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According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the number of trucking accidents has nearly doubled in the last two decades. Often times, accidents are caused when trucking companies become motivated by profits and fail to adhere to safety regulations. The risk of significant injury and death in a semi-truck, Big-Rig, or 18-wheeler accident are greatly increased compared to ordinary traffic accidents. Survivors of truck accidents will often suffer considerable past and future lost wages, medical bills, extreme pain, and inconvenience in their life.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations were enacted to regulate trucking companies and truck drivers’ behavior in an effort to keep motorists safe. These laws regulate many issues in the trucking industry, including:
- Trucking company record-keeping requirements;
- Suspension of a truck drivers’ licenses;
- Hazardous material transport procedures;
- Drug and alcohol use;
- Truck inspection requirements; and
- Hours of service rules.
Limits on a trucker’s hours of service are a major area of regulation in the industry. The laws are designed to prevent drowsy driving, which can impair a driver’s judgment and motor skills, but it is much more difficult to detect than the use of drugs or alcohol. However, due to the nature of the trucking industry long hours are common, which could benefit your personal injury claim in the event of an accident.Trucking Hours of Service
The hours of service regulations limit the number of hours a truck driver may perform their job. Such as, the number of hours they may be on-duty before rest is required, the minimum time they must reserve for rest, and the number of hours they may be on-duty for any work week. Among other rules, truck drivers carrying property may:
- Only drive up to 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off-duty;
- Only drive if eight hours or less have passed since the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of no less than 30 minutes; and
- Not drive after 60 hours on-duty in seven consecutive days or 70 hours on-duty in eight consecutive days – the driver may only start a new work week period after 34 or more consecutive hours on duty.
Truck drivers are required to keep log books of their time on-duty and rest break periods, which may be subpoenaed in the event of a personal injury lawsuit. If a driver’s log book shows they violated the hours of service rules, this creates a presumption of negligence under special trucking laws.Negligence and Personal Injury Claims in Trucking Accidents
To recover in most personal injury cases, you must establish the defendant acted negligently. This requires a showing that:
- The defendant owed a legal duty of care to the victim;
- The defendant breached that duty of care by acting or failing to act in the way an ordinarily prudent person would under the circumstances;
- The defendant’s actions or inactions proximately caused the victim’s injuries; and
- The victim suffered actual harm from the breach of duty.
In California, there is a presumption of negligence when a truck driver is found to have broken a safety law or safety rule. The doctrine of negligence per se means that establishing the violation alone is enough to prove negligence occurred – you do not have to argue as to why a company or a driver acted negligently. Negligence per se, along with minimum insurance coverage requirements, may make it easier to demonstrate negligence to a jury or settle with the insurance company for either the driver or the trucking company.Recovery in Trucking Accident Claims
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations ensure victims of trucking accidents could receive adequate compensation for their injuries. Regulations require that most commercial trucks on the road carry liability insurance coverage of no less than $750,000.00. That minimum coverage skyrockets to $5 million if the truck ever carries hazardous materials. This is intended to ensure adequate compensation is available for a victim even if they suffer serious injuries in a trucking accident.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury in a California trucking accident, it is important that you contact an experienced San Diego truck accident attorney to ensure you hire the appropriate experts and begin your investigation immediately. The trucking industry will typically get their investigators out straightaway and may try to settle with you before you understand the extent of your damages or your legal rights. It is also important to consult with an attorney to help figure out who is actually responsible for the accident. There can be several different individuals or entities involved—from the truck driver to the truck’s owner—and understanding who is responsible will help you maximize your recovery.
For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced San Diego truck accident attorney, please call us directly at (866) 338-7079, or click here to submit your inquiry online.