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How Do FMCSR Violations Impact a California Truck Crash Lawsuit?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) can have an appreciable impact in a California truck crash case, involving injuries or fatalities, in regards to recovering damages. All commercial vehicles, weighing more than 10.000 lbs. or used to transport hazardous materials, and are used for interstate commerce are bound by the FMCSR.

Both trucking companies and their employees are held to stringent safety standards under the FMCSR. An "employee" is defined as a full-time driver for the company or an independent contractor hired by the trip. A California truck crash attorney, equipped with the proper skills, will know exactly how to leverage FMCSR violations against the trucker, to recover compensation for clients, who were injured or lost someone, in a California truck crash.

In a truck crash, the negligence of the driver will be attributed to the trucking company, creating liability for damages. Medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and punitive damages, in some cases, may be included in the liability. Punitive damages are punishment for willful disregard of safety regulations.

Some Typical FMCSR Violations

Violations of one or more of the requirements imposed under the FMCSR can be used as an aid in proving a negligence claim. Under these regulations trucking companies are responsible for the following:

· The Hiring of Drivers - It is the responsibility of the trucking company, under the FMSCR, to only hire drivers that are qualified in accordance with a specific set of criteria. The driver must hold a valid commercial driver's license (CDL). He or she, must show the ability to safely operate the tractor-trailer and complete a road test. The driver must also show proficiency in performing pre-trip safety inspections and in the use of emergency equipment. An investigation of the driver's employment history and driving record over the past three years is required to be performed. Permitting an unqualified driver to operate the vehicle could be considered negligent hiring.

· Required Safety Program - To ensure compliance with the FMCSR, the Federal Highway Safety Administration (FHSA) requires the trucking company to have a program in place. Unannounced, on-site examination by the FHSA will be conducted to verify these programs. Reports revealing lack of compliance can serve as evidence of negligence.

· Drug and Alcohol Testing - Prior to hiring a driver or following an incident where drug or alcohol use was suspected, the performance of drug and alcohol testing is required under the FMCSR. Additionally, the FMCSR requires the trucking company to randomly test 50% of their drivers for drugs and 10% for alcohol. Those numbers are subject to change each year based on prior results. Failure to comply could make a company liable for a truck crash involving an impaired driver.

· Supervisory Reviews - The safety record of every driver is to be reviewed annually. The company must check for traffic violations and disqualifying offenses such as DUI. It is not uncommon for truckers to have a DUI on their regular driver's license in one state and hold a CDL in another. The drivers number of hours on the road must be checked to ascertain that they never exceeded the numbers allowed by the FMCSR. The company must never encourage exceeding safe driving hours. A negligence claim could be supported by failure in these areas.

· Inspection, Repair and Maintenance - All Equipment must be checked, repaired and maintained as a requirement of the FMCSR. This pertains to lighting, signals, brakes, wiring, reflective sheeting, windows, fuel systems, frames, tires, emergency equipment, cargo retention equipment and more. It is required of the trucking company to retain inspection records for a period of one year per vehicle.

The Driver's Safety Responsibility

The operation of a truck in a safe manner is the responsibility of the truck driver. However, failure to do so can serve as a vicarious liability to the trucking company. Negligence could be proven if one or more of these issues existed:

· Failure to inspect - Performing a safety inspection prior to each trip is the responsibility of the driver. This inspection should include the truck, trailer and cargo.

· Driving While Fatigued - Driving while tired or drowsy is a leading cause of California truck crashes. The number of hours a driver may operate is specified in the FMCSR and require a ten-hour break between shifts. Drivers are required to log their hours both driving and on duty but not driving, Trucking companies must retain drivers logs, paper or electronic for six months.

· Distracted Driving - This has become a prevalent issue recently. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration specifically bans all hand-held communication. This includes texting, instant messaging, emails, accessing web pages, and pushing more than one button to end a call. Fines of up to $11,000 can be levied against companies that encourage or permit texting.

· Drug or Alcohol Use - Driving within four hours of any alcohol consumption is prohibited as is the use of any controlled dangerous substance. Amphetamines, also known as uppers, pep pills and speed, were once commonly used among truckers but use has declined greatly due to drug testing.

· Ignoring Unsafe Driving Conditions - Adequate precautions must be taken when wet, icy or windy conditions exist. Failure to do so can be considered negligence.

· Inadequate Warning Signals - Any truck that is stopped on a highway must have activated warning flashers. After being stopped for ten minutes or longer, markers placed behind and in front of the truck are required. Slow moving trucks must also activate warning flashers. Failure to warn could be considered negligence.

Injured in a California Truck Crash?

Any victim of a California truck crash that was injured or anyone who lost a loved one in a truck accident, needs to retain the services of an experienced truck accident attorney who is knowledgeable about the FMCSR. If any violations of the regulations existed in the past or present, the attorney will uncover them. The experience of the lawyer will serve to use those violations in the recovery of the maximum compensation possible.

Truckers are required by federal law to carry substantial insurance coverage because of the potential for damage. Their insurance companies have experienced truck accident law firms that will stop at nothing to keep awards to a minimum. If you were injured or lost a loved one, you need an attorney with the experience and resources to take a stand against these powerful law firms.

Vititoe Law Group is a personal injury law firm with a successful track record in winning large awards from some of the country's biggest trucking companies. If you or a loved one were injured, or you lost someone you care about in a California truck crash, call 818-851-1886 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation. You may be entitled to substantial compensation. Please do not hesitate as the time to file your case is limited.

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