Truck accidents involve heavier vehicles than most other types of accidents. A tractor-trailer weighs between 12,100 and 80,000 pounds—around 25 times more than the average car. When they are being driven 65 miles per hour on the freeway, they are harder to stop and even more dangerous to small passenger cars. Additionally, due to their size and mass, they are harder to maneuver, especially when the weather or road conditions are poor.
As a result of their size and weight, truck accidents often result in devastating injuries to those riding in passenger cars or motorcycles. These injuries may include traumatic brain injury, paralysis, disfigurement, and amputation. Sometimes these accidents result in multiple wrongful deaths.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), large trucks are only responsible for 3% of motor vehicle accidents. However, these accidents cause much more harm than the average car accident does. Therefore, federal laws establish strict and detailed standards that trucking companies and their drivers must meet. Most of these federal regulations are in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The federal regulations govern matters such as how many hours a truck driver is permitted to drive before he or she must take a rest break, how heavy a truck's load may be, and the kinds of information a trucking company must find out about a prospective employee. Each state also has trucking regulations to further protect the public.
How To Hold A Truck Driver Liable for Injuries
If you are injured in a truck accident, you may have tremendous losses. Among these losses are exorbitant medical bills. The cost of severe injuries can be six figures or more. On top of that, you may need to change jobs or stop working altogether. Many truck accident victims need to bring a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for these losses. The basis of such a lawsuit may be the negligence or recklessness of the truck driver.
In some cases, the negligent truck driver has violated a federal regulation, and it is the violation—such as an overloaded truck or failing to take a necessary rest break—that causes the accident. In some states, it may be appropriate to sue not only on the basis of negligence but also negligence per se. Under the latter theory, negligence will be inferred when the truck driver violated a safety statute, the victim is a member of the class the safety statute was designed to protect, and the violation is the cause of the accident. This inference can make it easier for a plaintiff to prove his or her case.
In addition to suing the truck driver for negligence and negligence per se, an accident victim can sue the trucking company under several different theories. A truck driver's employer can be held indirectly responsible under the theories of vicarious liability or respondeat superior. These theories allow a truck driver's employer to be held accountable, even when the employer did nothing wrong, if an employee caused the injury in the course and scope of employment.
When a trucking company knows it is hiring a driver with a record of drunk or negligent driving or maintains the employment of such a driver, it may be held directly responsible under theories of negligent hiring, negligent supervision, or negligent entrustment. Trucking companies owe the public a duty to properly train and supervise the truck drivers they put on the road. This includes making sure that their drivers are not falsifying their log books and are getting enough rest. When they do not meet their duties to others on the road, trucking companies can be held directly liable.