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Truck Accidents - Theories of Liability

Robert Karns

Collision caused by large trucks (tractor trailers) usually result in devastating injuries to the occupants of the smaller automobiles they collide with. Truck accidents must be investigated and handled differently than normal automobile crashes as many different regulations apply and there are many theories of liability that can apply that are not relevant in normal automobile crashes. Because of the extent of the injuries to the occupants of the smaller automobiles, all of the theories of liability in truck accidents must be explored.

The Federal Motor Carrier's Safety Administration (FMCSA) are a set of regulations promulgated by the federal government that closely govern and restrict the operation of tractor trailers. Violations of these regulations of the FMCSA help the victims in the smaller automobiles involved in the crashes prove liability against the trucking companies. 

Some of these regulations and theories of liability are as follows:

  • Physical Examinations - The regulations govern that the truck driver must be medically certified and fit to drive the large truck and there must be adequate documentation that the physical exam is up to date and that the truck driver passed.
  • Hours of Service - The regulations strictly govern how long a truck driver can operate a tractor trailer at one time, what rest periods he must follow, and how much time he must take off before continuing to drive the tractor trailer consecutively.
  • Distracted Driving - There are regulations against a truck driver texting while driving or using a hand held phone.
  • Reading Signs - Truck drivers must be able to speak and read English as they must be able to read all of the road signs.
  • Under Ride Guards - Tractor trailers must have the proper under ride guards to prevent automobiles from going under the back of the trailer or the side of the trailer.
  • Hazardous Weather - There are regulations and restrictions regarding how a truck driver must operate a tractor trailer during adverse weather conditions.
  • Unsecure Loads - Trailers that have unsecured loads are extremely dangerous as the loads can shift causing the tractor trailer to flip over and cause truck accidents. There are regulations regarding how a truck must be loaded and how the load in the truck must be secure.
  • Multiple Defendants - When a truck driver causes a truck accident with a tractor trailer the truck driver and trucking company are liable, but in addition there maybe liability against other parties including broker liability. Broker liability would exist if a separate company is contacted to hire a trucking company to haul goods and this is done negligently by the brokerage company hiring an unfit trucking company.
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