Federal and State Regulations of Trucks and Their Operation
Both FMCSA and the USDOT enforce federal regulations found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations cover everything from training of drivers, to maintenance of the trucks, and to working conditions and limitations.
Significantly, the regulations limit the hours truck drivers can operate their vehicles. The code requires that, in a 24-hour period, a truck driver must be off for at least 10 hours, and of the 14 remaining hours in the day, being behind the wheel of a big rig is limited to 11 hours. In addition, a driver can’t operate their vehicle more than 60 hours in a 7-day period, or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days if there is a day off in between. These restrictions are known as the hours of service (HOS) regulations.
Drivers are also required to keep logbooks of their operations behind the wheel, or to have an electronic tracking system installed to keep a record of driving time, speeds, and locations.
Causes of Truck Accidents
FMCSA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted what they called the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) by examining 963 crashes of trucks and passenger vehicles. The study ranked the causative factors in truck crashes in this order:
- Brake problems
- Traffic flow interruption (congestion, previous crash)
- Prescription drug use
- Traveling too fast for conditions
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway
- Roadway problems
- Required to stop before crash (traffic control device, crosswalk)
- Over-the-counter drug use
- Inadequate surveillance
No matter the cause of the truck wreck, it’s important to reach out for compassionate legal guidance to help you find a path forward.
Assigning Liability in a Truck Crash
A collision with a truck is not as clear-cut as a collision between two passenger vehicles, in which one driver’s negligence no doubt largely contributed to the accident. A trucking accident can be the result of more than just driver error or negligence.
For instance, the maintenance crew responsible for the brakes may have let them go too long without being repaired or replaced. The carrier, or trucking company, may have inadequately trained or overworked the driver. The cargo people may have caused an imbalance of weight that throws off the truck’s center of gravity and makes it difficult to maneuver.
Under the legal principle of vicarious liability, one, some, or all of the people involved in maintaining and operating the truck may have contributed to the crash. This means that, if you’re injured in a truck crash, you may be facing multiple claims, or even lawsuits, to hold everyone accountable and receive the compensation you deserve.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck crash, determining who is at fault can be complicated. Your best bet is to involve an experienced attorney from the beginning, one who can investigate and determine who is liable.
If the driver turns out to be solely responsible, then a claim against the driver’s insurance may be the starting point, since Oklahoma’s insurance laws are “at fault,” meaning the person who caused the accident may be liable. If matters come to filing a personal injury lawsuit against the driver or anyone else, such as the trucking company, or the maintenance or cargo crew, then you face a two-year time limit to file a claim.
If you lost a loved one in the accident, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is also two years, but state law requires that the personal representative named by the deceased in their will must file the legal action. If there is no will, the court will appoint a personal representative, often from among immediate family members, to file the lawsuit.
Obtaining Skilled Legal Counsel
Big rig accidents are inherently complicated. Even if it is just truck driver error at fault and an insurance claim is the starting point, you don’t want to deal with an insurance claims adjuster on your own. Adjusters are trained to get you to say or do something that they can use to show that you’re at fault or contributed to your own injury, potentially lowering your settlement or denying it altogether. In short, obtaining compensation from a truck crash is not a do-it-yourself proposition. You need to reach out for legal guidance.