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Overview of Truck Accident Law

In 2014 (the most recent year data was collected), 12,082 accidents involved commercial vehicles in Missouri. Around the nation, there were 3,744 large trucks involved in fatal accidents in the same year. As seen by our Kansas City truck accident attorneys, truck drivers may be guilty of driving under the influence, distracted driving, drowsy driving, or many other forms of negligence in a crash. Other trucking accidents may stem from improper loading, roadway hazards, or vehicle part malfunctions. In negligence-related truck accidents, Missouri law gives victims a way to receive compensation for damages.

Federal and State Truck Driving Laws

The trucking industry is unique in that federal laws and state laws determine company and worker requirements. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulate the national trucking industry. Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations is the primary document containing federal trucking industry laws. On top of federal rules, every state has its own department of transportation to regulate the commercial industry. Some laws truck drivers must obey include:

  • Hours of service regulations. According to the FMCSA, truck drivers have an 11-hour driving maximum after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Drivers cannot drive longer than 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty. Drivers must also take mandatory rest breaks of at least 30 minutes every eight hours or less.
  • Commercial driver’s license. All commercial drivers, including those operating 18-wheelers or other large trucks, must hold a valid commercial driver’s license. To obtain this licensure, drivers must pass specific driving tests.
  • Drunk driving laws. When holding a commercial driver’s license, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.04% in Missouri, as opposed to the 0.08% for non-commercial drivers.

This is just a sample of the many federal and state laws the trucking industry must obey, in addition to standard roadway rules. Breaking any of these laws in a way that causes an accident can result in personal injury lawsuits against the driver, fleet owner, trucking company, parts manufacturer, and/or a third party by victims.

Personal Injury Claims for Truck Accidents

A defendant may be liable for truck accident injuries if the negligence of the company or a driver caused the crash. In the past, trucking companies avoided liability by leasing vehicles and hiring independent contractors. Through these actions, the company did not technically own anything or employ its drivers. The law has cracked down on trucking companies and made them liable for any accident involving the company.

After any accident involving a large truck, victims should discuss what happened with an accident lawyer in Kansas City. An attorney can help accident victims sort through the elements of the case and decide whether or not they have grounds to sue. To bring a claim against a truck driver and/or company, the plaintiff must display these main elements:

  1. Duty of care. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, such as the driver’s duty to abide by roadway rules, or the company’s duty to make sure its fleet is safe for the road.
  2. Negligence. The defendant was negligent and breached its duty. Negligence comes in many forms. In basic terms, it is any action that a reasonably competent party would not have committed in similar circumstances.
  3. Causation. The defendant’s negligence caused or contributed to the truck accident.
  4. Damages. The plaintiff suffered damages, such as personal injury or property damage, because of the truck accident.

Trucking accidents can easily become complex, as they often deal with a variety of federal and state rules. Always trust an experienced attorney with a truck accident case. Personal injury lawyers typically offer free initial consultations, so you can discuss the elements of your case without cost or obligation.