Car accidents and commercial trucking accidents may have some similarities, but when it comes to obtaining justice for the injured, they are entirely different. That's why Shevlin Smith is here to tell readers that the considerations for commercial trucking accident claims are not like the considerations for passenger vehicle accident claims.
Duty of Care
Legally, a duty of care is an obligation one party has to another. All drivers have a duty of care to other motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.
Generally speaking, motorists have a duty of care to:
- Drive safely given weather conditions;
- Adhere to traffic patterns like stop signs, stoplights, and lanes;
- Follow traffic laws like driving under speed limits, refraining from drinking and driving, and using turn signals.
While commercial truck drivers must adhere to the general duty of care obligations, they also must follow guidelines outlined by state laws and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
The FMCSA oversees the creation and enactment of federal regulations for commercial truck companies. These regulations force commercial truckers to follow the additional duty of care elements to other drivers while on the job.
For example, the average motorist over the age of 21 cannot have a 0.08% blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) or over while behind the wheel; if they do, police can make a drunk driving arrest. However, regarding drinking, the duty of care for truckers is stricter than the duty of care for motorists.
Truckers cannot report for duty or remain on duty with a BAC of 0.04% or greater. If the police catch a trucker with a 0.04% BAC, they can lawfully make a drunk driving arrest.
Drunk driving is only one FMCSA regulation, so let's look at some others.
- Truck drivers must maintain trucking licenses;
- Truck drivers must follow hours of operation laws (cannot drive for more than 12 hours after a 10-hour break, and cannot drive after 16 hours of being on duty after a 10-hour break);
- Truck drivers must complete road safety training regularly.
Now you understand that truck drivers have a greater duty of care to others when compared to passenger vehicle motorists, but how does this make truck accidents different from car accidents?
Well, it all comes down to liability.
Truck Accidents & Liability
Determining liability is harder in truck accidents when compared to regular car accidents because both the trucker and the trucker's company can be liable for the same incident.
For example, let's assume that an exhausted truck driver swerves into a lane and hits a motorist. From this fact alone, it's evident that the truck driver is at fault for the accident; however, evidence shows that the trucking company told the trucker to break federal hours of operation laws to maximize profits intentionally.
Therefore, the trucker was driving for longer than 12 hours to make extra money, and his company backed the decision.
In this circumstance, a court may find the trucker at fault for causing the accident due to his exhaustion, but also find the trucking company at fault for telling the trucker to break federal laws.
While courts can find trucking companies at fault for accidents they caused by encouraging illegal behaviors, they can also find them partially responsible based on respondeat superior.
Virginia Respondeat Superior Arguments
Virginia's common law abides by respondeat superior arguments.
Respondeat superior arguments state that an employer is responsible for his employee's negligent actions if the scenario meets the following criteria.
- The one who caused the accident is an employee of the company in question.
- The one who caused the accident was conducting his employer's business at the time of the accident's occurrence.
- The one who caused the accident was acting within the scope of his employment.
Based on the criteria mentioned above, it's possible to argue that many commercial truck accidents fall under respondeat superior scenarios.
Let's go through the required criteria with a truck driver in mind.
- A majority of truck drivers are employees of major trucking companies;
- If truckers are on the clock when accidents occur, they are conducting their employers' business.
- Truckers hauling goods at the time of their accidents are working within the scope of their employment.
As you can see, it's possible to hold truck companies accountable for truckers' negligence. However, truck companies will do everything they can do defend themselves against allegations of liability. Therefore, anyone injured in trucking accidents should talk to a Fairfax personal injury attorney about their injuries.
Talk to an Attorney About Your Case
It's possible to hold truckers and trucking companies accountable for the injuries they cause. Unfortunately, insurance companies of trucking companies will act as though you were at fault for the accident. That's why you should consider talking to a truck accident attorney about your case.
If you or a loved one suffers injuries in a truck accident, you may have the right to seek just compensation for your case. However, it's wise to hire an award-winning truck accident firm like Shevlin Smith for your case because recovering damages in truck accidents is complicated.
One of our experienced personal injury attorneys will investigate the facts of the incident to determine if you should pursue a claim against the trucker, the trucking company, or both. However, regardless of the subject of the claim, our firm will fight for just compensation for your injuries should we take you on as a client.
Ready for award-winning representation? Call (703) 721-4233 now for a free consultation for your case!