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How Violations of Federal Safety Regulations Cause Truck Accidents

Collisions between large commercial trucks and other vehicles often leave victims grappling with devastating physical, emotional and financial burdens. A significant portion of these accidents stems from violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. These rules are established to ensure the safe operation of commercial vehicles and when ignored can have life-altering consequences.

Here are examples of violations of FMCSA regulations that can cause accidents leading to severe injury or death:

  • Hours of service (HOS) and mandatory rest periods — FMCSA rules put limitations on a trucker’s driving time and mandate rest periods in order to combat driver fatigue. Driving while overly tired significantly increases the risk of accidents due to slower reaction times and impaired judgment.
  • Medical certification and drug and alcohol testing of drivers — Regulations govern pre-employment, random and post-accident drug and alcohol testing for commercial drivers. Furthermore, medical evaluations ensure drivers are physically and mentally fit to operate these large vehicles. Unaddressed health issues can pose a severe threat on the road.
  • Vehicle maintenance — Regular inspections and proper upkeep of brakes, tires, steering and other systems are mandatory. Failure to maintain a vehicle in safe operating condition can result in mechanical breakdowns and loss of control.
  • Cargo weight limitations — Trucks have designated weight limits to ensure stability and control. Overloaded trucks have a higher center of gravity, increasing the risk of rollovers and jackknifes.
  • Cargo securement rules — Improperly secured cargo can become loose and cause weight imbalances that affect maneuvering. Also, loose cargo can fall onto the road, creating unexpected hazards for other drivers. 
  • Mandatory monitoring — FMCSA rules require use of technologies like electronic logging devices (ELDs) to track driver activity and prevent HOS violations. Bypassing or tampering with these systems can mask dangerous driving habits.

Determining liability in a truck accident involving FMCSA violations requires a thorough investigation. Potentially liable parties can include the following:

  • Trucking company — The company that owns or leases the vehicle is responsible for ensuring that its drivers comply with FMCSA regulations, properly maintain the vehicle and secure cargo safely. 
  • Truck driver — An operator who violates FMCSA rules, such as driving under the influence or exceeding HOS limitations, can be held personally liable for the accident’s consequences.
  • Third-party maintenance providers — Mechanics or companies tasked with truck maintenance can be liable if faulty repairs or failure to identify critical issues contribute to the accident.
  • Shippers and cargo loaders — If cargo is improperly loaded or secured, the entity that did so may be held responsible for any resulting accident.

If you’re hurt in a crash involving a large commercial vehicle, an experienced trucking accident attorney can investigate the crash and gather vital evidence, including driver logs, maintenance records and witness testimonies, to establish a link between the FMCSA violation and the accident. An attorney can effectively negotiate a settlement that reflects the full extent of your damages. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, the attorney can take the case to trial and seek to win a fair verdict.

Patrick C. Smith, Attorney at Law in Pittsburg provides effective representation for victims of Kansas trucking accidents. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call 620-308-6692 or contact me online.

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