Truck Accident Law




What is Truck Accident Law?

Truck accident law covers personal injuries sustained by occupants of a passenger vehicle as a result of a collision with a commercial freight truck, also known as an 18-wheeler or “big rig.” Liability in these cases is premised on the doctrine of negligence. Because the negligent party is a professional truck driver, multiple sources of law will apply. These include traffic laws and civil liability rules, as well as regulations of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Causes and Contributing Factors

The average passenger car weighs 4,000 lbs., while semi-trucks can weigh 80,000 lbs. or more. Taking into account further differences, such as ride height, stopping distance, and driver field of vision, it is easy to see how problems result when these two types of vehicles share the roadway. Moreover, commercial truck drivers are provided financial incentives for traveling distances as quickly as possible, and the safety of nearby passenger cars is not always their priority.

Of the many kinds of truck driver conduct that can result in an accident, certain ones tend to arise most often. Accidents can occur when a driver fails to stop and rest at appropriate intervals, or drives under the influence of sleep-suppressing drugs like methamphetamine. Truck drivers can also put others at risk by driving aggressively, making wide turns, merging too quickly, carrying an unsafe load, or driving too fast. It is worth noting that a truck may have been traveling within the posted speed limit, and still have been going too fast for road conditions.

Sometimes the risk posed by a semi-truck is unrelated to any acts or omissions by the driver. For example, other individuals from the trucking company may have failed to inspect or repair the truck as they should have. Cargo may have been loaded improperly, or the truck may have been manufactured with faulty lights, brakes, or other equipment. Damaged truck tires can also cause accidents by suddenly coming apart at high speeds.

Identifying the Proper Defendants

In order to establish liability and recover compensation for a truck accident, the plaintiff must first identify every individual, business entity, or government official responsible. It is critical to name all of these parties in the court documents at the time the lawsuit is filed. If any are left out, and it is later revealed that an omitted party shares responsibility, it may be too late to add that party due to the filing deadlines applicable in negligence cases.

Accident victims without previous experience in personal injury litigation often assume that the proper defendant to sue in a truck accident is the driver. After all, it was the truck driver’s carelessness that caused the accident. While the driver should be named, a number of other parties may be legally responsible as well. These additional defendants may include the trucking company, the manufacturer of the truck, parts companies (if defective equipment is involved), mechanics and maintenance companies, and others.

Proving Liability and Damages

Once all of the defendants have been named, the plaintiff in a truck accident lawsuit must establish a theory of liability. With the exception of strict liability defective product cases, the plaintiff’s theory will be based on negligence. As asserted against the truck driver, negligence is a straightforward concept, requiring only that the plaintiff show that a reasonably prudent driver in the defendant’s position would have acted with greater care.

With respect to the other defendants, however, more nuanced aspects of the negligence doctrine become relevant. Consider the trucking company that employed the driver, for example. If the company knowingly hired a driver with substance abuse problems or previous accidents, or failed to properly train the driver, the company may be liable for its own negligence. But, under the “vicarious liability” rules, it can also be indirectly liable based on its employer status. This is true even if the trucking company did nothing wrong.

In addition to proving liability, the plaintiff must show the extent of his or her damages. This is best accomplished through the use of expert witnesses. A physician will be needed to perform an examination of the plaintiff and offer a medical opinion regarding the harm suffered from the accident. The plaintiff will also need to hire an economist to form an opinion on damages such as lost income and earning capacity, and to explain how these figures can be converted to present value.

A Truck Accident Lawyer will Fight for You

Truck accidents occur every day. To avoid liability, trucking companies and their insurance providers have entire teams of investigators and attorneys ready to go to work. There is no need to face them alone. If you have been hurt in a truck accident, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for help.

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Trucking Accidents Law - US

  • CFR - Transportation - Hours of Service of Drivers

    (a) General. (1) The rules in this part apply to all motor carriers and drivers, except as provided in paragraphs (b) through (q) of this section. (2) The exceptions from Federal requirements contained in paragraphs (l) and (m) of this section do not preempt State laws and regulations governing the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles.

  • Commercial Driver Licensing and Commercial Motor Vehicles - State Laws and Regulations

    The federal rules for commercial driver licensing and commercial motor vehicles apply to each state. Nevertheless, each state has the authority to modify the regulations within certain parameters. In this section you will find state specific statutes, regulations and some applicable case law.

  • Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit

    In 1997, the New York State Police consolidated three existing traffic safety details - Motor Carrier Safety, HazMat, and Scales - into one unit, dedicated to removing unsafe trucks from the state's roadways: the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit. All NYSP troopers work to ensure the safe operation of commercial vehicles on New York's roadways. Their enforcement efforts have helped make New York's commercial vehicle safety record one of the best in the nation.

  • Commercial Vehicle Size and Weight Standards - US Department of Transportation

    Federal interest in preserving highways goes back to the enactment of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which authorized the Interstate and Defense Highway System. To preserve our Nation's infrastructure and to keep trucks and buses moving efficiently, states must ensure that commercial motor vehicles comply with federal size and weight standards. FHWA is responsible for certifying state compliance with Federal standards. This site provides a ready source of information on Federal standards and guidelines, state enforcement activities, reporting requirements, and contacts.

  • Federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Law - DOT

    The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS) is the Federal safety authority for ensuring the safe transport of hazardous materials (hazmat) by air, rail, highway, and water, with the exception of bulk transportation of hazmat by vessel. OHMS promulgates a national safety program to minimize the risks to life and property inherent in commercial transportation of hazardous materials.

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration - Rules and Regulations

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is focused on reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.

  • Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards - Air Brake Systems

    This standard applies to trucks, buses, and trailers equipped with air brake systems.

  • Government Affairs Department - California Trucking Association

    The goal of the Government Affairs Department at CTA is to advocate and influence potential legislative proposals, laws, regulations and public policies impacting the trucking industry in California. In order to achieve our goals, staff works to develop strong relationships with policy and opinion makers inside the state capitol along with our CTA lobbyists.

  • Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act

    To amend titles 23 and 49, United States Code, concerning length and weight limitations for vehicles operating on Federal-aid highways, and for other purposes.

  • Transportation Security Administration

    We are the Transportation Security Administration, formed immediately following the tragedies of Sept. 11. Our agency is a component of the Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for security of the nation's transportation systems.

  • US Commercial Driver's License and Driver Qualifications

    Since 1992, all drivers of commercial motor vehicles in the United States have been required to hold a Commercial Driver’s License. Commercial motor vehicles include large trucks, vehicles carrying hazardous materials, transit buses, school buses, over-the-road motorcoaches, and other vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver. While the federal government does not require an individual to hold a CDL in order to operate a van or other vehicle designed to hold between 8 and 15 passengers, some states have adopted this requirement and several of the other driver qualification requirements.

  • Vehicle and Driver · Washington State Patrol's Commercial Vehicle Enforcement

    The Washington State Patrol's Commercial Vehicle Division strives to make Washington roadways the safest in the nation. Through education and enforcement, the mission of the division is to ensure compliance of the commercial motor vehicle regulations in order to protect resources, prevent accidents, and save lives.

Trucking Accidents Law - Europe

  • European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO)

    The new European rules on driving and rest time in road transport have led to an increased number of rest periods, but also to concerns and unwanted side effects. This is the main conclusion of research undertaken by the Flemish Foundation STV – Innovation and Work. On the basis of the study’s results, the Belgian sectoral social partners are calling for more flexibility in implementing the rules and better harmonisation of the controls between the Member States.

  • Heavy-Duty Diesel Truck and Bus Engines Emissions - Europe

    European emission regulations for new heavy-duty diesel engines are commonly referred to as Euro I ... VI. Sometimes Arabic numerals are also used (Euro 1 ... 6). We will use Roman numerals when referencing standards for heavy-duty engines, and reserve Arabic numerals for light-duty vehicle standards.

  • The First Pillar of the Intelligent Car Initiative - eSafety

    eSafety, the first pillar of the Intelligent Car Initiative, is a joint initiative of the European Commission, industry and other stakeholders. It aims to accelerate the development, deployment and use of Intelligent Vehicle Safety Systems that use information & communication technologies to increase road safety and reduce the number of accidents on Europe's roads.

Trucking Accidents Law - International

  • C.R. England - Truck Driving

    C.R. England’s first truck driving priority is safety and the goal of our Safe Driving Department is to prevent major accidents or “critical crashes.” To successfully accomplish this objective, we’ve created the following training and management programs.

  • List of Road Transportation Acts - Canada

    Transport Canada administers a number of Acts (laws) related to transportation. It also assists with the administration of many others. Access to the full text of federal Acts and Regulations is provided by the Department of Justice Canada, which is responsible for maintaining the Consolidated Statutes of Canada. Please read the note from the Department of Justice Canada.

  • Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) - Australia

    Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) is Australia’s largest injury prevention specialist.

  • Transportation Working Group - Asia Pacific

    The Transportation Working Group (TPTWG) aims to achieve the liberalisation of transportation services and works to enhance the safety of APEC transport systems to encourage economic development in the Asia-Pacific region. It aims to balance security, safety and environmental requirements with trade facilitation and its efforts are focused on: the facilitation of domestic policy regulations; the development of intermodal supply chains and secure transport activity; the integration of Corporate Social Responsibility; and building the capacity of all stakeholders to help them reach the eventual goal of free and open trade. At the same time, parallel measures are being undertaken by individual economies to strengthen the security of all transportation modes - land, sea and air.

Organizations Related to Trucking Accidents Law

  • American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA)

    The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization developing model programs in motor vehicle administration, law enforcement and highway safety.

  • American Society of Transportation and Logistics (ASTL)

    ASTL is a professional organization founded in 1946 by a group of industry leaders to insure a high level of professionalism and promote continuing education in the field of transportation and logistics.

  • American Truck Historical Society (ATHS)

    The American Truck Historical Society was formed to preserve the history of trucks, the trucking industry, and its pioneers.

  • American Trucking Association - ATA

    Official web site of the national image and advocacy organization for the US trucking industry. Includes news of interest to truck drivers and owners.

  • Bureau of Transportation Statistics

    Comprehensive site for all things related to transportation in the U.S.

  • Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA)

    CVSA is an international not-for-profit organization comprised of local, state, provincial, territorial and federal motor carrier safety officials and industry representatives from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Our mission is to promote commercial motor vehicle safety and security by providing leadership to enforcement, industry and policy makers.

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is focused on reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.

  • Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America)

    The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) was established in 1991 as a not-for-profit organization to foster the use of advanced technologies in surface transportation systems. We are the leading advocate for technologies that improve the safety, security and efficiency of the nation's surface transportation system.

  • Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association

    The mission of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. is to serve owner-operators, small fleets and professional truckers; to work for a business climate where truckers are treated equally and fairly; to promote highway safety and responsibility among all highway users; and to promote a better business climate and efficiency for all truck operators.

  • Truck Safety Coalition

    The Truck Safety Coalition is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.

  • Underride Network

    The Underride Network is an organization of truck safety experts and victim/survivor volunteers working to educate the public and industry to the dangers of truck and trailer underride crashes and to promote the crash compatibility of all motor vehicles.

Publications Related to Trucking Accidents Law

  • Highway Studies and Special Reports - NTSB

    Case summaries of heavy truck accident investigations.

  • Transport Expertise Association - Publications

    In early 2008, Matthieu Desiderio created Transport Expertise, an innovative and unique website dedicated to the “transport sphere”; providing its readers with topical news, case studies, and analysis using a comparative “touch of French-American way of thinking” on how transport is managed in both countries.

  • Transportation Research Board (TRB) Publications about Law

    TRB’s varied activities annually engage more than 7,000 engineers, scientists, and other transportation researchers and practitioners from the public and private sectors and academia, all of whom contribute their expertise in the public interest by participating on TRB committees, panels, and task forces. The program is supported by state transportation departments, federal agencies including the component administrations of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other organizations and individuals interested in the development of transportation.

  • Truck News Site in Canada

    Canadian website and magazine publishing information and content on truck news, trucking regulations, etc.

Articles on HG.org Related to Trucking Accidents

  • Is a Truck Responsible for a Car Wreck Caused by Something that Falls Off the Moving Truck?
    If you drive a car, you’ve probably seen it happen (or you’ve seen the aftermath). A mattress, a piece of furniture, a chunk of metal, a huge box or some other large object falls off a moving truck (or the object is lying on the side of the road). What happens when the stuff that fell off the truck hits a car or a pedestrian or a bicyclist, causing a wreck and injuries? Is the truck responsible?
  • How Truck Driver Impairment Can Cause Accidents
    Truck drivers operating a massive vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs cause truck accidents in the Clarksburg, West Virginia region every year. These accidents can be severe given the size difference between large trucks and passenger vehicles, and the recklessness with which impaired truckers often drive. Survivors of accidents related to truck driver impairment can recover damages for losses sustained in the accident.
  • Damages in Georgia Car Accident Cases
    Car accident victims may suffer terribly in the aftermath of the wreck. They may be forced to cover the costs of significant property damage, emergency medical treatment, doctor’s bills, and even long-term rehabilitation
  • Common Truck Accidents Causes
    Accidents involving large commercial trucks may occur for a wide variety of reasons, with numerous potentially responsible parties. According to the Federal Motor carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drivers are ten times more likely to cause commercial truck accidents than other factors, such as improper cargo loading, vehicle malfunction, or inadequate truck maintenance.
  • The Ten Questions Your Car Accident Lawyer Will Ask
    What do you need to know in order to get the most out of your consultation with a car accident lawyer. Being prepared for your meeting will go a long way to getting the most from your lawyer. Here are ten questions you should be prepared to answer for your attorney
  • Truck Rollover Accidents and Their Causes
    Many fatal truck crashes in Dallas are the result of a rollover. Other vehicles involved in truck rollover accidents are just no match for the sheer size and weight of a semi that’s rolled over and may swing across the roadway. Many truck rollovers are actually preventable. Read on for an overview of possible causes of rollovers.
  • Think Like an Investigator When Gathering Evidence for Your Auto Accident Case
    After an accident, do your best and remain calm. Everything you do and say following the collision could affect a future insurance claim or lawsuit.
  • Tracy Morgan's Injury After Being Hit by a Semi, Brings Trucking Regulations Back into the National Spotlight
    NTSB statistics show more than 104,000 injuries and nearly 4000 deaths in 2012 from accidents involving large commercial trucks, but it takes the severe injury of a well known comedian to get the subject of commercial trucking safety back in lawmaker discussions.
  • Texting and Driving Laws for Truck Drivers
    Although Texas does not have any state-wide texting and driving laws banning the practice, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a federal ban on this dangerous act for truck drivers. Drivers who take their eyes off the road greatly increase risk of an accident. Knowing this, the FMCSA published new rules in October 2010 banning all truck drivers from texting while driving their commercial motor vehicles, regardless of the state within which they are traveling.
  • National Truck Accident Statistics
    A variety of factors contribute to truck accidents. Some stem from negligence of a driver (the trucker or another driver), such as speeding or fatigue. Others are the result of faulty or defective equipment, such as tires or brakes. Improper loading is another cause; for instance, cargo that’s unbalanced or not secured.
  • All Motor Vehicles Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Motor Vehicles Law including: auto dealer fraud, automobile accidents, automotive, bus accidents, lemon law, motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle accident, railroad accidents, rollover accident, traffic violations, trucking accident.


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