Truck accidents differ from other types of accidents in several ways that often make them much more challenging than others. First, there are federal regulations that pertain to the commercial trucking industry that do not apply to other passenger cars. Because of this, preserving evidence can be more difficult to obtain for a truck accident. Secondly, because an accident with a massive semi-truck can be so severe, the injuries and damages are often more substantial.
Because trucking companies typically have a big corporation behind them, truck carriers often hire a team of attorneys to fight accident victims’ claims, which is intimidating for unrepresented accident victims.
What regulations can trigger truck accident lawsuits?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the government agency that regulates the trucking industry and provides various rules and guidelines that carriers and truck drivers must follow. These rules pertain to many aspects of the industry, from truck driver training to inspection of a fleet before they hit the road. Obviously, adherence to federal regulations is critical to reduce crash risk. Violations are a breach of duty that can cause major safety hazards and lead to serious accidents.
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) details hundreds of statutes that truck companies/drivers must know and abide by. Below are some of the most safety-critical and often violated rules.
Hours of service
Because the FMCSA recognizes the danger in allowing truckers to drive when they are exhausted and overworked, the FMCSA provides strict time limits on the number of consecutive hours truck drivers be can be on duty.
- They cannot drive more than 11 hours after 10 hours off-duty.
- They have to take at least a 30-minute break after driving eight hours.
- They cannot drive more than 60/70 hours in a seven/eight-day period.
Defective or worn tires and brakes, improperly secured loads, and overloaded cargo are common causes of trucking accidents. The FMCSA requires regular inspection of trucks to identify any disrepair. If there is an issue with an important feature on the truck, the carrier must take the vehicle out of service until a mechanic has repaired the issue.
Similarly, drivers must periodically inspect their loads. They have to check loads:
- Before each trip
- Within the first 50 miles of each trip, and
- Either after the “duty status” of the driver changes or at three hour intervals, whichever comes first
Cell phone use
The hazards of cell phone use while driving is extremely well-documented. “Research commissioned by FMCSA shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) are six times greater for CMV drivers who engage in dialing a mobile phone while driving than for those who do not,” the FMCSA reports.
As such, truck drivers are subject to a strict ban on cell phone use. Drivers may not use a hand-held phone while driving, press more than a single button to dial a number, or even reach for a phone if they are “no longer in a seated driving position, restrained by a seat belt.”
What types of evidence do I need to win a truck accident case?
In order to win your claim and recover damages, you will need to be able to prove that the truck driver or company’s negligence is what caused your accident. Your attorney will need to send a preservation of evidence letter to the company as soon as possible to inform the company that they need to retain certain records as evidence and have no right to destroy any potential evidence. Some of the types of evidence that can help support your case include:
- The police report
- The truck driver’s log book
- Inspection and maintenance records
- The truck driver’s breath and blood/urine test results
- The truck’s black box
- The truck driver’s cell phone records
- Photos of the crash scene and vehicle damage
- Eyewitness reports
- Testimony from accident experts
What types of damages can I recover after a truck accident?
If you are successful in proving your case, you may be able to collect various damages related to your accident and injuries. You can recover damages for losses such as:
- Medical and rehabilitation bills
- Lost wages, lost capacity to work, loss of promotion
- Disability, disfigurement, scarring
- Emotional repercussions, e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder
- The effect of your injuries on your family, career, and overall sense of well-being
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish