking transportation laws.
How to Find and Hire a Transportation Lawyer
It’s easy to find firms and attorneys claiming to specialize in transportation law. The more difficult part is to find the right lawyer for your needs. The Transportation Lawyers Association is a good source of qualified specialists. You can also ask a lawyer you know for a referral. Before hiring any lawyer or a law firm, ask important questions:
- How long have you been working in transportation law?
- What kinds of cases have you handled, and what were the results?
- Can you show me references from satisfied clients?
- Have you handled a case like mine?
- What do you think the outcome will be?
- How long will my case take?
- How will you investigate and proceed with my case?
- Who will be handling my case?
Reputable lawyers offer free initial meetings so you can ask questions like these and feel good about your choice. Select a lawyer with the right experience, with the time and resources to help you, and who makes you feel comfortable.
Hiring a transportation lawyer is a smart move if you have a legal issue related to any type of transportation. These lawyers have expertise in the complicated and broad categories of law that govern everything from air travel to public buses. They can give you the best chance of resolving your transportation issue.