Handling a case involving an 18-wheeler, log truck or other commercial vehicle requires a special investment of time and resources, and a detailed knowledge of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. All aspects of handling a case involving a big truck – including investigation, discovery, technology and the laws involved – are significantly different than a standard automobile case. A lawyer who is not equipped with the proper background knowledge, time or experience to handle a claim involving a commercial truck crash is doing a great disservice to the client he represents.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides regulations for the safe operation of commercial vehicles. Federal rules and regulations include drivers, vehicles, hazmat situations, companies and regulatory guidance. Companies and drivers must comply with rules governing such areas as fatigued driving (Hours of Service), vehicle maintenance, cargo, driver fitness, substance abuse and many other areas.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the commercial motor carrier to ensure that the vehicles and drivers it employs meet all federal regulations to safeguard both its employees and the general driving public, and it is the responsibility of the commercial driver to make sure he or she is in compliance with the rules.
The lawyer handling a case involving an 18-wheeler or other commercial vehicle must be familiar with those rules and regulations in order to recognize a claim and effectively handle the case. Additionally, it is essential that lawyers handling these types of cases be prepared with a broad base of knowledge about the specific technology, insurance issues, multistate discovery practices and other aspects of litigation that are unique to the commercial vehicle industry and this type of litigation.
The most common issues faced in commercial vehicle litigation include:
- Truck driver fatigue and Hours of Service
- Truck driver distraction due to electronic devices
- Rapid Response Teams and the importance of prompt investigation
- Importance of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in Commercial Trucking cases
- Statutory background of federal trucking safety laws
- Federal Motor Carrier Regulations often cited in commercial trucking cases
Accidents involving an 18-wheeler, log truck or other commercial vehicle may also be related to a defective product [link to defective products, automotive]. It is important for attorneys to assess the possibility of a third-party liability claim when handling commercial vehicle cases.