Proving negligence in an auto accident frequently boils down to showing that a driver violated a traffic law. Violating a traffic law is often dispositive in proving who was at fault and therefore, who must compensate the victim for losses as a result of the accident. Every jurisdiction has statutory rules of the road. If a driver is given a ticket for violating a rule, then he or she likely caused the accident. When the negligent party was driving a commercial truck the rules are the same. If the driver of the truck broke a law related to operating the truck and as a result caused an accident, then the truck driver or the driver’s employer would be liable. However, a lawsuit against a truck driver or a truck company can be very different from a lawsuit against the driver of a car as the laws that apply to the trucking industry are different. Of course truck drivers must follow the same basic rules of the road as cars, such as stopping at red lights and obeying posted speed limits. However, the trucking industry is subject to additional rules both on the federal and state level that effect the licensing of truck drivers, the insurance trucking companies must carry, and the operation and maintenance of the trucks.
In order to qualify for a license to drive a commercial truck, drivers must attend special classes on how to drive a truck safely as well as how to load and unload the truck. Such requirements are not necessary to receive a license to drive a car. Thus, if you are injured in an accident where the truck driver did not receive the proper training or did not have the required license, then the truck driver will be liable for your injuries. If the trucking company that employed the driver knew that the driver was not properly trained or failed to make sure that the driver had the proper training and credentials, then it was negligent as well.
In addition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued regulations requiring routine alcohol and drug testing for truck drivers, the proper transportation of hazardous materials, compliance with hours of service rules, maintaining log books, and truck maintenance. If a truck driver or his or her employer violates any of the FMCSA’s rules resulting in an accident, then negligence can be fairly easily established, strengthening a victim’s personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver and the trucking company.
Furthermore, lawsuits involving the negligence of a trucking company are distinguishable from lawsuits involving passenger vehicles in that the financial stakes are often significantly higher. State financial responsibility laws require car drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. For example, Oklahoma drivers are required to carry at least $25,000 coverage for injury or death of one person, $50,000 for injury or death of two persons, and $25,000 for property damage. Federal law requires that truck drivers, on the other hand, carry much more insurance as losses incurred in truck accidents tend to be greater than in automobile accidents. Trucks carrying non-hazardous goods are required to carry a minimum of $750,000 in coverage for property damage and injury. A truck carrying hazardous materials is required to carry at least $1,000,000-$5,000,000 in coverage.
If you were a victim of a truck accident it is important to immediately contact an experienced truck accident attorney. The rules that apply to trucks are complicated and distinguishable from the rules that apply to cars. Thus, it is critical that the lawyer representing you is familiar with the nuances of the laws that apply to truck accidents to ensure that your case receives the best possible outcome.