If you or a family member was seriously injured in a collision with a commercial truck like a big rig, tractor-trailer, or 18-wheeler, you need to be prepared for a legal battle where both state and federal law comes into play.
The commercial trucking industry is regulated by a combination of state and federal laws that stipulate the standards all truck companies and truck drivers must follow. There are two federal agencies empowered to regulate commercial trucks - the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Regulations governing commercial trucks can be found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
However, the litany of applicable laws does not end there. Each state, including Virginia and North Carolina, has a department of transportation that is tasked with regulating commercial trucking intra-state. Furthermore, the tenants of state tort law still apply to a truck accident injury case in both Virginia and North Carolina. This means that important legal issues such as the statute of limitations and recoverable damages are largely governed by state tort law.
If you were seriously hurt in a wreck with semi-truck and there is evidence that the operator of the truck was not following state and/or federal regulations, the driver and their employer can be held liable for your harms and losses.
Laws that Commercial Truck Operators and Trucking Companies Must Follow
Truck Operator Requires a Commercial Drivers License
Due to the sheer size and weight of big rigs, drivers must be specially trained in order to legally operate these types of vehicles. The special training results in a driver receiving a "commercial drivers license." If the semi truck driver who hit you did not have this type of license, they can be held liable for your injuries, and their employer could also be liable for hiring a truck driver who lacked the necessary credentials.
Specific Hours of Service
There are specific regulations governing how long a semi truck operator is permitted to drive without taking a break and resting is regulated. These regulations are known as the hours of service. A semi truck operator hauling freight can only be on the road for 11 hours continuously, according to the FMCSA. Unfortunately, the hours of service are abused quite frequently by drivers and trucking companies. For example, the commercial truck operator who collided with a party limo carrying comedian Tracy Morgan had been on the road for more than 24 hours without stopping to rest.
Routine Maintenance is Absolutely Critical
Commercial trucks vehicles are manufactured and repaired with an emphasis on quality control. For example, the air brake systems in semi trucks are governed by federal law. If a defect in the truck or any component of the truck caused your accident, then you may have a claim against the manufacturer, supplier, or repairer of the semi truck.
Holding the Truck Driver and Their Employer Accountable in Your Truck Accident Case
To prevail in your semi truck accident case, your Virginia & North Carolina truck accident attorney will need to prove that the truck driver and any other parties such as their employer are legally liable. The trucking company can be liable for your damages through a legal doctrine known as respondeat superior. This means that employers are responsible for accidents their employees get into during the regular course of business.
One way to prove liability is to show that the driver or trucking company violated either a state or federal law, as this can automatically establish negligence.
A way to prove that the commercial truck company was negligent is introducing evidence showing that the company negligently hired a poorly trained or incompetent driver. For example, if the company hired a driver with multiple convictions for drunk driving without doing a background check, then they may be liable when that driver hits another vehicle and causes significant damage.
Understanding the Types of Compensable Harms and Losses
The list is a brief summary of the types of harms and losses that can be compensated through a truck accident injury claim:
- Medical Expenses - ambulance fees, hospital visits, doctor visits, in-home care services, etc
- Pain and Suffering - the mental and physical distress of the pain, anxiety, stress, etc
- Lost Wages - any lost work or pay due to the accident and follow-up health care appointments
Free Truck Accident Case Review – No Pressure and No Obligation
Commercial truck accident law can be complicated. Truck accident cases can involve various legal theories for establishing liability and, as mentioned, a combination of state and federal laws. This is why it makes sense to speak to an experienced and skilled truck accident attorney in Virginia or truck accident lawyer in North Carolina for a free, confidential case evaluation. Fill out the quick contact form on this page or utilize our Live Chat service to speak to someone with our firm immediately.