bristol truck accident attorney

Truck Accident Liability is Often Based on Breach of Regulations

Some of the worst accidents on Tennessee roads involve heavy commercial trucks, often resulting in severe injuries to occupants of other vehicles. Fixing the blame for these accidents can be quite complicated. In addition to truck drivers’ negligence and recklessness, liability can also arise from drivers’ and trucking companies’ failure to follow the strict regulations imposed by federal law. Such violations may be used as evidence of negligence in a personal injury lawsuit.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (dFMCSA) has established a complex set of rules for commercial truckers, including those requiring administration of road tests, performance of background employment checks and inspection of vehicles.

Some of the FMCSA regulations that trucking companies must follow involve:

  • Hours of service — The FMCSA rules limit how many hours truckers may drive between required rest periods. Commercial truck drivers are permitted to drive 11 hours each day but only after 10 consecutive hours off. They are not permitted to drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days nor more than 70 hours in eight consecutive days.
  • Pre-employment qualification — A trucking company has a duty to hire only qualified commercial drivers with valid CDL licenses.
  • Regular inspections — Drivers are required to conduct inspections of their trucks every day. If there is a defect or an issue with the truck, the information must be included in their report.
  • Drug and alcohol testing — The regulations call for testing of drivers for the presence of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, PCP or other drugs in their systems that can impair driving ability. Drug and alcohol testing can be conducted pre-employment, upon reasonable suspicion, randomly or following an accident.
  • Securing and labeling of cargo — The regulations prescribe measures for loading commercial vehicles, preventing cargo from shifting during transport and labeling hazardous materials.

In Tennessee, if a truck accident victim can show a violation of an FMCSA regulation or of any public safety law relevant to the accident, he or she can rely on the rule of negligence per se to establish liability in a personal injury lawsuit. This makes it unnecessary to prove the driver or the company breached a common law duty of care. In addition, if a company failed to follow regulations concerning pre-employment qualification of drivers and an accident arises, an injured victim might have the ability to bring a negligent hiring claim.

Even when a breach of regulations is shown, victims must prove that it was the primary cause of the accident. This can affect the monetary compensation they can recover for their medical expenses, lost wages, lost earnings, physical pain and suffering and mental anguish.

Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin, P.C. has extensive experience litigating truck accident claims on behalf of injured victims and winning them the compensation they deserve. We serve clients in Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City and throughout Upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. To schedule a consultation in our Bristol office, call 423-797-6022 or contact us online.