There are significant differences between an accident caused by a commercial truck driver and accidents caused by non-commercial truck drivers. The following describes some of the federal regulations applicable to commercial truck drivers and the companies that employ them.
Commercial Truck Driver Regulations
Commercial truck drivers and their companies must comply with stringent regulations under federal law. These regulations are designed to promote safety and accountability for both drivers and their companies.
Many vehicle accidents are caused by driver fatigue, especially those involving commercial truck drivers. The federal regulations include “Hours of Service” rules, which limit the amount of driving a truck driver may engage in over specified periods of time. These rules were designed to prevent accidents caused by truck driver fatigue.
Commercial truck drivers must keep a detailed log of information concerning their driving activities. This information must also be kept by the companies employing commercial truck drivers for a six-month period. Many truck drivers also have automated equipment that also tracks the details of their trips.
If the truck driver exceeds the Hours of Service rules, this may be evidence that driver fatigue or contributed to the accident.
Commercial Trucking Companies
Under the federal regulations, commercial trucking companies are accountable for many aspects of the conduct of their drivers. For instance, these regulations require educational efforts to inform truck drivers of the safety requirements, “Hours of Service” rules and the required frequent inspections to ensure cargo is properly secured.
Commercial truck driving companies may be liable for an accident caused by one of their employees:
- As the employer of the truck driver,
- If they were negligent in hiring a driver who was not qualified,
- If the truck driver was driving on a suspended license,
- If they fail to comply with the federal regulations requiring safety and training, or
- If they encouraged a truck driver to violate the federal regulations, or if they did not maintain adequate controls to ensure that truck drivers complied with the federal regulations.
In some instances, commercial trucking companies have been liable for punitive damages based upon certain courses of conduct. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant (such as a commercial truck company) for outrageous conduct, and to serve as a deterrent for the defendant and others similarly situated to never again engage in outrageous or dangerous conduct.
At trial, punitive damages alone can exceed all of the other damages to which a plaintiff may be awarded (such as those for medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages). For this reason, we carefully investigate all aspects of commercial truck injury cases to see whether a claim for punitive damages is justified.
If you have been injured in a commercial truck accident, please contact us as soon as possible after the incident.
It is critical that we act as soon as possible to ensure that important evidence is preserved, such as accident vehicles and any black box information in the vehicles, before this evidence is destroyed.
We will meet you at your convenience so that we can learn about your case. There is no charge for this meeting. If we serve as your attorneys we will do so on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you will not owe us any fees unless and until we recover damages for you.