There are strict state and federal regulations in place that are designed to prevent truck accidents. But collisions between trucks and passenger vehicles still occur, leading to severe, debilitating injuries as well as tragic deaths. One of the reasons why this is the case is that drivers, as well as trucking companies, ignore these regulations on a regular basis.
Penn Kestner & McEwen has a team of truck accident attorneys who are ready to help if you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to the negligence of a driver or a trucking company. We can perform a thorough investigation into the accident, and gather the evidence needed to make your case as strong as possible – and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
The federal government has a long list of detailed rules that govern interstate trucking. All commercial motor vehicles, including large trucks, are required to follow these regulations. If they don’t, they can face extremely steep fines.
Individual states have their own sets of regulations as well. Penalties for violating these rules can also be significant. Florida, for example, has a limit (13 feet, 6 inches) on vehicle height – federal regulations don’t regulate the height of commercial vehicles.
It is just as imperative for drivers and trucking companies to follow state regulations as it is for them to follow federal rules. If they don’t, and an accident occurs as a result, injury victims may be able to obtain a substantial amount of compensation.
One of the most common causes of truck accidents is driver fatigue. In order to try and reduce the risks of exhausted drivers on our nation’s highways, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has established Hours of Service rules.
Truck drivers are under incredibly tight deadlines, so they face a great deal of pressure. They’ll often push themselves far beyond their limits in order to get their loads where they need to be, when they need to be there. But when they do this, they’re in direct violation of federal regulations.
Truckers can only drive for a total of 11 hours a day, per federal regulations. They must also take a break of no less than 34 hours when driving during a six- to eight-day window. A driver is not allowed to be on the road for more than eight consecutive hours without taking a 30-minute break.
Drivers must also undergo regular alcohol and drug testing. Incredibly, many people will choose to get behind the wheel of a huge, 80,000-pound machine when under the influence. Truckers routinely turn to powerful amphetamines and other types of narcotics in order to stay awake. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see just how devastating the consequences of those kinds of decisions could be.
Accidents involving trucks can often be attributed to rollovers. In many instances, this occurs because the truck is too heavy, and falls on its side when the driver has to try to make a sudden maneuver. This is another area where federal and state regulations place strict limitations on trucking companies.
Commercial trucks can weigh no more than 80,000 pounds. If you’ve ever traveled on any interstate highway for an extended period of time, you’ve no doubt seen weigh stations at various points on your trip. Drivers are required to stop at these stations so authorities can confirm the trucks aren’t overloaded.
Carriers are also required by law to ensure their drivers have the necessary training in order to operate a big rig in the safest manner possible. But as with other regulations, trucking companies ignore this requirement on a regular basis.
Many of them do this out of desperation. Over the last few years, the trucking industry has seen a critical shortage of drivers. Companies will often have to turn to inexperienced people as a result. To make matters worse, they will often neglect to properly train them before putting them behind the wheel. The results can be disastrous, to say the least.
Drivers and trucking companies are also required to thoroughly inspect their vehicles before allowing them to get on the road. A large commercial truck is a very complicated piece of machinery, with many more moving parts than even the most advanced passenger car. More parts, of course, means more parts that can wear out and fail at the worst possible time. Regular maintenance inspections are supposed to prevent that from happening.
But, as with many other regulations, carriers and drivers routinely ignore maintenance requirements because they’re placing profits over safety. They’re so laser-focused on meeting deadlines that they don’t bother to spend the time it takes to make sure their trucks are safe. When an accident occurs due to this negligence, drivers and companies alike often face substantial liability.
When a trucking company or a truck driver fails to comply with governmental regulations – and that failure contributes to an accident that results in a severe injury or death – those responsible must be held accountable. One very effective way to do just that is through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
But in order for that lawsuit to succeed, the ones filing suit must have hard evidence that proves negligence occurred. This is why hiring a skilled attorney as quickly as possible is so important.
An attorney can investigate a truck accident, obtaining the evidence needed to deliver all-important proof. This could mean going to the scene. Or obtaining footage from nearby surveillance cameras that might have caught the wreck as it occurred. Trucks also have “black boxes,” which are similar to the boxes on aircraft. These contain critically important data that can paint an even more accurate picture of how an accident occurred.
One of the first steps any truck accident victim should take is to get in touch with an experienced attorney. At Penn Kestner & McEwen, we not only have experience, but also a long track record of success.