Spokane Semi-Truck Accident AttorneyWhen a truck, semi, or 18-wheeler collides with a car or another object, the results can be disastrous. If the accident takes place between a semi-truck and a smaller car or motorcycle, it’s a traumatic scene. Commercial trucks are unwieldy and very heavy vehicles with the potential to cause massive damage. For this reason, truck drivers are required to earn special licenses called CDL’s showing they have the necessary knowledge and skill to operate such dangerous machinery. Commercial truck drivers are under pressured to cover very large distances in the shortest time possible. They are highly regulated, but the stress created by this pressure can affect their ability to drive responsibly, putting both truck drivers and everyone else on the road in danger.
Determining Liability in Trucking AccidentsMost trucks are equipped with engine computers, commonly called “black boxes.” These devices record the speed and application of the brake immediately before the impact of an accident. These boxes can be very helpful in injury cases because the data can be preserved, downloaded and analyzed to determine the truck’s speed and when the brake was applied.
Is The Truck Driver or The Company he’s Driving For at Fault?Usually, the legal concept of vicarious liability applies, meaning if the driver is legally employed and within the scope of his duties as an employee, then the employer is on the hook as well for any potential damages to the injured party. This gives the injured party a higher chance of recovery because the pockets of the employer are in most cases deeper or they have more assets or better insurance coverage. So it’s a good thing in a trucking accident case to also have the employer responsible for potentially paying damages.
Semi-Truck Accidents Are Different from an Auto AccidentAutomobile travel is regulated but semi-truck and commercial vehicles are regulated much more strictly, they usually have multiple layers of laws that they have to compile with at the local, state, and federal levels. This makes large commercial trucking accident unique and more complicated.
1. Truck Drivers Operate Under Tougher RegulationsOne way semi-truck accidents are different is that semi-trucks are regulated more stringently which means there are more possibilities of finding something they did wrong to contribute to the accident. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation Act are regulations issued by the Federal Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA ). The primary mission of the FMCSA is to prevent and reduce large truck crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Any violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation Act adds credibility and weight to the case, providing the basis for establishing fault and proving liability on the part of the truck driver and the trucking company.
2. Hours of Service Regulations18 wheeler and semi-truck drivers are only allowed to drive a certain number of hours per day per FMCSA rules. Commercial truck drivers can only drive 11 hours each day after having 10 consecutive hours off duty. Sometimes these hours of service rules are not followed which can lead to a driver’s impaired judgment, poor concentration or delayed reaction time. This can increase the chances of mistakes made at the wheel and cause accidents. Fortunately, semi truck drivers are required to keep track of their time on the road and hours off duty, which can be useful in accident cases to prove who was at fault.
3. Negligence Per SeMany of the Federal regulations found in the FMCSA have the force of law, which can make proving a truck case easier. This means that an injury lawyer can argue using the doctrine of “negligence per se” that the trucking company by violating the statutes or regulations are negligent as a matter of law. To establish this, you must show that the defendant violated a law that creates duty or prohibits an act for the benefit of the general public. That the person injured was part of the group of persons that the law was supposed to protect and the violation of the law caused the accident. Since there are so many more laws governing trucking than automobiles, there are more chances of finding a regulation that was violated.
4. Potential RecoveryThere are many other theories of potential recovery in semi trucking cases that don’t apply in general automobile cases. Below I have listed a few.
- Did the trucking company hire the driver negligently?
- Did the trucking company negligently entrust the driver with a semi-truck?
- Did the trucking company retain the driver after a showing that
- the driver was not competent to drive?
- Did the trucking company train the driver negligently?
- Did the trucking company fail to properly inspect, maintain, or repair the truck?
- Was the truck driver appropriately supervised?