If you or a loved one suffers injuries as the result of a California truck accident, it will soon become evident that that these legal cases are considerably more complex than your typical motor vehicle accident. A perplexing entanglement of federal, state and local regulations, that can cause burdensome litigation, governs the operation and maintenance of commercial trucks.
The regulations at the federal level are created and enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and are known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR’s) which apply to interstate commercial vehicles that are 10,000 pounds or greater, carry hazardous materials or transport over eight passengers. These laws apply to drivers of the vehicles as well as the companies who employ them.
A wide variety of safety issues are covered by the FMCSR’s umbrella. They encompass the following:
Hours of service regulations: Truckers in most cases are limited to no more than 11 hours of driving time without a break. They are required to keep an electronic logbook that records their driving hours and other compliance related details. These logs are required to be retained for a period of one year.
Truck maintenance regulations: Adequate maintenance of vehicles by drivers and trucking companies is required to ensure safe operation. Safety inspections, routine maintenance and repairs must be logged and retained for a period of 12 months. If the truck is sold or leased, they are kept for the remaining period of 12 months or 6 months from the date the company loses control of the vehicle depending on which comes first.
Weight limit regulations: Both state and federal weight limits determine the maximum load the truck can carry without violating the law. Generally there can be no more than 20,000 pounds on any one axle. The total weight for any one wheel or wheels supported by one axle cannot exceed 10,500 pounds. Groups of axles also have wright limitations. If there is four feet between the first and last axle in a group a weight limit for one axle is 32, 000 pounds. This allowable weight increases as the space between the first and last axle increases.
Drugs and Alcohol: Truck drivers are prohibited from using drugs or alcohol before or during a driving shift. It is the duty of the trucking company to perform testing of drivers suspected of drug or alcohol use.
Hiring and training of drivers: Trucking companies are required to perform background checks and drug testing before hiring a driver. Drivers must be adequately trained regarding general safety and familiarized with drug and alcohol policies.
General driver health and wellness: If an illness or fatigue will have a negative effect on their performance, drivers cannot drive a tractor-trailer. They must also pass a Department of Transportation physical. Drivers with certain disabilities and conditions may apply for an exemption with the FMCSA.
Proving Negligence Against a Truck Driver or Trucking Company
Unlike other personal injury cases where you must prove the other party was negligent due to acting with less care and caution than a reasonable person would, California truck accident cases involve a theory of negligence referred to as “negligence per se.” The theory is that when a person violates a safety regulation or law, that violation is considered negligence automatically. A successful negligence per se case would contain the following elements:
- The driver or company violated a statute
- The violation caused the injury to the victim
- The statute that was violated was designed to prevent accidents like this from happening
- The accident victim was the type of person the statute was written to protect.
It is the duty of care for truck drivers and trucking companies to maintain and operate their vehicles in a reasonable safe manner, which includes adhering to all federal, state and local rules and regulations. You are not required to prove what a normal person would do in a particular situation for a successful negligence case. With applicable safety regulations such as the FMCSR’s in place, all that is required is that you show the driver or trucking company violated the regulation and that violation caused your injury.
An Experienced California Truck Accident Lawyer Can Identify FMCSR and Other Violations
It may sound like proving a trucker or trucking company committed a violation and is automatically considered negligent is relatively easy, but that is very far from reality. The trucking companies and insurance companies are highly knowledgeable regarding the rules and regulations and will aggressively defend themselves. They may shift the blame to other parties and obscure evidence, to minimize your monetary award.
Cases that involve an independent trucker can become even more complicated. The truck driver may own the tractor but it has never been coupled to the particular trailer before. Someone else may own the trailer and it is loaded by a third party that may have overloaded it or failed to secure the load properly.
An experienced California truck accident attorney will be able to preserve evidence such as electronic logbooks and maintenance records. He or she will identify any and all safety regulation infractions including the FMCSR’s. The attorney will also accurately calculate the true value of your case including your lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering and punitive damages and demand fair compensation.
California truck accident claims are among the most complicated. They often include numerous causes of action, multiple insurance companies as well as a tangled web of federal, state and local rules and regulations.
Do not risk making critical mistakes that could damage your case and lose what you are legally entitled to. Call an experienced California truck accident attorney at Vititoe Law Group today at 818-991-8900 or contact us online. Do not wait as evidence in these cases, such as time and maintenance logs, can quickly disappear, making success far more difficult.