What are the common causes of commercial trucking accidents?
A motor vehicle accident involving passenger vehicles can cause serious injuries to the occupants of the involved vehicles; however, when a tractor-trailer or other large truck is involved, the chance of suffering life-threatening, even fatal, injuries increases dramatically. In the United States, we depend heavily on large trucks to transport supplies and merchandise throughout the country. Unfortunately, the presence of these mammoths of the roadway puts everyone else sharing the roadway at risk. As a victim of a trucking accident you may find yourself asking the question “What are the common causes of trucking accidents in Lake Charles?”
Most tractor-trailer drivers are conscientious and skilled drivers; however, that does not mean they are immune to causing an accident. Common causes of trucking accidents include:
- Drowsy driving – despite federal rules limiting the number of hours a truck driver is allowed to legally remain behind the wheel without a rest period, some drivers ignore those rules in an effort to make tight delivery schedules or to earn more money. Often, this leads to a driver who is fatigued and should not be behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound vehicle.
- Distracted driving – federal law also prohibits operators of large trucks from texting while driving. However, that does not always prevent drivers who have been away from loved ones for days from trying to communicate via some type of electronic device. Drivers also routinely use GPS devices or even watch in-cab movies while driving — all of which can cause a driver to be distracted and cause an accident.
- Speed/aggressive driving – it takes a semi-truck the length of a football field to come to a complete stop when driving at highway speeds. A driver who is driving too fast for road conditions, following too closely, or who is weaving in and out of traffic can easily cause a collision if traffic conditions suddenly change up ahead.
- Impaired driving – although the use of illicit drugs among truck drivers has decreased over the past several decades, a new problem has emerged – prescription and over-the-counter medications. A driver who is impaired by any type of medication is a danger to everyone else on the roadway.
- Equipment failure – truck drivers are required to perform a walk-around vehicle inspection every time they set off on a route. In addition, a full inspection is required on a regular basis to ensure that the vehicle is safe. Drivers and trucking companies, however, often put off these inspections in an effort to save time. Even a relatively small malfunction can have catastrophic results when the malfunction is on an 18 wheeler.
Federal Commercial Trucking Regulations
Out of concern for public safety, the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulate trucking companies operating in Louisiana. Both state and federal trucking regulations address issues of maintenance, driver fatigue, speed, and weight limits.
At Broussard & Hart, L.L.C., our commercial truck accident lawyers see the devastation that results when, due to the negligence of a driver or a trucking company, regulations are ignored and 18 wheelers rolling down U.S. Highway 10 cause serious or fatal trucking accidents. In the course of investigating these cases and preparing them for trial, we work with specialists to determine when disregard for state and federal regulations contributed to our clients’ losses. Below are some areas we have identified as problems.
Truck driver error
Driver error is the most common cause of 18-wheeler accidents. We find cases where truck drivers, in attempts to make up time and keep to a delivery schedule, kept illegal log books to conceal long hours that led to driver fatigue, “drowsy driving,” and serious or fatal crashes.
Truck drivers are held to stricter standards than other motorists as far as driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs (DUI). In fact, after any truck accident the truck driver is required to report for a drug test to identify any violations of these standards.
A trucking company is required to perform thorough background checks and maintain records of required DOT physicals on every truck driver to ensure that drivers are qualified.
A trucking company is required to keep a record of maintenance, including required inspections. In addition to trucking company regulations regarding maintenance, the truck driver is required to perform a safety and equipment inspection before every trip. Commercial trucking violations of required maintenance result in mechanical failures, including blowouts and air brake failure that can lead to 18-wheeler wrecks.
Load limits and cargo
Oversized loads that violate cargo weight limits, unbalanced loads, hazardous material permit violations, improperly secured cargo, and other violations of cargo regulations result in unstable semi trucks or make it impossible for a truck to stop in a reasonable distance, both results that contribute to wrecks.
Are trucks required by law to carry insurance?
In the United States we continue to depend heavily on tractor-trailers, and other large trucks, to move cargo from one place to another. As a result, tractor-trailers continue to be plentiful on the nation’s roadways.
While state and federal regulations have made sharing these roadways with 18-wheelers safer than it was several decades ago, large trucks still pose a significant risk to anyone traveling the roadways with them. If you are the victim of a trucking accident one of the first questions you may have is “Are trucks required by law to carry insurance?” Fortunately for the victims of a trucking accident the answer is “yes.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, is the federal agency that implements and enforces laws relating to large trucks in the United States. Tractor-trailers and other large trucks are heavily regulated by the FMCSA and other federal agencies in an effort to reduce the inherent risk they pose to others with whom they share the roadways. Among the many regulations a trucking company must comply with are minimum liability insurance laws. For example:
- Trucks weighing over 10,000 and carrying non-hazardous cargo are required to maintain a liability insurance policy with a minimum limit of $750,000 for injuries to people and/or property.
- Trucks with a gross weight of under 10,000 pounds and carrying non-hazardous cargo must carry at least $300,000 in liability insurance at all times.
- A tractor-trailer hauling hazmat (hazardous materials) is required to carry at least $1 million in liability insurance and potentially as high as $5 million.
- Trucks under 10,000 pounds carrying hazardous materials are also required to have at least $5 million in liability insurance.
Many passenger trucks are also mandated by the FMCSA to have liability insurance if they cross state lines. For example:
- If a truck has 16 or more passengers, including the driver, it is generally required to have at least $5,000,000 of insurance.
- Passenger vehicles of 15 or fewer passengers, including the driver, must usually have $1,500,000 of insurance. There are a few distinct exceptions to this rule, including school buses, taxi cabs with less than seven passengers, and commuter vehicles with less than 16 passengers on a daily round trip.
Keep in mind that these figures represent only the federal minimum insurance requirements. Many trucking companies carry significantly higher liability insurance limits because of the potential for a tractor-trailer to do significant monetary damage if it is at fault in an accident. Like the driver of a passenger vehicle, a truck driver is also required to provide proof of the required insurance coverage at any time.
If you have been injured in a trucking accident you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries if another party was entirely, or even partially, at fault in the collision. Contact the Louisiana trucking accident attorneys at Broussard & Hart, LLC by calling 337-439-2450 to schedule your appointment today to discuss your legal options.
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Our attorneys will review your case and represent you throughout your trucking accident claim. Contact Broussard & Hart L.L.C. today for help pursuing a trucking accident settlement. Your first consultation is free and we won’t charge fees unless money is recovered.
Learn More about Trucking Accident Lawsuits
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Who May Be Sued In a Trucking Accident?
Are Trucks Required by Law to Carry Insurance?
What is the Deadline for Filing a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case in Louisiana?
How Do I Negotiate With a Trucking Company After An Accident?