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Federal Trucking Regulations

Tractor-Trailer Crash Lawyers Serving Syracuse and Rochester

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has promulgated federal regulations that govern commercial vehicles in interstate commerce. These federal trucking regulations apply to how the drivers of most big-rigs, semis, and tractor-trailers behave on the road and off. Among other things, they regulate driving procedures, drug and alcohol testing, hours of service, records, and maintenance. If you were injured in a collision with one of these large vehicles, you should retain an experienced Syracuse truck accident attorney who understands the federal trucking regulations and how to prove violations of them in complex truck accident cases. We understand how to identify and pursue all relevant evidence from all potentially liable parties, and we fight aggressively for any compensation our clients may be entitled to.

Violations of Federal Trucking Regulations

Interstate truck drivers must follow the FMCSA regulations. Among other things, they need to follow hours of service rules, avoid drinking and driving, avoid drugs, maintain their commercial license, and maintain their vehicle.

Different hours of service rules apply when a commercial vehicle is carrying passengers versus property. For example, property-carrying truck drivers can drive at most 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, whereas passenger-carrying truck drivers may drive at most 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off duty. Truck drivers carrying property can only drive if eight or fewer hours have passed since the end of the driver's last off-duty period (rest break) of at least 30 minutes. This does not apply to drivers who are using either of the short-haul exceptions. Additionally, interstate truck drivers are supposed to accurately state their hours in a logbook.

If an interstate truck driver does not follow these regulations, and their fatigue causes an accident, this can provide strong support for a negligence claim. To prove a truck driver's negligence, your lawyer will need to show that the truck driver and/or trucking company owed you a duty of reasonable care, that the defendant or defendants breached this duty, a causal link between the breach and your accident, and that you incurred actual damages as a result of the collision. A jury would likely find that an interstate truck driver had breached his duty of reasonable care to others on the road if he violated the hours of service rules and falsified his log book to meet tight delivery deadlines, but then was unable to handle a jackknifing situation appropriately, causing an accident in which multiple people were injured or killed. Similarly, a jury would likely find a breach of duty if the truck driver failed to maintain the truck according to the FMCSA regulations, and as a result was not able to brake in time to avoid a serious collision involving injuries or loss of life.

Liability for Trucking Companies

As is true for truck drivers, trucking companies engaged in interstate commerce must follow the FMCSA regulations. Among other things, they are supposed to conduct background checks of job applicants and conduct drug and alcohol testing. The FMCSA rules regarding drug tests require them before a trucking company can hire a driver, when there is a reasonable suspicion of drug use, on a random basis, and just after a truck accident. The tests are generally able to determine whether a truck driver has alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, or PCP in their system. Trucking companies are also supposed to check logbooks for accuracy, and make sure that their truck drivers are keeping their logbooks accurately.

A trucking company that fails to follow federal trucking regulations may have that failure used against them in order to prove their direct liability in a negligence lawsuit following an accident involving one of their trucks. If a driver fails to take appropriate steps with regard to truck maintenance following the trucking company’s failure to properly instruct the driver in that area, the company can be held directly liable for negligent training or negligent supervision. Or, if a driver has a known history of ignoring hours of service rules and has injured others in the past as a result but a trucking company hires them anyway, the trucking company could be held legally accountable for negligent hiring in the event of an accident involving similar conduct. However, in order for liability to attach in this context, an employment relationship must exist between the trucking company and the driver. If the driver is an independent contractor, then the trucking company will not be a potential defendant in your case on these grounds.

If you are able to establish liability for a truck accident, you will be able to recover compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are those that are meant to make up for economic or financial losses, as well as noneconomic losses that flow from the accident. In order to prove your damages, your attorneys will need to submit evidence on such matters as the nature of your injuries and how they are likely to affect you into the future, the changes to your daily life, and the impact the accident has had on your ability to do the same job you used to do, or any job for that matter. Damages that may be recovered include amounts for medical bills, lost wages due to missed work, reduced earning capacity, property damage, replacement services, and pain and suffering. Other damages may be recovered if a violation of federal trucking regulations caused a loved one’s death.

Seek Assistance from a Trucking Injury Lawyer in the Syracuse Area

If you have been harmed due to an accident arising from a violation of federal trucking regulations, our law firm may be able to help you recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit. DeFrancisco & Falgiatano represents people injured in truck accidents in Syracuse, Rochester, and throughout Upstate New York, including in areas such as Binghamton, Elmira, Norwich, Auburn, Delhi, Herkimer, Watertown, Cortland, Oneida, Wampsville, Utica, Lowville, Oswego, Cooperstown, Canandaigua, Ithaca, and Lyons. Call us at 315-479-9000 or contact us via our online form to learn more about your legal rights.

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