In a simple car accident, it is usually easy to determine liability. There are known scenarios: a rear end impact, a left turn impact, a driver who disregarded a stop sign or traffic light. However, in truck accident matters, it is often more difficult to establish liability because there are many factors involved which make for a much more complex legal matter. This is one of the reasons it is important to consult with an experienced truck accident attorney who is familiar with tractor trailer regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (“FMCSA”).
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents caused by hazardous road conditions or weather
Tractor Trailer operators must employ extreme caution when operating in hazardous conditions including: Snow, Sleet, Ice, Fog, Mist, Rain, Dust, or Smoke
When driving in these difficult conditions, a truck driver if required to reduce the speed of his tractor and stop driving depending on the severity of the surrounding conditions. Federal law sets a legal standard of care that truck drivers must abide by.
Tractor Trailer accidents caused by driver exhaustion or fatigue
A truck driver cannot operate a commercial truck when the driver’s alertness or ability to drive is impaired due to fatigue such that driving the vehicle would not be safe. Truck drivers carrying loads cannot:
drive more than eleven total hours after having ten consecutive hours of rest.
drive for any period of time after being on duty for fourteen hours after having ten hours off duty.
There are other rules which make both the driver and the trucking company liable in cases of fatigue.
Truck Accidents caused by to incorrectly loaded tractor trailers
When a trailer is not correctly loaded, the load may shift or move inside the trailer while the tractor is being driven which would lead to the truck to jackknife or overturn. Federal regulations make it clear that a driver shall not operate a commercial truck and a motor carrier should not let a driver operate a truck unless:
The trailer’s cargo is distributed evenly, properly, and secured safely so that it does not shift during transit
All vehicular equipment is secured including the tailgate, doors, and spare tires
The truck’s load does not block the driver’s view of the road
If a truck accident is caused even partially by a truck driver or trucking company’s failure to follow these regulations
Other Truck Accident Causes
The trucking motor carrier is legally mandated to keep a driver’s qualification file for all their drivers. As per federal regulations, a truck driver’s qualification file has to contain:
The truck driver’s application for employment
A documentary record of applications to prior jobs or employers and responses received from prior trucking companies where the driver worked
A copy of the driver’s CDL and results of written road tests taken
The driver’s yearly review
Motor vehicle records (“MVR”) of the driver which should be part of the annual review
Driver’s certified list of moving violations and accidents provided in conjunction with the annual review
Medical examiner’s records showing driver is physically qualified to operate a truck
A trucking company must keep all the above documents in an employee’s file for as long as that driver is employed by them. If a motor carrier allows one of their employed drivers to operate a tractor without proper qualifications both the trucking company and the driver may be liable if the driver gets into an accident.
Contact the experienced truck accident lawyers at Frekhtman & Associates for a consultation regarding your truck accident legal matter.