Truck Accidents: Driver Fault

We assume, and rightly so, that when we’re driving out on the highway all the tractor/trailers, big rigs, 18-wheelers, and other commercial trucks traveling along side us are being driven by qualified, sober, well-rested, and well-trained drivers. Companies are duty-bound to hire capable individuals, train them, and supervise them. Too often, however, it’s the truck driver who is at fault when a truck accident occurs, and frequently, the motor carrier for whom the driver works or who has leased the driver is held primarily responsible.

Truck Driver Negligence

Like the driver of a passenger vehicle, a truck driver may be held liable for an accident if he or she was driving negligently, i.e., failing to follow the rules of the road. If, for example, the driver was driving too fast for conditions, following too closely, not signaling, not checking mirrors when changing lanes, etc., he or she was driving negligently and was, therefore, at least partially at fault for the accident.

Reasons for Driver Negligence

Truck drivers have caused accidents for many reasons, some of which are fairly common in the trucking industry, including the following:

  • Fatigue and/or working beyond standard hours;
  • Failure to carefully monitor the truck's numerous blind spots;
  • Failure to leave adequate space between vehicles;
  • Failure to pay attention to the road;
  • The truckload is not properly secured, and loose cargo causes an accident;
  • Aggressive or reckless driving;
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Trucking Regulations

A driver may also be responsible for an accident if he or she failed to follow the federal regulations for the trucking industry set out in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA covers issues of driver qualification and disqualification, as well as hours of service regulations and inspection and maintenance of vehicles, all of which may come into play in an accident. Ignoring or violating these regulations may expose the driver, and everyone else on the road, to danger. It potentially exposes the driver and the motor carrier to liability for damages caused to people and property.

Truck Driver Licensing Rules

Drivers must meet specific licensing and other rules to be qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle. If a driver is not qualified or has become disqualified to drive, both the driver and the company for whom he or she is driving will be responsible and may be found criminally liable, as well as civilly liable. If the driver is driving longer than the maximum hours of service set out in the regulations, for example, both the driver and the company will be to blame if it can be shown that driver fatigue, the most common cause of truck accidents, was a contributing factor in the accident.

If you or a family member is involved in an accident with a truck, it is imperative that you contact a truck accident attorney. His or her knowledge of and experience with the laws regarding the trucking industry will be instrumental in bringing a successful conclusion to your case. Although the laws are uniform throughout the country, some states’ regulations go further than the federal rules, and some company policies go even further than the laws. Your truck accident lawyer’s investigation will determine whether there were any violations of these rules, as well as what the cause or causes of the accident were and who is responsible.

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