Yes, there are separate laws, including federal regulations, that can be used to prove fault in an accident involving a large commercial truck. In other words, the drivers of these big rigs have to abide by stricter laws, for example a lower legal blood alcohol level, and not abiding by them can lead to having to pay out large settlements to people injured in a crash and families with wrongful death claims.
What Commercial Trucking Laws Does an Attorney Look at to Prove Fault?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the commercial trucking industry.
Truck accident cases are won or lost based on the attorney’s knowledge of the FMCSA regulations. Attorneys Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman have spent enormous amounts of time learning these regulations inside out and have won millions for their clients, including a recent settlement over $5 Million. If you or a loved one has been in an accident, you can contact Fred and Eric for a free consultation.
Below, are just a few of the FMCSA regulations:
- Hours of service (the amount of time a driver can drive). The amount of driving and off-duty time is required to be recorded in the driver’s log. A good lawyer will analyze the driver’s log to determine if the commercial driver violated FMCSA hours-of-service regulations (49 CFR Part 395). The argument would be that the accident was caused by fatigue.
- Drug and alcohol use. Even if the commercial driver was not “drunk” under state law, he or she may have violated federal regulations. Under these regulations, “no driver shall report for duty or remain on duty requiring the performance of safety-sensitive functions while having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater” (49 CFR Part §382.201). In addition, the regulations prohibit commercial vehicle drivers from consuming alcohol while behind the wheel (382.205) or four hours before driving (382.207). FMCSA regulations also require motor carriers to implement a successful controlled-substances-use-and-alcohol-misuse program.
- Driving requirements. The federal regulations (49 CFR Part 392) outline rules that must be followed before a commercial vehicle under federal jurisdiction can be operated, for example, a person may not drive a commercial truck if the person is too tired, drunk, knows that the vehicle is not in good working order, etc.
- Qualifications. These regulations (49 CFR Part 391) prohibit a motor carrier from permitting an unqualified person to drive an 18-wheeler. A driver is not allowed to drive with a revoked or illegal license. To be qualified, a driver must pass the required road test, have a certificate saying they are medically fit to drive a commercial vehicle, not have a record of certain criminal offenses, etc.
- Parts and accessories, including tires, brakes, etc. FMCSA also has detailed requirements (49 CFR Part 396) regarding parts and accessories necessary for safe operation. If our law firm is retained by you, we will look at whether the accident was caused, even in part, by improperly maintained equipment, the lack of safety equipment or any other equipment-related question, which would include problems with tires, lights, axles, coupling devices and towing equipment, brakes, engines and other equipment.
- Distributing, securing and inspecting a load. A driver may not operate a commercial vehicle (or be permitted to do so by the trucking company) unless: 1) the cargo is “properly distributed and adequately secured”; 2) the tailgate, tarpaulins, spare tire and other equipment, and the means of fastening the cargo, are secure; 3) the cargo or any other object does not obscure the drivers view, interfere with the free movement of his or her arms, prevent him or her free and ready access to emergency equipment, or prevent someone from exiting the cab (49 CFR Part 392.9).
Federal regulations require big rigs to carry certain levels of insurance coverage, depending on the nature of the materials hauled. These regulations protect victims from owners who may not have the financial resources to pay damages out-of-pocket.
Also of legal significance is that big rig drivers are required by federal law to maintain a log listing the hours on the road. This log is admissible evidence. If you retain our law firm to represent you, one of the first things we will send a spoliation letter, the legal measure necessary to obtain a copy of this.