Frequently Asked Questions Regarding State & Federal Truck Accident Laws
Q: I suspect that the trucker and truck involved may not have complied with state or federal trucking laws, is that important to my case?
A: Yes. A violation of a safety statute may relieve you of having to prove that the trucker or trucking company was negligent. A decision to violate a safety –related trucking regulation or law may justify an award of punitive damages.
Q. In what circumstances is a court most likely to relieve an injured person to prove fault on the part of a trucker or trucking company?
A. Assumed negligence (Negligence per se) most commonly takes effect in the following circumstances:
- When federal trucking “hours of service” regulations are violated and driver fatigue is a cause of the crash;
- When federal drug or alcohol testing rules are not followed and substance use is a cause of the crash; and,
- When federal or state equipment maintenance rules are not followed and poor equipment maintenance is the cause of the crash;
Q: Does state of federal law apply to my truck crash injury claim? What court will hear my case?
A: It’s Complicated. Where a state law conflicts with a federal law affecting interstate commerce federal law preempts the conflicting state law. However, most states have adopted some or all of the federal safety regulations. As this trend continues, the tension between state and federal trucking laws has lessened. Trucking companies who exclusively operate in one state must comply with the trucking laws and regulations of that state.
If you are from a state other than all of the defendants, then federal courts generally have jurisdiction due to “diversity of citizenship” but apply state law. “Diversity” federal cases require $75,000 or more in dispute to trigger federal jurisdiction.
If you are filing suit for violation of a federal law, federal courts have jurisdiction. On the other hand, truck injury claims are generally a matter of state common law so truck injury claims are also commonly filed in state court.
Q: In my truck crash situation, I believe faulty road or road design may be a cause of the crash. What should I do?
A: Yes, but… federal and state tort claim laws often require a specific notice to the responsible agency often within a very short period of time after the truck collision. If this has happened to you, contact a qualified trucking attorney as soon as possible so the proper notice can be given.
Q: I heard federal law prescribes that all trucks engaged in interstate commerce must maintain insurance at certain levels. How much coverage does federal law require?
A: The amount of insurance required by federal law depends on the weight of the load and whether the load is hazardous. Minimum Cover ages are as follows:
a) Under 10,000 lbs gross weight (non- hazardous)------------- $300,000
b) Over 10,000 lbs gross weight (non- hazardous)------------- $750,000
c) Highly- hazardous load-------------------------------------------- $5M
d) Over 10,000 lbs gross weight (other- hazardous)----------- $1M
State laws may require higher limits. And, it is important to know that these limits apply to entire fleets, not individual trucks. These limits apply to all commercial motor vehicle operators. Mexican based carriers can satisfy the minimum requirements by purchasing the above coverage in 24 hour increments.
Q: I was hurt when a truck collided into my car. Should I try to settle with the trucking company directly?
A: No, your damages and the liabilities of all involved should be investigated by an experienced trucking lawyer prior to you sign anything or say anything to anyone because:
- The trucking company may be one of several responsible parties. Resolving a case with one responsible party may undercut your ability to obtain compensation from another;
- Your medical bills and all other obligations to your creditors must be accounted for in any settlement so you don’t later get sued;
- In order to get the best settlement, you need ammunition. A skillful truck lawyer will hone in on violations of state and federal safety laws to substantiate a possible punitive damage award.
- The trucking company may have more insurance than they say. Federal makes cancelling trucking policies slow and cumbersome. An attorney with an insurance background may be able to double insurance coverage by identifyingan older policy not yet expired at the time of the crash; and,
- Trucking cases often involve complex trucking relationships. As a result, in a settlement situation, you may not know the precise interests of who you are talking to.
Q: I am still treating for injuries related to a truck crash. Should I wait to hire an attorney?
A: No. Minutes after a commercial truck accident, insurers and even truck company attorneys arrive at the accident scene to conduct “damage control” and take custody of important truck crash evidence. An attorney experienced in truck accident claims will know the steps to take to preserve and obtain access to such evidence. The sooner you call the right lawyer after a truck crash, the less opportunity truckers and truck companies will have to alter key evidence.
Q: I am in the hospital treating for my truck crash injuries, are you willing to come to the hospital to discuss my claim?
A: Yes. Call (503) 245-5677 to set up a time for a hospital visit from Mr. Rizk or his representative.
Q: A relative or friend died as the result of a trucking collision. I’m overwhelmed. Can you advise me what I need to do?
A: Yes. Whenever death occurs, from any cause, survivors are sometimes unable to tend to all legally intensive tasks which must be accomplished in short order. Call (503) 245-5677 for help.
Q: From an injured person’s perspective what is the most important new development in the trucking industry?
A: By 2017 trucks engaged in interstate commerce will be required to track trucker hours electronically. In anticipation of this change, many truck companies already install into trucks hour tracking devices. Such devices have evolved toward so called “black boxes” that can monitor nearly every kind of data involving the truck or trucker. Modern truck “Black boxes” integrate global positioning (GPS) technology to show, in real time, where a truck has been, how fast the truck is and has been travelling. Most truckers like the devices because the newer black box devices relieve the trucker from the hassle of needing to keep track of each moment by hand. Responsible trucking company’s favor the devices because it helps trucking companies keep track of drivers and comply with federal trucking laws, particularly “hours of service limits”.
Q: Under what circumstances are trucking companies required to test its employee drivers for possible drug or alcohol use?
A: a) Before hiring b) At random during employment; c) Following a accident; and, d) Upon Reasonable suspicion
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