Truck Accidents and the Law
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a federal agency that sets minimum safety standards for interstate commerce. This mostly applies to large commercial trucks transporting goods, but the rules also apply to any vehicle weighing 10,001 pounds or more.
The safety guidelines set by the FMCSA apply to truck drivers and everyone else who works in the industry: managers, supervisors, dispatchers, and drivers in training. Failure to comply with the rules can lead to fines or even a business shutdown.
Another risk of not knowing or complying with the FMCSA rules is liability and negligence in accidents. Victims of truck accidents can sue the driver and their employer. Often, the employer is negligent, even if the driver is the one who failed to follow one of the rules, resulting in the accident. The employer’s negligence is known as vicarious liability.
The harm the victim of a negligent truck accident incurs is included in personal injury law. They can negotiate a settlement from the trucking company or their insurance. They can file a lawsuit against the driver and the company to recover damages.
What Causes Truck Accidents?
A collision between two cars can be devastating and cause severe injuries, sometimes fatalities. When a commercial truck hits a car, the results for the car driver and passengers are usually worse.
Some of the same things that trigger car accidents are to blame in truck accidents: distractions, speeding, or bad weather. There are also types of accidents and causes that are more common in or unique to incidents with trucks:
- Driver fatigue. Employers may pressure commercial truck drivers to work longer than the law allows. Driving while tired causes many accidents.
- Jackknife accidents. When a driver loses control of the truck or hits the brakes too fast, the trailer may swing out to the side. This is jackknifing, and it can cause accidents with other vehicles on the road.
- Brake failures. While brakes may fail on any vehicle, the consequences are more serious when it happens with a semi-truck. A large truck that cannot stop causes a lot of destruction.
- Rollovers. Loss of control over a big rig may cause a rollover accident because of the vehicle’s high profile.
- Underride accidents. This occurs when a car slides under a tractor-trailer, and it can be extremely dangerous to people in the vehicle. It may happen when the truck brakes too fast and without warning.
- Lost loads. If the load a truck is carrying is not secured correctly, it may fall off, causing accidents for vehicles behind it. Even one small part coming loose can be damaging to cars.
- Tire blowouts. Maintaining control of a heavy truck when the tire blows is nearly impossible. Failure to monitor the state of tires and maintain or replace them can cause these accidents.
- Making turns. Turning in a big truck is more difficult than in a car or smaller truck. If the driver doesn’t turn correctly, it can cause a collision with another vehicle.
Who is Negligent in a Truck Accident?
As with car accidents, if the driver in some way breaches expected behaviors in the truck, causing the accident, they may be considered negligent. However, negligence gets a little more complicated with truck accidents. It is not just the driver but also their employer who may be at fault and liable for damages.
One of the main ways to prove negligence in a truck accident is to show that the company or the driver failed to follow one or more FCMCSA regulations. Negligence may also be confirmed if the victim can show the driver was unfit for the job, which the employer should have known.
Do I Need a Lawyer after a Truck Accident?
If you have suffered injuries because of an accident with a truck, you need a lawyer experienced in these kinds of cases. A truck accident almost always involves negligence, which means someone can be held liable for your resulting damages.
Trying to take action without a lawyer’s guidance may result in a disappointing settlement or no settlement at all. These cases can get complicated, and only a lawyer with expertise in the relevant laws can ensure you get a fair deal.
What to Do if You Are Injured in a Truck Accident
Before doing anything else after an accident, get emergency medical help if anyone is seriously injured. You will also need to get a police report. Even without serious injuries and minor accidents, calling the police is an important step. It provides immediate, accurate, and official details on the incident. After these two important steps, do the following:
If possible, get pictures of the accident scene, any damage to your property, and your injuries. Take notes on the incident and conditions while they are fresh in your mind. Collect information from witnesses to the accident. Do not walk around getting evidence if it is not safe to do so. Always follow the directions of emergency workers on the scene.
Get Contact Information
Collect contact information, including name, phone number, and address, for witnesses to the accident. Get the name, number, and address, along with insurance information from the truck driver. Find out their employer information and take down their license plate number and other identifying information.
Talk to a Truck Accident Lawyer
Avoid talking to anyone about the accident until you have spoken with an experienced lawyer. You may receive a call from an insurance adjuster. Do not accept anything yet. Be aware that you are not obligated to talk to them. Make sure your lawyer represents you instead. They will help you recover damages and take more legal action if necessary.
A truck accident can be serious and life-changing. If you have been hurt or suffered significant property damage in an accident with a truck, the costs can pile up quickly. Let an experienced lawyer advise you on your next steps so you get fair compensation.