Commercial truck accidents commonly result in serious or even fatal injuries due to the immense size of these multi-ton vehicles. Lawsuits stemming from truck accidents can involve complex legal issues and the involvement of federal law. These lawsuits vary significantly from the average car accident lawsuit and will generally involve multiple parties who are potentially liable for the injuries inflicted on the driver and passengers in the car. Federal and state law govern the trucking industry and several safety standards have been passed to help keep the public and truckers alike safe on the roadways. Accordingly, the following is an overview of federal law as it relates to tractor trailer and other commercial truck accidents.
Federal and State Laws Regulate the Trucking Industry
Federal and state regulations exist to govern the interstate commercial trucking industry. These laws are set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and numerous state departments of transportation. Federal and state laws specify everything from a truck’s maximum weight load to the number of hours a trucker must sleep to licensing and vehicle inspections.
It is vital that all truck drivers and trucking companies comply with all federal and state regulations. Although most truckers are safe and law abiding drivers, failure to follow these regulations can result in liability on the part of the trucker or trucking company in the event of an accident. Your truck accident attorney should examine the trucker and trucking company’s current and past compliance with trucking regulations, as this may assist in developing your case.
Federal Law has Increased the Liability of Trucking Companies
In the past, trucking companies were known to attempt to avoid liability in the event of a truck accident by hiring truckers as independent owner-operators. When an accident occurred, the trucking company would attempt to shield itself from liability by stating that the truck driver was acting independently. The federal government banned this defense in recent years by requiring that all trucking companies be held accountable for the actions of their truckers, even if the truckers are hired as independent contractors.
Federal Law Requires Investigations After an Accident
Federal law mandates that following a truck accident, a certified truck inspector must be dispatched to search for evidence as to the cause of the accident. The inspector will examine the scene and look to skid marks, tire prints, the black box, and other evidence in an effort to reach a conclusion as to the cause of the accident. Your truck accident attorney will conduct additional investigations, including interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence, to mount the strongest possible truck accident case.