In any accident, the potential damage to your person or vehicle can bring pain, questions, and create questions regarding the correct process and procedures to protect the rights of you and your loved ones. In truck accidents, the larger vehicle size creates the potential for greater damage and injury, as a truck accident lawyer Atlanta GA relies on can explain. The increased repercussions of truck on personal automobile accidents can be exponential in their impact. Also, laws and regulations specific to commercial vehicles can further complicate the situation. Here we break down the facts you need to know, specific to commercial trucks, to protect your rights in the event of an accident.
Federal Regulations and Liability
Unlike regular automobile drivers, drivers of commercial vehicles and large trucks are subject to state and federal regulations that govern how they operate their vehicle. These federal laws, called the “Federal Carrier Motor Safety Regulations”, include laws and limitations on hours of operation, appropriate rest breaks, maintaining vehicle inspection and maintenance logs, and properly weighing and documenting trailer contents. Certain roads and highways may have limitations on size, and weight of commercial vehicles and others may prohibit commercial vehicle traffic overall.
If you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck that is subject to these regulations, determining whether they were in compliance can be an important factor in determining liability. If the driver or individual vehicle was operating in violation of one or more laws, the driver could be found guilty of negligence and be placed at fault in the accident regardless of whether their actions in driving caused the accident. This principle is known as negligence per se and is a sophisticated legal argument that could have a major impact on your case.
Who is Liable?
Another issue specific to truck accidents is determining who is liable in the event of a crash. Commercial vehicle drivers are often employed by a trucking, shipping or other company. Depending on the laws of your state, the employer may be liable for damages in place of or in addition to the individual driver. If improper vehicle maintenance was the cause of the accident, the employer might also be found at fault.
If the driver was operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol or was otherwise incapacitated, the employer will be responsible for the harm they cause if they knew or should have known, based on the facts, that the driver was operating in this manner. Similarly, if the company did not properly train the driver to operate the vehicle, they may also be the responsible party. Finally, vicarious liability laws in certain states may make an employer liable for the actions of their employee, even if the employer was not guilty of wrongdoing. These “vicarious liability” laws require making a specific legal claim and can be complicated to prove.
Speaking of proof, the most important aspect of any legal action is proof of damages. Before leaving the scene of an accident with a commercial vehicle you should thoroughly document the damage done to both the truck and your automobile. Call 911. If you suffered a personal injury, you should immediately seek medical attention.
Knowing the correct steps to take in the event of an accident with a truck is vital to protect your rights and recover for your damages. You should seek legal counsel to answer any questions you may have and not be intimidated by the size or status of any commercial vehicle. Legal representation can help put all parties on an even playing field and can help make you whole in the event of a truck accident.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into truck accident cases.