Truck Accident Liability: Rules and Regulations

Who Is Liable for Truck Accident Injuries?

Truck accident liability, while complex, is an essential part of your personal injury claim. Determining all liable parties will maximize your compensation.

Our truck accident lawyers at Pierce Skrabanek PLLC have extensive experience handling these claims. We have comprehensive knowledge of trucking laws and regulations and the litigation skills to represent your case with fierce advocacy. Contact our offices today at (832) 690-7000 to discuss the details of your case.

A blue tanker truck covered in safety and hazard labels speeds down a highway.

What Is Truck Accident Liability?

Truck accident liability refers to traffic collisions involving large commercial freight carriers, like semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, or big rigs. Large tractor-trailer trucks weigh significantly more than other motor vehicles on the road:

  • Passenger cars weigh between 3,200-6,000 pounds
  • Large SUVs can weigh between 6,001-10,000 pounds
  • Tractor-trailers, flatbed, 18-wheelers, and semi-trucks typically weigh between 33,001-80,000 pounds

Smaller motor vehicles suffer a disproportionate amount of damage in traffic collisions. The weight discrepancy between large trucks and passenger cars impacts the severity of injuries.

Truck accident liability focuses on who is at fault for these collisions and holds the responsible party or parties accountable.

What Factors Lead to a Truck Accident?

Large truck accidents are responsible for a multitude of devastating injuries and damage. In the last reporting year, more than 160,000 people were injured in traffic collisions involving a large truck. Nearly 69% of injury victims were the occupants of passenger vehicles.

The most common factors leading a truck accident involve human error, including:

  • Inaction from the truck driver, usually due to inexperience or a lack of training
  • Driver fatigue
  • Lack of familiarity with the roadway
  • Poor truck maintenance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Improperly loaded cargo

In an effort to curb human error, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has numerous laws and regulations governing truck drivers and large trucks.

Are There Laws and Regulations for Truck Drivers?

Truck drivers must adhere to the laws and regulations set forth by the FMCSA. Some of the most important truck accident laws for truck drivers include:

  • Licensing Requirements: Truck drivers can have one license from their home state after they pass the skills and knowledge tests.
  • Special Training and Physical Requirements: Truck drivers undergo special training to operate large tractor-trailers and flatbed trucks. They also must pass a physical exam every two years.
  • Controlled Substances: Truck drivers cannot operate trucks under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs, and they also cannot carry alcohol with them unless it is cargo.
  • Hours of Service: Per FMCSA regulations, truck drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours per 14-hour workday. Drivers must then take a 10-hour break and maintain logs of their time behind the wheel

These strict guidelines help keep truckers and other drivers safe while transporting dangerous materials or weights.

Are There Laws and Regulations That Apply to Semi-Trucks?

Some truck laws most critical to truck accident liability include:

  • Securing Cargo:
    • Cargo must be tied down or secured properly. It cannot be loose or at risk of falling off the vehicle, as that would pose an enormous danger to other drivers.
  • Required Vehicle Markings:
    • Trucks are required to display their Department of Transportation-issued number, HAZMAT markings, and other identifications.

These safety features are meant to protect and inform you and other drivers on the road.

Looking through a car’s windshield, a large semi truck is seen approaching in snowy conditions.

Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?

Various parties may be held responsible for a truck accident. More than one party may be liable for your injuries in some cases. At Pierce Skrabanek PLLC, we can investigate your claim to determine all negligent parties are held accountable, including:

  • The truck driver: When a truck driver acts negligently on the road or breaks the law, they may be held responsible for the accident. Examples of truck driver liability may be if they drove longer hours than permitted, took illegal drugs to stay alert, or drove drowsy.
  • The trucking company: In some cases, the trucking company can be held liable under specific circumstances. If it can be proven the company pressure pushed the driver to meet deadlines in an unrealistic timeframe or cut corners on safety and maintenance.
  • The owner of the truck: In some cases, the trucking company may lease the truck instead of owning it. The truck’s owner is responsible for general maintenance, repairs, and inspections. If an accident involves a commercial vehicle (waste management, UPS, FedEx, etc.), the owner of the vehicle can be held liable if their actions – or lack of actions – contributed to the crash.
  • The owner of the freight: Tractor-trailers carry thousands of pounds of cargo all over the country. If the company that owns the cargo fails to load and tie down the cargo properly, they can be held liable for the accident.
  • Manufacturer of the truck: A defective part or design flaw in a truck involved in a semi-truck crash means the manufacturer may be held liable. Examples of manufacturer failures may be faulty brakes, mechanical failure, or a blown tire.
  • Third-party maintenance companies: A third-party company could bear responsibility for your truck accident if poor maintenance caused the crash. Poor tire or brake upkeep is to blame in most third-party maintenance cases.

Turn to our truck accident lawyers today to ensure your case is handled with skill and experience.

What if There Are Multiple Parties Liable for My Truck Accident?

After a truck accident, the trucking company, law enforcement, and your attorneys will conduct separate investigations into the collision and gather all critical evidence. If an investigation determines more than one liable party, you may be eligible to file multiple personal injury claims.

Trucking companies will work quickly through their investigation, sometimes repairing damaged tractor-trailers and putting them back on the road, effectively erasing evidence. A skilled truck accident attorney can act swiftly to ensure all evidence remains in existence, giving you the best chance of successfully recovering your full compensation.

Some critical evidence in truck accidents include:

  • The truck’s black box or electronic records
  • Daily inspections
  • Maintenance and repair records
  • Complaints filed against the driver
  • All roadside and annual inspections
  • The truck operator’s daily log sheets
  • The driver’s reports, including inspection and repair information
  • GPS records
  • Trucking company records involving employee handbooks, policies, safety regulations and measures, or out-of-service orders
  • Information on the truck driver, including credentials, employment history, training records, driving history, drug tests, medical history
  • The driver’s speed and variations of speed leading up to the crash
  • The length of time the truck driver operated the vehicle in each sitting
  • The truck’s gear shifts
  • Any communications between the truck driver and company

Your attorney can help safeguard this essential information by sending preservation letters to the trucking company, requesting a copy of the accident report from law enforcement, and ensuring the truck’s black box is kept secure.

What Is Interstate Trucking Insurance Liability?

Where a truck accident occurs plays a considerable role in determining where the costs will fall. Laws vary from state to state, so speaking with an experienced truck accident lawyer is critical to securing compensation for your case.

Vehicles that fall under the interstate truck category typically travel across multiple states, including:

  • FedEx trucks
  • UPS trucks
  • Trucks from department stores
  • Logging trucks
  • Oil and gas transport vehicles

An experienced truck accident attorney will meet your case wherever its jurisdiction lies. For example, Pierce Skrabanek is based in Texas, but has handled and won cases nationwide.

How Will My Attorney Prove Liability in a Semi-Truck Accident Lawsuit?

Truck accident claims can be challenging. Victims are often up against large companies with deep pockets and a team of lawyers. At Pierce Skrabanek PLLC, our talented litigators will stand by your side and advocate for the compensation you are owed.

Truck accident lawsuits are unique. They have two different ways of establishing negligence. Generally, proving negligence involves establishing the following four factors:

  • There was a duty of care owed to the plaintiff
  • The defendant breached this duty of care
  • The plaintiff suffered physical and emotional damages
  • The plaintiff suffered said damages as a direct result of the negligent action

However, truck accident claims may use “negligence per se,” a legal concept that defines liability in a slightly different way. A truck driver must follow a set of strict laws and regulations. Negligence per se may be used when a truck driver violates the law.

In a negligence per se case, the plaintiff does not need to establish that the liable party acted carelessly. Violating the law is enough to show negligence.

Your lawyer does all the work necessary to prove liability—all you have to do is call Pierce Skrabanek for representation at (832) 690-7000.

What Are Common Theories Used to Show Truck Accident Liability?

Lawyers can employ numerous theories to show truck accident liability, including:

  • Employer Liability: When the driver is an employee of the trucking company, the motor carrier is responsible for the driver’s actions when acting in the scope of employment.
  • Lease Liability: Federal regulations mandate that trucking companies who lease vehicles to drivers have “exclusive possession, control and use” of the leased vehicle. Courts use this ruling to establish that companies who lease trucks to drivers can still be held responsible for the negligence of the driver operating the leased truck.
  • Negligence in Hiring: Trucking companies are responsible for hiring qualified staff and offering proper training. Failure to do so can result in hiring negligence.
  • Actions Against Insurers for Negligent Hiring: Many smaller trucking companies rely on insurance companies to evaluate driver qualifications. Companies submit information on potential drivers to insurance providers, who will let the trucking company know whether they will insure the driver. While insurance companies are not bound by federal or state law to screen drivers, they can be held responsible if they accept an unqualified or incompetent driver.
  • Broker Liability: Brokers do not ship cargo. They arrange for the cargo’s transportation. Brokers can also be held liable if they fail to screen drivers properly.
  • Negligent Inspection, Maintenance, or Repair: Federal regulations require motor vehicle carriers to inspect, maintain and repair all vehicles under their control. A failure to maintain a vehicle can result in liability.
  • Violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations: Federal guidelines on safety regulations for motor carriers are very specific and must be adhered to at all times. Any failure to do so can be used to establish liability in a truck accident case.
  • Shipper Liability: Improper loading of cargo onto a truck can result in the shipping company being held liable.
  • Driver Fatigue: Federal regulations prohibit truck companies from letting drivers operate trucks when they are too fatigued to drive safely. Truck companies that do not keep accurate driver logs can be held liable for trucking accidents caused by tired drivers.
  • Commercial Driver’s License Manual: In addition to federal regulations, drivers and trucking companies must adhere to their state CDL manuals.
  • Spoliation of Evidence: If a trucking company destroys or fails to keep accurate records, it can be held liable.

Your lawyer from Pierce Skrabanek does all the work to prove liability in your case. The only thing you need to do is contact an attorney and empower us to act on your behalf.

A row of blue and white tractor trailer trucks stand in profile at a rest stop.

What Are the Recoverable Damages in a Truck Accident Lawsuit?

Semi-truck accidents are typically severe. Victims often suffer extensive bodily damage, including catastrophic injuries. Life-altering truck collisions increase the financial stakes of a claim. It is imperative you seek the counsel of our experienced truck accident attorneys.

Every personal injury case is different. Some of the most common recoverable damages in a semi-truck accident lawsuit include:

  • Full coverage of medical expenses
  • Lost wages if you are unable to work
  • Loss of future earnings
  • Pain and suffering damages, including emotional distress
  • Disability
  • Possible punitive damages meant to punish any negligent party involved
  • Wrongful death expenses like funeral costs and loss of income

To determine the recoverable damages in your case, call Pierce Skrabanek PLLC today.

How Can a Truck Accident Attorney Help My Claim?

The highly accomplished legal team of Pierce Skrabanek PLLC has been helping injury victims recover the damages they deserve for years. Our truck accident attorneys are dedicated to pursuing the highest possible compensation. We have recovered multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients across the country. Our experience and skill have won us multiple prestigious awards, including the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
If you or a loved one have suffered severe injuries in a truck accident, let our attorneys provide the compassionate attention and aggressive representation you need. Contact us for a free consultation by clicking here or calling (832) 690-7000.

Testimonials for Pierce Skrabanek

Hear what previous clients have to say about their experience with Pierce Skrabanek:

“My attorney, Michael Pierce, did an amazing job with my case. He’s a straight shooter and has a vast knowledge of the law combined with an extensive amount of experience, making him a fantastic attorney. I fully recommend this firm. Thank you Pierce Skrabenek!”
– Victoria S.

“I just want to say that Paul Skrabanek and his firm are absolutely wonderful to work with. We watched, participated, and listened to Paul fight for a settlement which we could be happy with.”
– Debra S.

“These guys are awesome, they were very informative from the beginning to end, working with them was super smooth and I had all questions answered thoroughly. The whole team at this firm works to help in every way they can. They were able to get me the compensation I deserved and exceeded my expectations.”
– Raymond H.

Truck Accident FAQ

Drivers who meet the following criteria must follow the US Department of Transportation (DOT) safety regulations:

  • If your vehicle has a gross weight rating or combination weight rating of 4,537 kg (10,001 lbs.) or more
  • If your vehicle is designed or used to transport between 9 and 15 passengers for profit
  • If your vehicle is designed or used to carry 15 passengers or more, even without compensation
  • If your vehicle, regardless of size, hauls hazardous material that requires a public notice under the Hazardous Material Regulations

In a few states, truck drivers are subject to the state’s hour of service instead of the Federal hours of service. The rule only applies if the truck driver only hauls and delivers within state lines.

The 80-hour rule for truck drivers states:

  • A truck driver cannot operate the vehicle over 80 hours in an 8-day period
  • A driver cannot work more than 16 hours
  • A driver cannot drive more than 12 hours
  • A truck driver must take 10 hours off duty before starting a new work period
  • A truck driver must take 10 hours off duty before starting a new work period

The short-haul exemption covers a few Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules that trucking companies and drivers are not required to follow, given certain circumstances. The short-haul exemption states:

  • Truckers may be exempt from using electronic logging devices (ELDs) typically required by the ELDs to track a driver’s activities
  • A truck driver is exempt from keeping a record of duty status (RODs)

Truck regulations matter for personal injury cases because of the legal doctrine, “negligence per se.” Personal injury cases are built on proving that the defendant acted negligently or acted in a way that a reasonable person would not. Negligence per se shifts the burden of proof to the truck driver. The victim does not need to establish whether the trucker’s actions were reasonable or not, but that it violated trucking regulations.

Contact Pierce Skrabanek PLLC for a free evaluation of your case by clicking here or calling (832) 690-7000.