Big Rig Accidents: Why they Happen & Who Is Liable
Tractor-trailers get involved in accidents for all sorts of reasons. Some of the more common include:
- Speeding or driving too fast for conditions
- Driver confusion
- Driver distraction, including illegal cell phone usage
- Impaired driving
Defects on the big rig could also be to blame for many accidents. For example, the tires could blow on a big rig, which is a common sight. Consequently, the truck could get out of control and crash.
In other situations, unbalanced cargo increases the natural instability of the big rig, leading to a rollover or a jackknife. In these accidents, innocent motorists in adjoining lanes can be struck by the trailer, sometimes even crushed.
To assign liability, we need to determine how the accident happened and why. If the driver is to blame, then injured victims can sue him or his employer. If unbalanced cargo or a truck defect contributed to a crash, then defendants could include the loading company, mechanics, or the truck owner.
Federal and State Big Rig Regulations
Big rigs and other large commercial trucks cause thousands of deaths and serious injuries every year. Naturally, the federal government tightly regulates the industry and has passed rules to protect public safety.
Hours of service regulations limit how much time a driver can spend behind the wheel. As an example, a trucker cannot drive more than 60/70 hours in a 7/8 day period. There are other rules that limit the amount of driving in a single day and mandate a half-hour break after eight hours.
Federal law also prevents truckers from using a hand-held cell phone while driving. Hands-free devices are allowed, though some truckers push the limits or use illegal devices.
Other laws regulate the trucks themselves. For example, Georgia sets height, width, and length limits for commercial vehicles. These rules apply to both the tractor and the trailer.
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