In the United States, trucking companies are responsible for following certain regulations to keep roads safe from devastating trucking collisions. As a result, when these companies do not follow these orders or, worse yet, ignore them, this failure to adhere to these safety guidelines can lead to catastrophic and life-changing injuries and repercussions.
However, as a victim of this tragic ordeal, you should not have to deal with these horrifying consequences on your own. Rather, you deserve justice and compensation for the injuries you sustained.
To pursue financial recovery, you must understand a trucking company’s responsibilities to keep its trucks safe, who you can hold liable for a truck collision, the steps to protect your legal rights, and how an experienced truck accident attorney can fight for your rights.
Common Causes of Trucking Accidents
The most common causes of trucking accidents often have to do with human errors, including:
- Fatigued driving
- Poor truck maintenance
- Incomplete trucking inspections
- Truckers driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Improperly loaded cargo
- Distracted driving
- Defective or failing equipment, such as worn tires or improper braking systems
To curb human error, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has regulations governing truck drivers and trucking companies to stop accidents.
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Regulations Surrounding Proper Maintenance of Trucking Vehicles and Equipment
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulation 396, commercial vehicle carrier companies and drivers must fulfill basic inspection and maintenance duties. This typically starts with the trucking company’s obligation to maintain the truck’s vital parts and ensure proper working order.
A qualified inspector should complete this inspection once every 12 months, as indicated by the regulations, and the body of the truck should display documentation of the assessment. If a mechanic finds any defect, the trucking company may not allow a driver to operate it until it corrects or repairs the deficiency.
In addition, the truck’s driver also needs to perform a basic inspection of essential components of the truck and record the results of their examination in an official daily inspection log.
This inspection typically includes checking:
- Service brakes, including the trailer brake connections
- Steering mechanism
- Lighting devices and reflectors
- Parking brakes
- Windshield wipers
- Rear vision mirrors
- Coupling devices
- Rims, and
- Emergency equipment
Other Mandatory Trucking Regulations
To keep others safe, other regulations deal with:
- Truck drivers and their qualifications
- The number of hours a company permits its drivers to work
- A truck’s weight
- The route a company allows its trucks to take, and
- Realistic delivery times
If the trucking companies do not follow these regulations and an accident results, you can hold them responsible for these crashes and accidents that involve:
- Untrained truckers
- Negligently hired truck drivers
- Unsupervised drivers
- Truckers dealing with fatigue
- Violations of safety standards
- Unsecured cargo loads
Following these strict guidelines prevents trucking accidents and keeps people safe, but many trucking companies cut corners and either skip safety regulations altogether or do the bare minimum to save money and time. However, a failure to comply with these regulations can often lead to devastating accidents, catastrophic injuries, and debilitating consequences that can leave the trucking company accountable for the harm and losses that result.
For these reasons, if you were in a truck accident, you should reach out to an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. These attorneys can investigate the incident, determine if any of these regulations were violated and contributed to your accident, and figure out your legal options.
Who Can You Hold Liable for a Trucking Accident?
Depending on the circumstances of the trucking accident, you can hold various parties responsible for the crash, including:
- The truck driver: If the trucker broke the laws or acted negligently on the roads, they can be held accountable for the accident. These actions can include driving more hours than allowed, distracted or reckless driving, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- The trucking company: If the truck company did not abide by state or federal regulations, failed to maintain their trucks, or pushed drivers to meet deadlines in an unrealistic time frame, they too can be held liable for a trucking collision.
- The truck’s owner: In certain situations, if the company does not own the trucks, the truck’s owner can be held liable if their actions or lack of actions contributed to the accident, such as if they did not perform proper repairs, maintenance, and inspections on the vehicles.
- The cargo company: If the cargo company failed to load or tie down the cargo properly in the truck and an accident resulted from loose or unbalanced cargo, the cargo company can be held responsible for the crash.
- The truck’s manufacturer: If a defective truck or truck part leads to a trucking collision, the manufacturer may be held liable for the losses and injuries that result.
- A truck’s maintenance company: If a third party was responsible for maintaining a truck, and poor maintenance caused the trucking collision, you can blame the company for the accident.
Unfortunately, figuring out who was responsible for one of these trucking crashes is not always easy. To determine whom you can hold accountable for your trucking accident, reach out to a knowledgeable and skilled truck accident attorney. Your lawyer can not only review what happened and figure out who was at fault for the incident, but they can also help you hold all those responsible for the crash answerable for the harm you suffered.
Protecting Yourself and Your Legal Rights Following a Trucking Collision
Following a truck collision, the last thing you want to worry about is gathering evidence and speaking to others at the scene. However, to ensure your legal rights remain protected following this accident, you should:
#1. Contact 911 Right Away
After a trucking accident, you should call 911 right away. This is not only the fastest way to notify the police and medical personnel of the crash, but it is also the quickest way to get your accident on record.
Once the police arrive, they can perform a preliminary investigation of the accident and write down their findings in their police report. If you decide to pursue legal action after the incident, this report can provide you and your lawyer with valuable details regarding the crash and what happened.
#2. Gather Evidence From the Accident Scene
If your injuries do not require emergency medical treatment and the area is safe, you should try to collect as much evidence from the accident scene as you can.
This includes photos and videos of:
- Your visible injuries
- The vehicles involved in the collision and their placement on the street
- The weather conditions at the time of the accident
- Traffic signs and signals near the area
- Skid marks on the road
- Road defects, and
- Any other evidence that can help show what happened
However, if you can’t obtain this evidence due to your injuries, do not worry. After you retain an experienced truck accident lawyer, these legal professionals can take over this investigation on your behalf and work on securing this evidence.
Plus, these attorneys can also try to obtain:
- The vehicle’s electronic records or black box
- Daily inspection sheets
- Maintenance and repair records
- Roadside and annual inspections
- Complaints against the driver or trucking company
- The trucker’s daily log sheets
- Reports regarding repair information or inspections
- GPS records
- Company records involving safety regulations, employee handbooks, policies, and out-of-service orders
- Information on the driver, including credentials, employment history, training records, driving history, and drug tests
- Information regarding the driver’s speed and variations of speed leading up to the crash
- The length of time the truck operated the truck in each sitting
- The truck’s gear shifts
- Any communications between the truck driver and the company
An attorney should get this evidence as soon as possible following a trucking accident to ensure that the trucking company or driver does not destroy or lose any of it. That is why, following a crash, reach out to an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as you can so your lawyer safeguards this essential information, sends preservation letters to the company, requests a copy of the accident report, and keeps the truck’s black box secure.
#3. Exchange Information With Others
After the accident, try to obtain information from all those involved, including their names, contact information, driver’s license numbers, and insurance information.
Additionally, if any individuals saw the collision, get their names and contact information, too. These individuals can often provide you and your lawyer with important details about the crash and offer testimony that can help substantiate your claim.
However, as you speak with these individuals, you need to watch what you say. Remember, your comments and statements following a crash can affect your case and the amount of money you receive. For these reasons, avoid making any definitive statements about the accident, taking the blame for what occurred, or apologizing.
#4. Get Checked out by a Doctor
Even if your injuries appear minor, you should still get to a doctor immediately after your crash. Not only can medical treatment ensure you did not suffer a severe injury, such as brain trauma that can take some time to manifest, but a medical professional can provide you with a medical report that can detail the extent of your injuries and serve as evidence of a direct link between the truck collision and your injuries.
Fight for the Financial Recovery and Justice You Deserve Following a Trucking Accident
Although truck drivers and their companies can face stiff penalties if they violate federal and state safety regulations, they often skimp on safety protocols and endanger innocent lives.
As a result, if you or a loved one was involved in a severe trucking collision because of a safety violation, you should reach out to an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible.
Once you retain a lawyer retained, they can:
- Go over your accident with you in detail, determine if you have a viable claim, and figure out the legal options you can pursue.
- Discuss all the questions and concerns you have regarding your case and the legal process involved.
- Investigate your trucking accident and secure the evidence needed to show fault and damages.
- Bring in experts, such as trucking specialists, doctors, and accident reconstructionist, to validate your case.
- Ensure that all the required documents and motions are prepared correctly and filed with the proper court before time runs out.
- Handle all the discussions with the other side and the insurance company and go after a fair settlement offer.
- Proceed to trial if the other side is unwilling to provide you with a just settlement amount and fight for a successful resolution to your case.
If a trucking accident disrupts your life or the life of a loved one, do not wait any longer to secure the legal help you need. Instead, contact an experienced truck accident attorney today for a free case evaluation and find out how these attorneys can fight for the justice you are entitled to and the financial damages you deserve.