A crash with a truck on any road or highway can cause devastating injury. There are trucks on our highways that are 70 feet long and weigh almost 80,000 lbs (36 tons). Many truck drivers are skilled professional drivers, who do an important job in transporting their cargo while obeying laws. However, some drivers are simply motivated by profit and they ignore safety regulations and laws, so that they can transport more loads in an unsafe manner.
At The Joel Bieber Firm, we handle a lot of car and truck accidents. However, handling Virginia truck accidents that involve commercial drivers’ licenses require a special knowledge of those laws. It requires an understanding of the following:
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
Lawyers who handle truck accidents typically have the pocket sized book of these regulations to refer to, for commercial truck drivers. A recent case that we tried included presenting evidence to the jury where the truck driver violated twenty of these regulations. That gave rise to a claim and ultimate verdict that included punishment (punitive) damages. That is why, as a Virginia truck accident lawyer, it is important to know and understand the application of these laws.
- Hazardous Material Regulations
Federal regulations provide for the safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials. The driver must receive special training on proper packaging and operational requirements for such transport. During the discovery state, the Joel Bieber Firm investigates and moves quickly to verify that the hauling regulations were applied in the hauling of hazardous materials.
- Hours of Driving
The Department of Transportation has recently provided statistics regarding crashes involving large trucks. There are an average of about 5,000 truck crashes each year, that result in fatality. Of those crashes, 713 truck drivers were killed. One of the factors reported in many of these crashes was a truck driver who was dozing to sleep. The truck driver is required to keep a log book to document that they are complying with the appropriate driving “hours of service”, which have been effect in some form since 1939. At the Joel Bieber Firm, we work to document that the truck driver is complying with the “hours of service” requirement by reviewing the route of the driver and their log book. In some cases, we have found that the driver has maintained two different log books, so as to look as though the truck driver is in compliance. In some of those circumstances, the trucking company knew of this and ignored or even encouraged the violation of these laws.
- Corporate Liability
A trucking company has a duty to properly screen, test and train a potential employee before letting them drive a truck. During a claim involving a truck, we determine if companies are in compliance with Federal regulations during the hiring process. This includes knowing the correct investigations, familiar with trucking requirements to research and compile information that may be used in litigation. A trucking company cannot just put a driver on the road and disclaim responsibility of the trucking company. We also begin to make a determination whether a lawsuit will be filed in state or federal court. Information in the preliminary stages can be lost, such as the computer data in the truck, if we do not move quickly.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.gov) states that their responsibility is to “investigate safety defects in motor vehicles, enforce fuel economy standards, help state and local communities reduce the threat of drunk drivers, promote the use of seat belts, investigate odometer fraud, enforce vehicle anti-theft regulations and provide consumer information on motor vehicle safety topics”. All those are good goals. The problem that we see as Virginia truck accident lawyers is that drivers and companies, many times, go into “cover up mode”. They send out a company representative called a “safety director”, who immediately begins working to reduce the responsibility of the company. If the truck driver’s log book is inaccurate, or there is driver alcohol use, sometimes the evidence begins to disappear.
A preventable truck accident is one which occurs because the driver failed to take the precautions to prevent it. If you or a loved one have been injured because of a truck crash, please contact us for a free consultation. The Joel Bieber Firm has handled many crashes involving trucks. Some where the truck driver is our client and others where the truck is at fault. We never represent insurance companies, we only represent the injured. Putting us to work soon after the crash allows us to gather the information to hold the at fault driver accountable. Finding the responsible party, the cause of the crash and the aggregating circumstances, may mean that we need to do an investigation quickly. Evidence may be lost, if we can’t investigate in timely manner.
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