Determining Liability and Negligence in Truck Accidents

When a commercial truck is fully loaded, it can be more than 24 times as heavy as a common vehicle found on the road. Because their weight can result in catastrophic injuries and damage they are required to carry higher limits of insurance that cars in Florida. For example, a truck weighing over 44,000 pounds must carry a minimum of $300,000 of liability insurance. The vast difference between weights and sizes can cause serious and even fatal injuries when commercial trucks are involved in accidents with other vehicles.

How Often Do Commercial Truck Accidents Occur?

Statistics show that commercial truck drivers operate their vehicles with a much higher level of safety when compared to other vehicle drivers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), crashes where commercial trucks were involved cause an average of more than 105,000 injuries as well as more than 4,990 fatalities annually. Many of these accidents are not directly caused by a commercial truck driver. They often involve negligence caused by the drivers of other vehicles that contribute to the accident as well as unforeseen road hazards and more.

In this article we cover the most common questions regarding Liability and Negligence in Truck Accidents, including:

How is a Truck Driver’s Negligence Proven?

Proving liability in an accident involving a commercial truck is complicated. In order to determine liability as well as negligence, a truck accident scene investigation needs to be conducted. A trucking company’s employee records will be reviewed to determine the type of background check performed on the driver. It will need to be determined if the driver of the commercial truck has a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in good standing. The driver’s employer should also have a medical certificate that shows the driver’s health was sufficient for operating a commercial vehicle. The driver should have experienced regular drug and alcohol screenings. All commercial truck drivers are required to have a logbook. An examination of this logbook could show violations that result in the driver being at fault for an accident. This is required to be sure the trucking company is not allowing drivers on the road that are fatigued from too many hours of driving which can cause an accident.

How is Mechanical Failure Proven?

A common cause of many accidents involving commercial trucks is mechanical failure. This could be the result of several different things. Each commercial truck has a black box similar to what is found on commercial aircraft. It will record the actions of the truck right before the accident, and provide other useful information. Maintenance records will be carefully examined. This will show if the liability for the accident is with the commercial trucking company or a third party. It will show if there was a problem with maintenance. Repair records will indicate if faulty repair work was performed on the commercial truck. There will be inspection reports showing what maintenance was done before and after every trip. These reports can provide important information concerning mechanical failure. All such information for the year prior to the accident will be reviewed.

Are There Federal Regulations Covering Commercial Trucking?

When it comes to determining liability and negligence in an accident, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) are crucial. When an accident occurs, it is essential to establish if any of the FMCSRs were violated by the commercial truck driver or their employer. It is common for an investigation to show one or more of these federal regulations having been violated prior to an accident.

Can Commercial Truck Drivers Be Given Special Considerations?

It is accepted that operating a commercial truck comes with a unique set of challenges. There are situations that commercial truck drivers experience that do not affect drivers of other types of vehicles. It is possible for a commercial truck to jackknife and the driver not be held liable. This could occur during the truck breaking or turning. If this is the result such things as unpredictable road conditions, or if the driver is trying to avoid a stalled vehicle on the road, the commercial truck driver may not be liable.

Can Anyone Other Than the Truck Driver or Company Be Liable in an Accident?

It is possible in a commercial truck accident to have the cargo company involved be held liable. They could have been negligent with how the commercial truck was loaded. They could have put too much weight on the truck or let the truck on the road with an unbalanced load. These things will impact a commercial truck driver’s ability to stop quickly and even turn. It will also make it much more difficult for them to safely respond to hazards on the road and more. The manufacturer of the commercial truck could also be held liable for an accident. Should parts of the truck such as brakes and tires have been sold without meeting industry safety standards, the manufacturer could be determined to be at fault for an accident.

Are There Special Regulations for Transporting Hazardous Materials?

The safety regulations that apply to transporting hazardous materials are the responsibility of The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS). If a commercial truck driver, or their employer, does not follow the safety guidelines from OHMS, they can be held liable for an accident.

Are Commercial Trucks Restricted to Where They Can Drive?

There are a number of local ordinances as well as state laws that cover where commercial trucks of certain sizes can drive. They are often restricted to specific roadways or highways. A trucking company and their driver have a duty to be aware of all these regulations and obey them. If these laws and ordinances are ignored, and an accident occurs, the commercial truck driver, their employer and more, could be held liable.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

When a person is injured and has property damage as a result of an accident with a commercial truck, they may be eligible for compensation for a variety of injuries as well as property damage. This could include past medical expenses as well as future medical expenses, current and future income loss. Their vehicle and its contents could be covered. An accident victim could also be compensated for pain and suffering, and emotional damages.

What Are Punitive Damages?

These are damages awarded to an accident victim when the behavior of a trucking company or their driver is so despicable, that it is determined they need to be financially punished. The amount of punitive damages given to defendants will vary. It will be based on the level of malicious or intentional behavior by the defendant that contributed to the accident. The amount of compensation will be determined by the financial size of the defendant. Larger companies or wealthier individuals will be required to pay more than those who have less financial resources.

Larn more about Tort exemption, limitation on right to damages, and punitive damages.

Consulting a Tampa Truck Accident Lawyer

If you have been involved in a truck accident you need experienced legal representation.

Call the Tampa truck accident lawyers at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case. Jack Bernstein has over 31 years of experience representing victims involved in commercial truck accidents in Tampa and South Florida and knows the complex laws surrounding liability and negligence in the state of Florida.

Call (813) 333-6666 today to speak with Jack personally about your case so he and his expert team of lawyers can help you recover damages and get the maximum compensation you deserve.

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