Who is Liable in a Car Accident with a Commercial Truck in PA?
If you are injured in a car accident with a large truck, like a tractor-trailer, a big rig, or an 18-wheeler, you could be facing serious injuries. In many cases, the law is on your side. Talk to an experienced truck accident attorney today to see how to hold the truck driver and the trucking company liable for the injuries they caused. The Reiff Law Firm’s Philadelphia truck accident attorneys offer free consultations to help you understand your potential case.
Who’s at Fault in a Car Accident with a Truck
Every vehicle on the road has the same basic rights and responsibilities. Whether it’s a truck, a car, or even a moped, every vehicle needs to follow the same general rules of the road. This means that courts and insurance companies cannot automatically decide who is at fault in an accident between a car and a truck. Instead, they need to look at the specifics of the crash and see who was at fault.
To prove your case, you must show someone else caused the accident through “negligence.” This involves showing four elements:
- Duty – the defendant owed you a duty to use a certain level of care;
- Breach – the defendant failed to follow that duty
- Causation – the defendant’s failure caused your injuries
- Damages – you suffered harms, such as injuries, that the court can compensate you for.
When there is a rule that is meant to protect others, such as traffic laws or criminal statutes, breaking the law can often count as an automatic breach of duty. This is called “negligence per se,” and can seriously help you prove your personal injury case. This is how breaking traffic laws becomes an important part of car accident cases.
In car crashes where there is no clear-cut rule-breaker, it is important to look at the “totality of the circumstances” to determine who is at-fault. If one vehicle was speeding, while the other was following the rules, the speeding vehicle may be at fault. However, if both vehicles were speeding or both vehicles made illegal turns, it may be up to a neutral third party – like a jury – to determine who is at fault.
Trucking Regulations Hold Truckers Accountable
While trucks and cars may be equal under general traffic laws, there are dozens of additional regulations for trucks, truck drivers, and trucking companies. Many of these rules are written by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA is a federal agency that researches and monitors safety in the trucking industry, and has the power to write trucking regulations that affect all 50 States. Like traffic laws, these regulations are written to protect other drivers on the road. That means that if a trucker or a trucking company breaks one of these rules, courts may hold them negligent for the injuries they cause. These trucking regulations usually cover one of three categories.
First, trucking regulations deal with trucks and tractor trailers, and the cargo they carry. These rules create maintenance requirements, set minimum safety conditions for tires and other equipment, require inspections for brakes and other systems, and create weight and cargo limits. For instance, there are additional trucking rules that limit most trucks to a maximum combined weight of 80,000 pounds. If a truck is overweight, the driver may be automatically liable for any accident that can be attributed to this violation.
Second, the FMCSA creates “hours of service” rules to limit the amount of time a trucker can spend behind the wheel. This creates daily driving limits, limits for how long a driver can stay on duty in a single day, and limits for how long a driver can stay on duty in a week. Tired driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, so this is an important regulation. However, many truck drivers seek overtime and extra pay by driving too many hours in a week, or trucking companies will force their drivers to stay on the road beyond their limits to ship more cargo. If these rules were broken or logs were falsified, trucking companies may be held accountable for accidents.
Lastly, there are federal regulations for the drivers themselves. Truck drivers must pass driving tests, carry a commercial drivers’ license (CDL), and pass random and scheduled drug testing. Failing to follow any of these rules can make them lose their CDL, and could make their driving illegal in the first place. These violations are especially helpful in proving a truck driver was at-fault for an accident.
Philadelphia Truck Accident Victims’ Attorney
The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm work to get compensation for injured truck accident victims. Our attorneys use federal regulations and other rules to hold trucking companies and their drivers accountable for your injuries or the death of a loved one in a truck accident. For a free consultation on your case, call our lawyers today at (215) 246-9000.