When they collide with a smaller passenger car, trucks often have devastating consequences. The injuries may be catastrophic, particularly if they involve the brain or spine. In many cases, an 18-wheeler accident results in the deaths of the occupants of a passenger car. Accordingly, there are detailed, complex federal regulations that govern interstate trucking companies and their drivers.
Because of the likelihood and severity of catastrophic injuries in connection with commercial vehicles, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has regulations that cover hours of service, maintenance of commercial motor vehicles, cargo restrictions, inspections, logbooks, and record keeping. In addition, trucking companies are required to conduct background checks of applicants for commercial driver positions.
Most 18-wheeler accident cases require a plaintiff to prove an 18-wheeler driver’s negligence. The elements of negligence are duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. When a truck driver has violated an FMSCA regulation or other safety law, the doctrine of negligence per se (negligence as a matter of law) may apply. For example, if a driver is driving on a suspended commercial driver’s license, this is likely to be evidence of negligence as a matter of law.
The employer of a driver who is negligent may be vicariously liable if the driver was in the course and scope of employment while driving. Vicarious liability is a form of indirect liability in which the employer may be forced to pay damages. If the employee is found not negligent, the employer will not be on the hook.
In some cases, an employer’s negligence is a substantial factor in causing an accident, and in that case, the employer can potentially be held directly liable for damages. For example, an employer who hires a truck driver who has no commercial driver’s license or who has a history of drunk driving may be liable under a theory of negligent hiring.
As employers, trucking companies are required to properly supervise their employees. This includes making sure that their drivers continue to be fit for service. For example, trucking companies should keep tabs on their drivers’ logbooks. In some cases, it is clear that a logbook has been falsified and that a truck driver is not following the FMCSA regulations related to hours of service. A fatigued driver is more likely to cause an accident than an alert driver. If a trucking company fails to appropriately supervise its drivers’ hours of service, and a driver causes an accident due to fatigue, the company may be liable for negligent supervision.
Not all personal injury attorneys are able to provide skillful representation in 18-wheeler cases. Representation in these cases requires familiarity with the FMCSA regulations and the trucking industry.
Collecting evidence in a truck accident case can be challenging, but attorneys with experience in these challenging cases know how to locate the best evidence and make sure experienced trucking defense attorneys and insurance adjustors do not bury it. For example, many trucks have black boxes that record information about what happened just before and during an accident, and truck companies must keep maintenance records for a certain amount of time. It’s best to access this information as soon as possible.
If you are hurt in an 18-wheeler accident, you should consult an experienced Alabama truck accident attorney. Call Jinks, Crow & Dickson at 888-297-9592 or contact us via our online form.
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