In a truck accident, it will be your responsibility to prove that these parties acted negligently. If they violated any federal rules that regulate the trucking industry, it will be easier to demonstrate liability and win the damages you deserve. Our Greenville, SC, truck accident attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A. explain how federal regulations impact truck accident lawsuits.
What Is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)?
The FMCSA is a federal agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Its job is to regulate trucking throughout the country. The FMCSA enforces rules that truck drivers and trucking companies must follow or face penalties. Its regulations affect nearly every aspect of commercial trucking in the United States, including:
- Weight and size limits on commercial trucks
- Commercial driver’s license standards for truck drivers
- The number of hours drivers can operate their trucks before needing a rest
- Truck driver logs that document stops, breaks, and other trucking activities
- Drug and alcohol testing, as administered by drivers’ employers
- Periodic inspections and maintenance standards
FMCSA rules apply to all trucking employers, employees, and commercial trucks that transport goods or passengers in interstate commerce. Whether the trucks are owned, leased, rented, or borrowed, these rules still apply. They also operate even if a truck is driven without a load.
What Happens If a Trucking Company Violates FMCSA Regulations?
Breaches of FMCSA rules are usually uncovered because of a compliance review, roadside inspection, terminal audit, or submission of a complaint.
The FMCSA will issue what is known as a Notice of Claim to begin the formal agency enforcement process.
FMCSA violations have potentially serious consequences for truck drivers and their employers.
A driver can be fined and even lose his or her job. The employer can be fined as well, sometimes to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Violations are generally resolved by payment of the financial penalty and entry of a settlement agreement, by which the company agrees to take certain remedial actions.
The Role of FMCSA Violations In Truck Accident Lawsuits
If you’ve been in an accident involving a large truck, you will want to know whether the driver, trucking company or some other party violated any FMCSA regulations.
Evidence of FMCSA violations can make it easier to establish negligence, a vital component of a truck accident lawsuit. In other words, evidence that some relevant party failed to abide by a trucking rule could be a strong indicator of negligence.
Filing a truck accident lawsuit can uncover a history of current and prior violations that provide evidence of a pattern of negligent conduct. This is usually done by using a process known as discovery.
Discovery is a formal request for information from the at-fault parties (lawsuit defendants), which can include demanding to see certain documents, asking questions under oath, and much more.
Violations can provide evidence of relevant factors that may have caused your accident. For instance, if the truck driver ignored FMCSA rules that limit hours, there’s a strong possibility that he or she was driving without sufficient rest. This may have caused the wreck since driving while fatigued reduces a driver’s reaction time and ability to focus on changing road conditions.
An expert witness can shed even more light on how the accident occurred. As an example, an accident reconstructionist can explain in detail how the wreck happened and which factors might have played a role in it. If it turns out that the driver or trucking company incurred FMCSA violations that line up with these factors, this provides even stronger proof of negligence.
FMCSA Rules Can Be Evidence of Negligence Per Se
Negligence per se is a legal doctrine under which a defendant is considered automatically negligent if certain laws are broken. This is considered a simpler alternative to having to establish the necessary elements of a standard negligence claim, such as causation.
Negligence per se can, therefore, be thought of as a shortcut to proving the at-fault party’s liability.
Although FMCSA regulations are not statutes, they are considered to be laws for purposes of a negligence per se claim. That means if a truck driver or trucking company violates FMCSA rules, it’s less challenging to recover damages. It will also be easier to negotiate a favorable settlement with the trucking company’s insurance company.
How Our Greenville, SC Truck Accident Attorneys Can Help
We pride ourselves on zealously advocating for the best interests of our personal injury clients.
We thoroughly investigate the circumstances of each truck accident, acquire the evidence needed to prove fault, and develop expert witness testimony to make a compelling accident claim. If the truck accident case can be settled with the insurance company out of court, we will pursue that route. But we aren’t afraid to take a client’s case before a jury.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.