Driving a commercial truck is a difficult and dangerous job, which is why there are extensive state and federal regulations commercial truck drivers must follow. Breaking these rules could result in a severe crash that results in catastrophic or fatal injuries.
Victims of these collisions may be able to seek compensation for their injuries and losses, but they must first prove the driver was negligent. Below, Galloway Jefcoat’s experienced Lafayette truck accident lawyers explain how truck drivers may engage in negligence and what evidence may be used to prove it.
These are complex cases, which is why proving negligence and other aspects of the legal process are best left to an experienced lawyer.
Call Galloway Jefcoat for answers to your legal questions: (337) 984-8020.
What Is Negligence?
Negligence refers to the failure to uphold a duty of care owed to others. For example, drivers have a duty to obey traffic laws, such as speed limits, right-of-way rules and more.
Say someone breaches a duty of care and it causes another person to suffer an injury. In that situation, the injured person may be eligible to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver who breached the duty of care. Regardless, as the injured victim, you must be able to establish a direct connection between the breached duty of care and your injuries. Another way of saying it is that the injury would not have happened without the breached duty of care.
What Is a Truck Driver’s Duty of Care?
If a truck crash was caused by the driver’s negligence, your lawyer must determine the duty of care that was breached. Your lawyer will need to work backward from the crash to determine how the driver may have breached federal and/or state regulations on commercial trucking.
Commercial Driver’s License Regulations
For example, no one is legally allowed to drive a commercial truck without a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Each state has its own Commercial Driver’s License Manual laying out the process for obtaining a CDL and drivers’ responsibilities when they are out on the road.
For example, Louisiana’s Commercial Driver’s License Manual notes there are federal and state laws requiring drivers to inspect their vehicles. When drivers get into their vehicles, they need to inspect the cab, including the following gauges:
- Oil pressure
- Air pressure
- Coolant temperature
- Warning lights
Drivers need to review the condition of their controls, like the steering wheel, lights, accelerator, clutch and foot brake.
During trips, drivers should:
- Watch gauges
- Use senses (sight, smell, feel) to identify potential problems
- Check critical components when you stop (tires, brake connections, trailer coupling, lights, etc.)
There are also numerous guidelines for operating the truck. For example, truck drivers should use their turn signal well before making a turn. Drivers should slow down and use extra caution if they approach a work zone, as the lanes may narrow, and road surfaces may be uneven.
Federal Regulations on Operating Commercial Trucks
There are also numerous federal regulations for commercial truck drivers. When they encounter hazardous conditions that can impair visibility or traction, like snow, ice, sleet, rain, fog, dust, mist or smoke, they must use extreme caution. Drivers must reduce their speed and if things become too dangerous, they should stop driving. Drivers should not resume driving until conditions become sufficiently safe.
Federal regulations also state that no drivers can be on duty if they are under the influence of alcohol, any Schedule I substance, amphetamine, narcotics, or substances that render them incapable of safely operating their vehicles.
Drivers must also comply with hours of service regulations. These regulations are designed to prevent drivers from operating a truck while they are too fatigued to do so safely.
Common Examples of Negligent Actions by Truck Drivers
Often, truck drivers breach a duty of care through reckless operation of the truck, such as by:
- Following other cars too closely
- Not applying the brakes soon enough
- Texting and driving or engaging in other forms of distracted driving
- Driving recklessly given road or weather conditions
- Driving while fatigued or in violation of hours of service regulations
- Taking a turn too fast
- Making unsafe lane changes
- Driving while impaired by alcohol or other drugs
Drivers may also fail to properly inspect their vehicles or report defects or problems they notice. For example, they may notice their brakes are not working properly, but ignore it because they are trying to make a tight deadline.
How Negligence Can Cause Different Types of Truck Crashes
Truck driver negligence can cause various types of crashes, such as rear-end collisions. These are often caused by speeding and/or following other cars too closely. Truck drivers may also be distracted and not realize how close they are to other cars.
There may be other situations where the truck’s brakes give out or are not working as quickly as they should. The driver may have known about it and not taken the truck off the road to fix the problem.
Driving while fatigued could result in running through red lights or failing to stay in a lane. Running a red light could result in a T-bone collision while drifting out of a lane could cause a sideswipe.
Drivers might not use as much caution as they should when making right turns, causing the cab or trailer to crash into the side of cars that are on the right.
Evidence of Truck Driver Negligence
This is one of the challenges of a truck crash case. Your lawyer needs to establish why the crash occurred and how it represents a breach of a duty of care.
Fortunately, truck drivers are some of the most surveilled workers in the nation. There is a lot of data your lawyer can collect from the damaged truck to determine what the driver was doing before the collision, such as how fast the driver was going, if the brakes were applied, and much more.
However, you need an experienced lawyer who knows how to obtain this information. Your lawyer also needs to know the steps to take to preserve evidence.
Time is of the essence when building a truck crash case, especially when it comes to preserving evidence. That is why you need to call an experienced lawyer right away.
Contact Galloway Jefcoat to Discuss Your Truck Crash Claim
Are you a victim of a commercial truck crash?
These incidents are often preventable. Often, they may be caused by the negligence of the truck driver or other entities that employ the driver or own the truck or its contents.
If you are unsure of your legal options, Galloway Jefcoat is here to help. We have secured more than $900 million on behalf of our clients, and there are no upfront costs with our services.
Call to learn more about how we may be able to help: (337) 984-8020.