Truck Accident Lawyer: What You Need to Know if You Sustained Injury in a Truck Accident
Injuries resulting from a truck accident are often catastrophic and sometimes fatal since trucks are large and heavy. You will need a truck accident lawyer in order to get the compensation you deserve. Even with the specialized federal laws in place to reduce truck accidents, truck accidents still occur all too frequently. For instance, despite strict laws regulating a truck driver’s time driving, truck driver fatigue is still one of the leading causes of truck accidents.
Types of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents may involve:
- Striking a cyclist
- Striking a pedestrian
- Collision with another motor vehicle such as a bus, car or motorcycle
- Single-vehicle accident, which involves only the truck
Parties Potentially Liable for Truck Accidents
Truck drivers are not the only potential parties who could be at fault for the truck accident. In fact, other parties may include the truck driver’s employer, the manufacturer and/or distributor of the truck or truck parts, and many others. A truck accident lawyer may help determine the responsible party.
The most obvious potential party liable for the truck accident is the truck driver. Every driver on the road has a duty as well as obligation to safely operate his or her vehicle. If the driver breaches that duty and that breach of duty cause an accident that resulted in your injury, then the driver could be found negligent. Unsafe or negligent driving may include:
- Violation of traffic laws. Drivers may speed, tailgate, fail to obey traffic signs or signals, make illegal turns, drive on a no-truck road, etc.
- Distracted driving. Examples include texting, talking on the cellphone, or watching a movie.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Truck drivers who suffer from fatigue often take drugs, such as amphetamines and cocaine, in an effort to help them stay awake. However, amphetamines and cocaine also cause vertigo, agitation, hallucinations and change perceptions and reactions, which negatively affects the truck driver’s ability to safely operate the truck.
- Driver fatigue. Truck drivers work long hours and often go hours without rest during a shift or between shifts in an effort to meet strict deadlines. Accidents due to tired truck drivers are one of the leading causes of truck accidents.
- Violation of federal laws. Pursuant to 49 CFR § 395.5, truck drivers are regulated to take periods of rest both during a shift and between shifts. The length of each shift is also regulated. However, in order to meet nearly impossible deadlines, truck drivers often violate these rest periods or shift periods, which increases the chances that the driver will fall asleep at the wheel from fatigue.
- Failing to properly inspect the truck. Trucks are massive vehicles that often suffer from intense wear and tear due to their long hours of constant use. Drivers must frequently inspect their trucks to ensure maintenance of brakes and tires, for example.
Employer of the Truck Driver
If the truck accident occurred while the truck driver was on duty, then the driver’s employer may be held responsible for the negligence of its employee under the theory of vicarious liability. Thus, you may assert a claim against the employer for the truck driver’s negligence.
Additionally, the employer could also be held individually liable if it acted negligently or otherwise illegally:
- Encouraged illegal practices
- Ordered impossible and/or tight deadlines or schedules
- Improperly maintained or inspected the truck
- Knew or should have known of the truck driver’s propensity for careless or reckless driving due to the driver’s historical record (whether from prior complaints or multiple traffic tickets)
- Knew or should have known of the truck driver’s alcohol or drug abuse
Manufacturer or Distributor of the Truck or Component Parts
If there was a defective part of the truck that caused or contributed to the accident, such as defective tires or brakes, then the manufacturer and distributor of that defective part could also be held responsible for the accident under the theory of product liability.
There are three theories under product liability that could be a basis for a claim against the manufacturer or distributor:
- Design defect. The specification, or design, of the truck or component part was inherently dangerous. Thus, the defect existed from the truck or part’s conception.
- Manufacturing defect. The truck or component part was properly designed but it was not manufactured according to specification and therefore, the part did not perform as intended. Thus, the defect arose during the manufacturing process.
- Warning or labeling defect. The truck or component part lacked adequate warnings or labels cautioning against the dangers of the product. Thus, the defect is the lack of or inadequate warning associated with the dangerous product.
Other Potentially Liable Parties
Other potential liable parties also include:
- Truck owner
- Company leasing the truck
- Owner of the leasing company
These entities may be held responsible depending upon whether they had primary control or custody of the truck at or near the time of the accident.
Federal Trucking Laws
In order to reduce truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted statutes, codified in 49 CFR §§ 300-399, to regulate the conduct of truck drivers and their employers. These statutes strictly regulates the following:
- How long a driver may be on the job (14 hour shift)
- When and how often a driver must rest (10 hours before a 14 hour shift; 30 minutes after eight hours of driving; and 34 hours once every seven days)
- How long a driver may drive in a given day (11 hours in a 14 hour shift)
- How often drivers are tested for drug use
- Type of cargo
- How much weight a truck may haul
- How the loads must be tied down
- Retention of pre- and post-trip inspection documents
- How often trucks and their systems must be inspected and serviced
- Drivers must maintain a log of their hours as well as distance traveled
- Retention of truck repair and/or work orders
Our Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
Truck accidents are complex. Our seasoned truck accident lawyer knows how to handle complicated issues, such as:
- Employers who ignore or encourage rule violations by demanding tight and impossible deadlines
- Truck drivers fabricating or manipulating their logs to defraud inspectors. Often, drivers will have two logs, one providing the driver’s real work time (generally over the mandatory hours) and given to their employers for payroll and the other showing that the driver worked within the statutory time restrictions.