If you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck driver, there are two things that you need to do right away: call 911 to get help with your injuries and get in touch with an experienced truck accident lawyer. Baron & Budd is currently investigating Dallas area truck accident cases involving serious injury or death in Fort Worth, Plano, Denton, and north Texas. If you were involved in a truck wreck and sustained serious injuries like broken bones, spinal injuries, or head or brain injuries, give us a call so we can help you.
The Texas Department of Transportation reported there were 246,335 injury crashes on Texas roadways in 2015. Additionally, 3,531 lost their lives in crashes. These numbers, while lower than 2014, are still very high and victims don’t always know what they should do after an accident.
A study recently conducted by the North Texas Council of Governments ranked the most congested highways in North Texas, attributing to the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex’s placement as the second most deadly area to drive in Texas. Nine of the ten counties mentioned in the DFW area were in either Dallas or Tarrant County. However, one of the most congested highways was in Denton south along I35 East to Texas Highway 121 towards Carrolton and Flower Mound.
Injured in a Truck Accident?
You need an advocate to help protect your interests. If you or a family member are involved in a serious accident with a commercial truck, give us a call.Call 866-236-9479 Request Your Free Case Review
What Should I Do If I’m in an Accident with a Truck?
Being involved in any type of crash is traumatic. There are specific steps you should take after an accident and a few things you should avoid doing or saying.
- Ask for medical attention – regardless of how minor the accident, you should get immediate medical attention. This is particularly true if your airbag deployed as you may have internal injuries that are not immediately visible. Keep in mind, you will have an adrenaline rush following an accident which could mask any possible injuries.
- Get witness information as quickly as possible – if there were witnesses to the accident, get their names and contact information. While the police report will have much of this information, if you have it independently you’ll be able to compare the list; remember, you may need to contact these witnesses later.
- Take pictures – the scene of the accident should be photographed if possible. Thankfully, most of us carry cell phones which are capable of taking high quality photographs. In addition to taking picture of the cars involved, take photos of the street scene, any signage or traffic signals which indicate speed limits, etc. The more photos you have, the better you can reconstruct the scene.
Is There Anything I Should Not Do or Avoid After a Crash with a Commercial Vehicle?
Yes, there are some very specific things you should avoid doing after an accident. Remember, it’s not unusual to make “excited utterances” after an accident; these could be problematic later on, particularly if the accident wasn’t your fault.
- Be careful who you talk to – while you will have to give a full accounting to law enforcement officers, be careful about talking to anyone else about the accident, particularly any insurance adjuster or investigators. It’s better to provide short answers regarding the accident to law enforcement and avoid answering any questions posed by an insurance company. Call an attorney right away and do not answer any questions from people other than emergency medical personnel until your legal counsel arrives.
- Avoid recorded statements – regardless of who asks you to give a statement, avoid doing so before consulting with an attorney.. This extends to your own insurance agent; before making any type of statement, you should speak with an attorney. It is better to refer anyone who wants a statement to your lawyer.
- Never sign a release – your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company may ask you to sign a release. Remember, the goal of an insurer is not to help you; their goal is to keep their out-of-pocket costs as low as possible and this means getting you to settle for as little as possible, as quickly as possible. No settlement should be discussed without talking to a personal injury attorney first.
Truck accidents involving commercial vehicles, especially semi-truck accidents, have declined in many U.S. states but not in Texas. Fatal truck accident crashes increased more than 50% between 2009 and 2013 according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. While Houston Public Media attributes the rise in fatal truck accidents to the fracking boom, other factors may also play a part. Regardless of the cause, many commercial truck collisions cause serious injuries and death.
Possible Causes of Rise in Fatal Truck Accidents Across Texas
- Shortage of Truck Drivers
- Increase in Distracted Driving
- Increase in Port of Houston Container Traffic
- Texas Population Surge
- Trucking Companies Pushing Drivers Too Hard
Trucking accidents happen every day. In fact, the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that the commercial truck driving is the second most dangerous job in the United States. And the danger does not stop with the truck drivers — it carries over to every other driver on the road.
Commercial Truck Accidents Cause Serious Injuries & Death
In 2012 alone, nearly 4,000 people died in truck accidents across the United States, while another 104,000 were injured. Because commercial trucks outweigh the average car by several tons, injuries that occur in accidents involving big rigs are usually severe or fatal. The vast majority of truck accident deaths occur on weekdays during common working hours. Despite the large number of trucks across metropolitan areas, most fatal truck accidents occur in rural areas and along country highways. Most deaths involving 18 wheeler crashes occur in the non-commercial vehicle.
Types of Truck Accidents that Occur on Texas Roadways
$37,800,000,000 – this is the economic cost of all motor vehicle accidents occurring on Texas roadways in 2015 (calculated in 2014 dollars). 459 motorcycle operators and passengers, 550 pedestrians and 51 bicyclists lost their lives on Texas roadways. The various types of accidents that resulted in death or serious injury include:
- Drunk driving accidents – 27 percent of the lives lost on Texas roadways involved a drunk driver. When an accident involves a driver who is under the influence of alcohol, the driver could be held for criminal charges and may also be liable for civil damages. You need to call a drunk driving accident lawyer if you were involved in a crash with a truck and a drunk driver.
- Distracted driving accidents – during 2015, almost 500 people lost their lives due to driver distractions including texting, phone use while driving including reading the phone or talking on the phone. With more cellphones than ever before, this is a scary statistic.
- Head-on collisions – nearly 600 people lost their lives in head-on collisions. Generally, these accidents involve someone who is not paying attention, drift from their lanes and subsequently wind up traveling in the wrong lane, in the wrong direction. These accidents are often worse when a commercial vehicle or truck is traveling above the speed limit: 70 or 75 mph on many roadways in Texas.
- Rear-end collisions – when a driver fails to stay a proper distance behind the cars in front of them, a sudden stop can result in a rear end collision. Victims can suffer serious injuries because in many cases, the car that is struck is at a complete stop and can also hit vehicles in front of them. When a truck rear ends a small passenger vehicle, the result is often deadly.
- Rollover accidents – it is shocking to learn that across the United States, 33 percent of all roadway deaths are as a result of rollover accidents. These accidents can cause crushing injuries, death and many involve large trucks.
- Wrong way collisions – when a driver is unfamiliar with a roadway they may be driving in the wrong direction; these accidents are often head-on collisions and the injuries sustained are often catastrophic injuries or may end in a fatality.
- Reckless/aggressive driving accidents – nearly always associated with speeding, these accidents can have deadly consequences. Aggressive driving often results from incidents of road rage and these accidents can be fatal.
- Commercial vehicle accidents – truck alone were responsible for 34,230 accidents on Texas roadways. This does not include accidents involving buses and other commercial vehicles. The sheer size of these vehicles are sufficient to cause catastrophic injuries.
Unrealistic Expectation of Trucking Companies on Drivers
The average truck driver is under tight deadlines to transport freight from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Many trucking companies turn a blind eye to the unrealistic expectations of customers demanding fast deliveries. This leads to fast driving with very few breaks and too many sleepless nights. Combined, this can be a deadly combination.
The bottom line is that trucking companies are businesses looking to make a profit. It is not uncommon for commercial trucking companies to permit or even encourage their drivers to speed, drive in unsafe weather, skip rest breaks and falsify logbooks. These irresponsible trucking companies may also allow unsafe trucks on the road by failing to keep up with basic vehicle maintenance or requiring drivers to pick up trailers with unsecured or overweight loads. Ultimately, these types of trucking companies place profits above safety. If we can prove that the trucking company is guilty of any of these illegal and negligent practices, ultimately causing the crash, then we are likely to have a strong case. Every case is different so make sure you reach out to a truck accident attorney to discuss the specific details of your case.
Driver Fatigue. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that truck driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of crashes. Research has shown that driving without enough sleep is similar to driving drunk. In fact, the federal government recently revised driving regulations for truck drivers, requiring drivers to take a 34-hour rest period each week that includes two nighttime rest periods from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Despite these rules, tired and fatigued truckers are on the road every day risking their safety and yours.
Speeding Truck Drivers or Cars. Excessive speed is the number one factor in most truck and bus crashes. Many truck drivers are paid by the mile, so, the faster they drive, the more miles they cover, the more they get paid. This formula often results in dangerous practices that can lead to a serious collision.
Distracted Truck Drivers or Passenger Vehicles. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of auto accidents; truck wrecks are no exception. Federal regulations prohibit truck drivers from texting while driving and from talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving.
Unsafe Trucks, Trailers and Buses. Truck and bus companies have a duty to maintain safe vehicles. Truck drivers must do a pre-trip inspection each time they drive a commercial vehicle to ensure it will operate safely. If a truck, trailer or bus is unsafe, companies are required to take that vehicle off the road. Unfortunately, poorly maintained tractor trailers and buses with faulty brakes, bad tires and other mechanical failures frequently cause crashes.
Overweight Trucks. Under federal law, tractor trailers and their cargo cannot weigh more than 80,000 pounds. Overweight trucks require more stopping time, and may be more likely to rollover in a crash. In addition, overweight trucks are susceptible to tipping over or sagging, which can cause a collision with other vehicles on the road.
Negligent Hiring, Improper Truck Driver Training. Truck companies are required to investigate a truck driver’s background before hiring them. This includes drug testing, contacting prior employers and investigating any previous crashes and driving violations. Transportation companies also must make sure that their drivers operate safely and do not violate the law. Improper training can lead to small errors in judgment with fatal consequences. Many trucking companies ignore problems with drivers in favor of keeping more trucks on the road.
Driving Under the Influence. Alcohol and drug abuse by truck drivers can create dangerous driving conditions that can result in fatal truck crashes. Some truck drivers use illegal drugs, or misuse prescription drugs, to help them stay awake and drive more hours. Following a serious collision, truck drivers must submit to drug and alcohol testing to see if drugs or alcohol use played a part in the accident. If the truck driver is found tests positive for drugs or alcohol after an accident, their employer may be found negligent or even guilty of gross negligence.
How is Fault Determined in an a Car Accident with a Truck?
After an auto accident has occurred and you’ve spoken with an attorney, it will be important to determine who is at fault, who has liability and to determine if the driver was negligent. This process can get very complicated; in the case of a drunk driver, they are clearly negligent. However, if a drunk driver was coming from a club or bar and the bartender continued to serve them knowing they were already intoxicated, they may also bear liability. These issues are covered in the Texas Dram Shop Act and they clearly state under what circumstances the server may be held partially responsible for an accident.
In the case of a commercial driver, their employer may have violated rest period rules that are in place for commercial drivers, making them partially responsible. Keep in mind, that while a driver may be found liable for an accident, third-parties may have contributed to the circumstances that resulted in the driver’s negligence. These are complicated issues and your attorney can help you determine who is at fault and what portion of the fault lies with the other party.
Texas Auto Insurance Issues You Need to Know
Drivers on Texas roadways are required by law to carry minimum levels of insurance coverage. Specifically, drivers must have no less than $30,000 for each injured person, up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident. Trucking companies, on the other hand, are required to carry at least $750,000 in insurance coverage for bodily injuries. When you’re injured in a truck accident as a result of someone else’s negligence, the insurance company does not have to tell you how much coverage the driver had unless you have filed a personal injury lawsuit.
Keep in mind, the required auto insurance coverage does not include personal injury protection; these policies are considered optional. Insurance in Texas is considered “fault” coverage; there are no-fault policies available but most drivers do not elect to have this coverage. Accident claims are even more complicated if the driver of the commercial vehicle is uninsured or underinsured, your attorney can help you understand what you can expect if you file an insurance claim for an accident with a commercial truck.
Common Injuries in Truck Accidents
Accidents can result in injury to any part of your body; your sternum and abdomen may be bruised due to your seat belt, you could strike your head on the dashboard if you’re struck from behind or you could suffer serious injuries. When a car accident involving a truck is not fatal, victims could suffer the following catastrophic and serious injuries:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) – automobile accidents are the third leading cause of TBI according to the Centers for Disease Control. Victims may never recover fully after TBI, they may need lifelong nursing care.
- Spinal cord injuries – victims can have permanent disabilities including quadriplegia/tetraplegia and paraplegia resulting from spinal cord injuries sustained in a car accident.
- Back injuries – pain and disability resulting from a back injury after a serious car accident may not show up for weeks. Victims often face long-term rehabilitation and may be permanently disabled.
- Burn injuries – victims of an accident can suffer serious burns from the various fluids in a motor vehicle spraying or from contact with parts of the vehicle. Naturally, burns can be far more devastating if one or more of the vehicles involved catches fire.
- Other injuries – victims of a truck accident can suffer internal injuries, broken bones and fractures, disfiguring scars to their face, neck injuries including whiplash, injuries to knees, shoulders, arms and legs. Drivers may also suffer crushing injuries, particularly in high-speed crashes and rollover accidents. Painful soft tissue injuries and organ trauma can occur as a result of seat belts.
Possible Compensation for Truck Accident Injuries
You can file for compensatory and sometimes punitive damages within the 2 year statute of limitations imposed by Texas law for many reasons. If you’re injured, you can ask to be compensated for:
- Lost wages – money you lose as a result of being unable to work after a car accident. Keep in mind, if you are unable to return to work permanently you may also be able to get future lost wages.
- Current medical bills – treatment you are receiving as a result of the accident. This includes hospitalization, tests, medication, nursing care and rehabilitation costs when appropriate.
- Future medical bills – anyone who suffers a long-term injury that requires additional medical care including doctor visits, nursing care, rehabilitation therapy, specialized therapy, medication, etc. may be entitled to compensation.
- Other compensation – Texas law also allows victims to request compensation for loss of services (e.g. unable to carry out normal household duties), loss of consortium, pain and suffering, property damage (your vehicle) and loss of bodily or mental function to name a few.
Courts may also award victim punitive damages; these damages are meant to be a detriment to the person, entity, or company responsible for your injuries. Texas places no caps on truck accident injury claims for punitive damages. Get in contact with a lawyer for truck accidents at our firm to see if you qualify.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim for Someone Who Died in a Truck Accident?
Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed by spouses, partners, dependents, parents, children, and sometimes grandchildren to sue the party responsible for their loved one’s death.
What Can I Get Compensation for After a Loved One is Killed in a Truck Accident?
In a wrongful death lawsuit, survivors are allowed to ask for compensation for the costs associated with a funeral including burial expenses, pain and suffering the victim suffered before their death, property damage, and medical expenses associated with the care necessary before the victim’s death. In addition, survivors may also be compensated for mental anguish, loss of future earnings, loss of inheritance, loss of consortium and more. Your truck accident injury lawyer will use Texas law to help determine the dollar amount you request in your lawsuit.
Need a Truck Accident Attorney? Call Baron & Budd Today
Losing a loved one or suffering serious injuries in an accident is bad enough without having to deal with shady insurance companies or truck companies. After an accident, the commercial truck’s company will likely have insurance adjusters, investigators, and even attorneys on the scene almost immediately. Do not speak to them unless you have a lawyer by your side, and insist on their approval of any communication.
After a serious truck accident, the truck company may extract valuable “black box” data from the truck involved. If this task is left to someone without the right training, the important data may be erased, and valuable evidence can be lost forever. Trucking companies also may make quick repairs to get a wrecked truck back on the road. These repairs can destroy evidence of a trucking company’s fault in a crash. Don’t get bullied by the truck company. You need an advocate to help protect your interests. If you or a family member are involved in a serious truck accident, call us at 866-723-1890 or contact us online. We’ll fight to protect your rights. At Baron & Budd, we’re committed to doing what is right. We will do everything in our power to get you the compensation you and your family deserve after an accident with a truck.
We’ll fight to protect your rights.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Truck Accident Lawsuits
A “Commercial Motor Vehicle” (“CMV”) is defined by federal regulations as follows:
Commercial motor vehicle means any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle—
(1) Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or
(2) Is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or
(3) Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or
(4) Is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and transported in a quantity requiring placarding under regulations prescribed by the Secretary under 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter I, subchapter C.
The FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations 49 C.F.R. § 390.5 defines the meaning of a commercial motor vehicle very precisely. This definition is important, because CMVs engaged in interstate commerce are subject to a myriad of federal regulations overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”). These regulations impose strict rules on companies that operate these vehicles, as well as drivers.
Examples of commercial motor vehicles include:
- Tractor trailers (aka semi trucks or 18 wheelers)
- Double or triple tractor trailers (with a “cab” or “power unit” attached to two or three trailers)
- Tanker trucks
- Box trucks
- Dump trucks
- Flatbed trucks
- Car carrier trucks
- Garbage trucks
- Certain heavy-duty pickup trucks
- 15-passenger vans
These are just a few examples of CMVs that people interact with on our roads every day. When a driver, passenger, or pedestrian is involved in a crash with a CMV, it is important to consult a knowledgeable truck accident attorney to help navigate the complexities of investigating and prosecuting a trucking accident case.
Often overlooked commercial motor vehicles are those in the 10,001 lbs. to 26,000 lbs. range. While a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is not required to drive these vehicles in Texas, they are still subject to many of the same trucking safety rules and regulations as larger trucks. Many companies neglect their safety obligations when dealing with commercial motor vehicles that are under 26,000 lbs. because they mistakenly believe the trucking rules and regulations do not apply to them.
Some of the most important evidence in a catastrophic trucking or bus accident can be damaged, lost or destroyed in the hours or days following a collision. Sometimes this evidence is lost or destroyed accidentally, by people who are working to clean up an accident scene, get a highway reopened, or put a vehicle back on the road.
However, in some instances trucking companies will turn a blind eye to their duty to preserve evidence related to a crash. For these companies, getting their truck and driver back on the road and making money is their top priority.
Critical evidence may vary depending on the circumstances of the crash. Generally, the following items are important in pursuing a lawsuit in a trucking accident case:
- Photographs of the Accident Scene and Vehicles In a serious truck accident, police investigators often take photographs of the accident scene and vehicles as they appear when first responders arrive. Some police departments have officers that are specially trained in documenting large truck and bus crash evidence. However, not all police departments have the funding or manpower to train officers in the best techniques for photographing the most important elements of the accident scene. This can create challenges for victims of trucking accidents who may be relying on a police report and police photographs as evidence of how the accident scene looked when the crash happened.Some truck companies provide basic training to teach their truck drivers how to document the vehicle and roadway conditions at the scene of the accident. Unfortunately, some companies will encourage their drivers to avoid taking photographs of anything that would be incriminating to the truck driver or trucking company. This often means that evidence collected by the trucking company will tell the story the way the trucking company sees it.Certain trucking companies—especially large companies that operate 18-wheelers all over the United States—employ rapid response teams to investigate serious trucking accidents. These rapid response teams frequently include a professional accident investigator to document evidence at the scene, and an attorney or other company representative experienced in interviewing witnesses. These teams are on call for the trucking companies 24/7. If a catastrophic truck accident occurs at 2 a.m. on a rural country road, this rapid response team will descend upon the accident scene within hours, ready to collect evidence and take witness interviews.Because these investigators only represent the interests of the trucking company, they may attempt to influence eyewitnesses or “spin” the story of how the crash happened in their favor to avoid liability.
- Forensic Mapping of the Accident Scene and Vehicles Similar to photographic evidence, forensic mapping using either a total station or 3D laser scanning technology can be crucial to reconstructing the events of an 18-wheeler crash. Some police departments have officers trained to use this technology to document evidence, and they will use it for serious crashes—when someone is severely injured or killed. However, due to the high cost of purchasing this technology and training officers how to use it, many police departments do not have this capability. Victims injured in truck accidents can hire experts with extensive experience using this technology to collect evidence that will tell the story of how the accident unfolded.“Black Box” data. Many people are familiar with the term “black box” from new stories about investigations of airline crashes. But, most people do not realize that most tractor trailers, and even many passenger vehicles, also have black boxes.Commonly known in the trucking and automotive industries as electronic control modules (“ECMs”), these black boxes often contain vital information about each driver’s actions in the moments leading up to a crash. However, these black boxes do not contain infinite storage, so they are constantly overwriting old data. This means that information about when brakes are applied, vehicle speed, and other critical information can be overwritten if a truck or car is improperly moved from an accident scene. For victims of trucking accidents, it is important that any 18-wheelers involved in the collision be towed from the scene and stored in a secure location until a qualified investigator can download the black box data.
- Documentation of Damage to the Non-Commercial Vehicle Involved in the Crash Because of the size and weight differences between an 18-wheeler and the average passenger vehicle, it is possible for a serious collision to cause catastrophic damage to a victim’s car, truck, or SUV, while the tractor trailer involved has relatively minor damage. This often means that a trucking company will push to repair the truck as quickly as possible to get it back on the road, because a truck that is sitting still is not making the company any money.Additionally, truck drivers may be pressured by trucking companies and shipping brokers to continue to their next delivery if the damage to the truck seems relatively minor. When an 18-wheeler is repaired quickly or put back on the road right after a serious crash, physical evidence demonstrating the trucking company’s fault can be damaged or destroyed.Therefore, it is critical for victims of large truck accidents to protect their rights by insisting that the truck be held in a secure location, protected from damaging elements, until an investigator can inspect the truck.Finally, victims injured in a truck accident may be at risk of losing important evidence if their own car is not stored in a safe place. Trucking accident victims may sell their vehicles for salvage to avoid storage costs. If this is done before investigators have taken photographs and thoroughly examined the vehicle, the victim may lose important evidence helpful to prosecuting a case.
If you or a family member has been involved in a serious crash involving an 18-wheeler, semi truck, or other commercial vehicle, you need an experienced truck accident lawyer on your side. The attorneys at Baron & Budd will work tirelessly to preserve all of the essential evidence to prosecute your case. Call us at 1.866.844.4556 or contact us here to learn more.
Truck drivers must follow many of the same rules of the road that the driver of a standard “four-wheeler” (the trucker term for passenger car) must follow. Truckers are prohibited from speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and disobeying traffic signals. However, because tractor trailers are larger and can cause more damage on the roadways, the federal government has established a complex series of regulations to govern the companies and drivers that operate large trucks (also known as commercial motor vehicles). These regulations are called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSRs”). They are established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”), which is a branch of the United States Department of Transportation.
The FMCSRs apply to all commercial motor vehicles that operate interstate (in other words, between states). This means that the federal regulations apply to the majority of 18-wheelers on the road. The FMCSRs outline a variety of requirements for both truck drivers and trucking companies.
Texas has adopted most (but not all) of the FMCSRs with a few variations. As a result, the regulations also apply to intrastate transportation within Texas. Key differences fall in the areas of hours of service and driver age and English proficiency. Knowing which provisions apply in a given case is extremely important, which is why an experienced truck accident attorney is crucial to maximizing the value of a case.
Important Safety Rules for Truck Drivers by the FMCSA
Daily Driving Limits. A truck driver’s workday is limited to 14 hours. Within that 14-hour period, a truck driver may drive 11 hours, with a mandatory 30 minute break within the first 8 hours of a shift.
Rest Between Trips. After a 14-hour workday, a truck driver must take a minimum 10-hour break to rest. For long-haul truck drivers (“over-the-road” truck drivers), this usually means sleeping in the sleeper berth in the cab of their truck.
Logging Hours. Truck drivers must keep accurate logs indicating when their workday started, any rest periods taken throughout the workday, and any time spent “on-duty” but not driving.
Inspections Before Every Trip. Truck drivers must perform a pre-trip inspection of their vehicle prior to driving it. This includes a visual inspection of the major safety systems on the truck, such as the brakes.
Pass a Medical Exam. Truck drivers must submit to a basic medical examination every two years to ensure they are physically capable of safely operating a large truck.
Drug and Alcohol Testing. Truck drivers are required to submit to drug and alcohol testing after a crash if they are in a crash that involves a fatality, the truck driver was cited and an injured person required immediate medical treatment away from the accident scene, or any vehicle was towed from the scene because of disabling damage.
This brief outline provides a few examples of the complex regulations at issue in a serious truck or bus crash. Baron & Budd helps the victims of serious truck accidents navigate these complicated rules to get the recovery they deserve.
Truck drivers must obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (“CDL”) to be legally qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle like a tractor trailer, bus, or tanker truck. In addition to basic CDL written and driving tests, many truck drivers must take additional tests to receive endorsements to their license. For example, a driver who wants to drive a truck with air brakes must take an additional exam to understand how those brake systems operate and how they impact the way a truck must be driven. A driver who wants to drive a large bus must take an additional exam that addresses issues related to bus passenger safety.
Each state has its own CDL training manual and requirements. However, these CDL manuals are based on federal law, which establishes guidelines all truck drivers must follow to safely operate their vehicles.
One important rule that applies to all truck drivers, regardless of what type of truck they are driving, is the so-called “12-15 second rule.” Under this rule, truck drivers are supposed to keep a lookout of 12-15 seconds ahead of their current vehicle position. This rule is important because it requires truck drivers to be aware of their surroundings, and to anticipate potential hazards.
These hazards could be anything from debris in the roadway that the truck driver must avoid, to a line of cars suddenly stopping in highway traffic. Because it takes several hundred feet to stop a tractor trailer operating at highway speeds, it is crucial that truck drivers keep this 12-15 second lookout. Unfortunately, when negligent truck drivers fail to keep a safe lookout, their lack of attention can cause other drivers and pedestrians serious injuries.
Another important rule that applies to all truck drivers is a ban on texting while driving. Although some states now prohibit texting while driving for all drivers, federal law strictly prohibits any commercial motor vehicle driver from texting while driving. This rule also prohibits truck and bus drivers from talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving. In fact, a truck driver can be cited for dialing a cell phone (if dialing requires more than pushing one button), and for reaching for or holding a cell phone while driving.
This is just a small sample of the additional rules that truck and bus drivers must follow. If you or a family member suffer an injury in an accident with a commercial vehicle, call Baron & Budd. Our truck accident attorneys can help you determine if the truck driver violated any state or federal laws.