Last year, the World Health Organization released a Global Status Report on Road Safety. According to the report, 1.35 million people worldwide lost their lives as a result of fatal road accidents.These numbers are huge and given the fact that we’ve all had our encounters with road-related mishaps, rather scary.

A truck accident can be particularly devastating given the sheer size, power and force of the vehicle involved. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, here’s some information to help you understand the 101s of truck accident law in the U.S.A.

Who Are the Main Authorities?

The U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are the two agencies responsible for regulating truck safety in the U.S.A. Each state has its own department to ensure that regulations are followed by trucks and other commercial vehicles within the state.

The Code of Federal Regulations, specifies the necessary compliances required of every commercial truck, trucking companies, and their drivers.

Truck Accident Law: A Checklist of Information

It is important to know what to do and what to look for in case you do get into an accident with an eighteen-wheeler or other commercial vehicles.

Here is a list of things you should look into if you find yourself or a loved one involved in an accident with a truck or other commercial vehicle.

Does the Driver Have a Valid Commercial Driver’s License?

In order to operate a commercial vehicle, a driver requires a valid commercial driver’s license or CDL. The Commercial Motor Safety Vehicle Act of 1986 lays down specific requirements and abilities that a driver must have before being able to hold such a license.

An absence of a CDL would imply insufficient training and expertise on the part of the driver to operate a vehicle like a commercial truck. This will also show negligence on the part of the employer for hiring a driver without a valid license.

Quality Control and Technical Issues

Product liability refers to a technical failure of the truck involved. Federal laws have rules and standards that every commercial vehicle has to follow. If the repair team or manufacturing company fails to maintain these standards, they will be liable under these regulations.

Hours of Service

Every driver with a CDL is permitted to drive only for a specific number of hours without a break. So, it would be prudent to investigate whether the accident has occurred within excess of these “hours of service”.

Weight Restrictions

Weight restrictions vary depending on the size of the vehicle involved. This could range anywhere between 20,000 pounds to 34,000 pounds.

An excess of these amounts would be a violation of these restrictions and will help you make a stronger case against the defendants in question.

Hazardous Materials

A commercial vehicle carrying hazardous materials needs to follow the requirements specified by the Hazardous Materials Transporation Act.

It would be especially important to check for violations if your injuries were aggravated due to hazardous substances carried by the truck.

How Do You Determine Liability?

Liability can only be determined on a case-by-case basis. In several instances, companies might be held vicariously liable for the fault of their employees, ie. the drivers.

Vicarious liability is when the employer is held accountable for the actions of his or her employees. An employer can be vicariously liable if the employee has committed an act of negligence during the course of business.

In order to establish a case against those responsible, you would also need to prove liability against them. In most cases, it is enough to simply establish that the driver in question acted in a negligent manner.

How can you determine negligence?

Negligence is proven by showing that the average person would have exercised greater care or caution, if he had been in the same position position. A negligent company might be one that failed to complete appropriate background checks.

It is important to note details like whether the driver intoxicated while driving. If so, was the company aware of this before he left the premises? These circumstances will help you and your attorney identify the defendants.

What Damages Are You Entitled To?

The victims of truck accidents usually incur enormous medical costs and rehabilitation is a long and tedious process. It is important that you are compensated for your pain, both physical and emotional, as a victim of such an unfortunate accident.

Now, there are generally two types of damages:

  • Compensatory
  • Punitive

Compensatory damages are given to restore you to your financial state, before the accident. Punitive damages refer to a penalty for violating a law.

As a victim you would be able to claim compensatory damages for

  1. Medical expenses
  2. Loss of wages or ability to earn an income
  3. Physical pain
  4. Emotional trauma

and any other monetary loss you may have suffered as a result of the accident.

Make sure you keep a record of every expense, medical or otherwise as proof of the loss you’ve suffered. 

Protecting Your Interests

A lawyer who specializes in transport and truck accident law would be able to ask the right questions and ensure that your interests are protected. However, it will definitely help for you to do your own research on the subject. Read what you can ask for help and if you have any questions, be sure to ask your lawyer or legal advisors!

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