The trucking industry is vital in the bustling world of transportation, facilitating the movement of products and commodities. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets and enforces regulations to ensure safety, efficiency, and integrity in trucking operations.
But what happens when those in the industry breach these rules?
FMCSA violations can endanger the lives of others sharing the road with commercial vehicles. Truck accidents happen frequently, injuring or killing innocent victims. Far too often, the negligent actions of a truck driver or the company they work for cause the accident.
As a concerned citizen or victim of a truck accident, you may wonder what happens when truck companies break the rules meant to protect you. FMCSA regulations include standards for the trucking industry standards to improve the safety and efficiency of our roadways. Violations of these can have disastrous consequences for victims and leave truck companies liable for the damages they cause.
If you are a victim of a truck accident involving FMCSA rule violations, you may recover compensation. Hiring a truck accident attorney in Atlanta improves your chances of seeking the maximum damages.
To comprehend the potential consequences arising from rule violations, consult a lawyer who understands FMCSA regulations. These directives are not arbitrary restrictions but carefully designed measures that promote safety and efficiency across the trucking industry.
FMCSA trucking industry rules regulate driver qualifications, hours of service, vehicle maintenance, cargo securement, and hazardous material transport.
The hours of service regulations restrict truck drivers to a maximum of 11 hours of driving after 10 consecutive hours off duty. They also prohibit truck operators from driving beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
Vehicle maintenance regulations require that trucks undergo regular inspections, repairs, and maintenance to ensure they remain safe and operable. Cargo securement rules provide for the safe and proper fastening of loads to prevent shifts or falls during transit.
The Purpose and Benefits of These Rules
These FMCSA rules protect drivers and the public. They require that truck drivers receive adequate training, do not work more than the allowable hours, and maintain their vehicles.
When truck companies follow these rules, they can protect the public from avoidable collisions and mishaps on the road. Stringent regulations mitigate the number of such incidents and protect the lives of all road users. Frequent violations of these rules occur across the trucking industry, however, heightening the risk of road accidents.
Common FMCSA Rule Violations
Once you understand FMCSA regulations and the reasoning behind their implementation, identifying violations commonly occurring in the trucking industry can determine the underlying cause of a truck accident and who bears liability for it.
Trucking companies or drivers can breach FMCSA regulations through:
- Hours of service violations: This is one of the most common breaches in the trucking industry. Drivers must take breaks and not exceed a specified number of driving hours. Due to pressures to meet deadlines, earn more money, or make up for lost time, they often find themselves overworking, resulting in this violation.
- Failure to maintain vehicles: Regular maintenance and inspections of vehicles ensures safety. Violations occur when trucking companies neglect these necessary checks to save time or money.
- Improper loading: Overloading or incorrectly securing the cargo on a truck can lead to catastrophic accidents. Despite strict cargo securement rules, this violation frequently occurs.
- False reporting: Drivers or companies may falsify records to portray compliance. This could include tampering with service logs and inspection records, making uncovering violations challenging.
Why Do These Violations Occur?
Cost- and time-saving shortcuts are a common factor. Trucking companies often operate under tight schedules and margins, leading to FMCSA rule breaches. Drivers may lack proper training, leaving drivers unaware of the full implications of the regulations and the importance of adherence.
A lack of adequate enforcement can create a culture of complacency, resulting in recurring violations by some drivers and companies. Irrespective of the reason for the infringement, it can result in life-threatening accidents.
Consequences of Violating FMCSA Rules
FMCSA has put forth numerous regulations that form the backbone of safety and procedural laws in the trucking industry. When a trucking company breaches these rules, they risk the safety of their drivers and other road users and also face severe legal, financial, and safety consequences.
Legal Consequences for Trucking Companies
FMCSA rule violations can lead to significant penalties depending on the gravity and frequency of the breach. In less severe instances, the trucking company might face a fine or a warning notice.
If the violation leads to a truck accident, however, penalties can be much more severe. The trucking company may face suspension, lose its operating license, or receive a shutdown order. It could also face criminal charges, especially if the violation led to serious injury or death, and the injured parties and their families can hold it liable.
Safety Consequences for the General Public
When a company violates FMCSA safety regulations, it places its drivers and every other road user at risk. Commercial drivers may find themselves operating unsafe vehicles or working over the allowable hours, leading to fatigue and a greater risk of accidents. The general public faces increased danger due to unroadworthy trucks, inadequately trained drivers, or neglectful trucking companies that fail to perform necessary safety checks.
Financial Implications for The Trucking Companies
A FMCSA rules violation can bankrupt a trucking company. These can include penalties and fines issued by regulatory bodies, loss of its business license and associated revenue, increased insurance premiums, legal proceedings, and settlement costs.
If a violation leads to an accident, you can hold the company liable. The trucking company may have to pay substantial compensation, especially in severe injury or fatality cases.
The Rights of Truck Accident Victims
Victims of trucking incidents should understand their legal rights.
When FMCSA violations occur and accidents ensue, victims have a legal recourse to obtain compensation. A breach of FMCSA rules can become vital evidence in proving a truck company’s or truck driver’s negligence when filing a claim or lawsuit.
If you are a truck accident victim and suffer injuries and losses due to a driver’s or company’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensatory damages. This includes payment for medical bills, lost income, lost earning potential, and pain and suffering. The damages you may seek as a victim will depend on the nature and severity of your injuries.
Damages to a victim may include:
- Medical expenses: This includes costs for past, ongoing, and future medical care due to the accident.
- Loss of income: If the accident leads to time off work, you can recover lost earnings.
- Pain and suffering: Noneconomic damages compensate for the physical pain and mental anguish you experienced due to the accident.
- Property damage: If your vehicle or property sustained damage in the accident, you could receive compensation for the necessary repairs or replacement.
- Wrongful death: In tragic circumstances where a loved one dies in a truck accident, family members can seek compensation for funeral costs, loss of companionship, loss of future income, and more.
Compensatory damages restore the victim to their financial, physical, and emotional position before the accident. When a victim suffers catastrophic injuries causing disability, the compensation is often significant and must consider the long-term consequences. Victims can seek compensation through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the trucking company, the truck driver, or any other party contributing to the accident.
Why You Should Retain a Lawyer
You need an attorney when dealing with a truck accident claim, especially in cases involving complex FMCSA rule violations.
When you suffer injuries in a truck accident, hire a lawyer as soon as possible. They can investigate the accident, gather evidence, and identify FMCSA rule violations. An attorney can also prove that the trucking company’s or driver’s negligence caused the accident that resulted in your injuries.
Lawyers can quantify your damages accurately and negotiate a fair settlement with the relevant insurance providers. If the parties cannot reach an acceptable agreement, your attorney can file a lawsuit and represent you in court if necessary.
Truck accident attorneys can identify if FMCSA rules violations may have led to the accident. They have extensive knowledge about these infringements and how they contribute to accidents. An attorney can also seek vital evidence, such as the information within a truck’s black boxes, to identify any issues regarding service hours or performance concerns with the truck.
Once they establish the violation, lawyers can use it as evidence to strengthen your claim. They can also guide you through the complex legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Who May You Hold Liable in a Truck Accident?
Identifying liability in a truck accident may involve multiple parties. It is not only the truck driver who you can hold accountable. Liability can extend to other entities.
Potentially liable parties include:
- The truck driver: If the driver violates FMCSA rules, drives under the influence, or is negligent in any other way, you can hold them liable.
- The trucking company: The trucking company bears responsibility for the driver’s actions. If the company encouraged rule violations, ignored regular maintenance of vehicles, or failed to ensure proper employee training, you can hold them at fault.
- The truck’s manufacturer: If a truck accident occurs due to defective parts, such as faulty brakes or steering systems, you can hold the manufacturer of these parts accountable.
- Maintenance providers: You can hold companies responsible for the truck’s maintenance liable if negligent upkeep or repair contributed to the accident.
- Cargo loading company: If the accident happens because of improper loading and securing of cargo, you can hold the company responsible for this task liable.
Determining liability in truck accidents usually requires thorough investigation and deep knowledge of the industry and FMCSA regulations. You need legal representation in such circumstances.
As a truck accident victim involving possible FMCSA rule violations, hire a Atlanta personal injury lawyer to secure your right to compensation. Lawyers can navigate the challenges of truck accident cases, assess any FMCSA rule violations, and present a solid compensation claim against the parties liable for your damages.