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What Makes Truck Accident Lawsuits So Complex?

Dec 17, 2021 - Truck Accidents

Accidents involving large commercial trucks are not only exceptionally dangerous but are also complicated. Commercial trucks tend to dominate the highways. The easiest way to confirm this is to drive on an interstate highway during off-peak hours, say, from 12:00 midnight to 6:00 a.m., and you’ll see that a large majority of the vehicles on the road are large commercial trucks.

Along with the number of large trucks on the highways come many accidents involving these trucks. Your initial reaction may be that there should be only a small number of trucking accidents because the drivers are professionals. Driving trucks is typically all they do, day and night. However, being a professional driver has its own set of unique challenges and stress-inducers. For example, commercial truck drivers are required to deliver their cargo on time, which means they can’t always pull over and grab a hotel room if they feel tired or sick. The demands on truckers’ driving hours became so unreasonable that the hours eventually had to be regulated by law.

Unfortunately, accidents between large commercial trucks and standard passenger vehicles are by far more dangerous to the vehicle’s driver and passengers because large commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 lbs. or more, and a typical passenger vehicle weighs only around 4,000 lbs. The sheer force of impact is almost always absorbed by the passenger vehicle.

The two main factors contributing to the complexity of truck accidents are determining whether the truck driver violated any state or federal regulations and whether many people and/or entities may share the fault. If you’ve been involved in an accident with a large commercial truck, contact a Bethlehem truck accident attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis immediately. Every day that goes by without the help of an experienced truck accident attorney is another day that the at-fault parties have to conceal or eliminate evidence.

Trucking Regulations

As is the case with all motor vehicles, big trucks need routine maintenance and care. State and federal regulations require commercial trucks to be inspected and maintained, unlike passenger vehicle owners, who may choose to ignore tasks like wiper fluid refills, oil changes, and maintaining proper tire pressure. A Bethlehem truck accident attorney is well-versed in these regulations and can discern whether any of them were broken or ignored by a truck driver or owner.

Mechanically, commercial trucks are far more complex than typical passenger vehicles. As a result, truck drivers need unique training and expertise in maintenance and operation. Commercial trucks can have up to 18 gears, and their dashboards are crowded with switches, gauges, levers, signals, and other instrumentation needed to operate the various mechanical aspects of the truck. 

As one would suspect regarding a commercial truck’s mechanical complexity, their maintenance and repairs are legally regulated. Any person associated with a particular truck shares the responsibility to ensure that the truck is operational and safe before driving, and all may share responsibility if the vehicle is negligently maintained. 

Maintenance and Repairs Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates interstate commercial trucking. This federal agency has developed a comprehensive set of rules and regulations designed to ensure that all commercial vehicles are properly inspected, maintained, and maintained in a good state of repair.

For commercial trucks, maintenance is the key, and proper inspection allows such maintenance to be done appropriately. Therefore, the FMCSA requires a vehicle inspection before and after driving the truck on every trip. These inspections allow most mechanical issues to be identified before they become a problem out on the road.

The FMCSA further requires truck owners and drivers to keep comprehensive records of all inspections, maintenance, and repairs. These records must be maintained and available for at least one year while the vehicle is in use and at least six months after a vehicle is sold or transferred. 

It is important to contact a Bethlehem truck accident attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis immediately after a truck accident so that these records can be examined before they are altered, destroyed, or “lost.” Failure to preserve these records may subject the owner to liability for any injuries or damage caused by the owner’s failure to inspect, maintain, or repair the vehicle.

Furthermore, the laws and regulations govern many other aspects of commercial trucks, including: 

  • Weight limits on cargo
  • Regulations on how cargo is loaded
  • Limitations on the number of hours a driver can drive per day and per week
  • Driver sleeping requirements
  • Driver licensing requirements
  • Maintenance standards
  • Recordkeeping
  • The transportation of hazardous materials

Liability for Truck Accidents

The second main reason truck accidents are so complicated is that it can be challenging to know who to sue and how much responsibility each involved party carries. Responsible parties may include:

  • The truck driver
  • The truck owner
  • The trucking company
  • The truck manufacturer
  • The truck maintenance company
  • If the truck is leased, whoever leased the truck from the owner
  • The shipping or loading company
  • Any number of third-party independent contractors

Along with vehicle inspections, maintenance, and repairs, federal and often state laws help regulate truck accidents. Along with any given state’s transportation department, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the  Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration help determine and enforce trucking rules and regulations.

How a Bethlehem Truck Accident Attorney Can Help if You’ve Been Involved in a Truck Accident

Commercial truck accidents are extraordinarily damaging, especially to the motor vehicle they collide with. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident or even lost a loved one, a Bethlehem truck accident attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis will immediately begin preserving evidence that may show violations of trucking laws and negligence. We will represent you to any insurance companies involved and help determine who may be held responsible. Then, we’ll begin preparing your case for trial, even if a favorable settlement seems imminent. Contact us today for your free consultation before any evidence is compromised.

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