Truck Accidents – Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Truck Accidents – Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

While the insurance and legal landscape can be complicated when it comes to car accidents, it is complicated even more so when a transport truck is involved.  When you find yourself in an accident and you are driving with cargo, the insurance and legal situation involves additional third parties, extra maintenance and safety requirements, and – to make matters worse – an accident involving a truck almost always causes serious personal injuries and even fatalities, due to the size and weight of the vehicle.

  • Was the truck carrying hazardous materials, and were they stored properly?  Likewise, was the truck driver or shipping company the driver works for informed by the client shipping the hazardous materials that they are in the truck’s load?  If the shipping company was unaware of the hazardous materials, they were not stored properly, and they contributed to the accident or any personal injuries, the company that provided the cargo may carry some of the liability.
  • Who does the truck driver work for?  For example, are they an independent contractor, with their own insurance or liability, or are they working for a larger trucking or shipping company?  If they are working for a larger company, then that company may bear responsibility.
  • Was the truck properly maintained?  Additionally, if there was a fault in the construction of the truck, the company that manufactured the truck will share some of the liability.

In order to prevent accidents and avoid liability, truck drivers and shipping companies have a number of maintenance and safety obligations that must be fulfilled before the truck even goes onto the road:

  • Within 24 hours before driving, the truck must be inspected for defects, and any minor found must be repaired.  If major defects are found, the vehicle may not be operated.  The inspection includes the electrical system, wheels, hitches, power train, lamps, and steering, among others.  This inspection must be logged.  Additionally, any faults that develop with the truck during a trip must be logged by the driver or operator.
  • The truck must undergo an annual safety inspection.
  • Any cargo must be properly secured so that it does not fall off the vehicle during transit.
  • Any hazardous materials must be stored in containers with safety marks, be accompanied with a shipping document with an appropriate emergency phone number, and be driven by an operator who has received training in the transport of dangerous goods.

In addition to the maintenance and safety rules, a truck driver has a number of rights that cannot be waived which are closely related to safety, which include:

  • 10 hours off-duty in a day.
  • Not driving more than 13 hours in any given day.
  • In 7 consecutive days, not driving more than 70 total hours.
  • In 14 consecutive days, not driving more than 120 total hours.

In addition to the extra precautions that truck drivers must take regarding maintenance, safety, and working hours, the general responsibilities of any driver after an accident still apply.  These include:

  • Remaining on the scene of the accident until the police arrive.  Failure to do so causes the accident to become a hit-and-run, with severe legal penalties.
  • Ensuring that anybody injured receives immediate medical attention.  Any personal injuries to yourself must also receive immediate attention, as well as being documented.
  • Documenting the accident and its cause, including taking pictures of the scene if practical.
  • If possible, exchanging contact and insurance information with any other drivers involved.
  • Informing your supervisors of the accident and its circumstances.
  • Filing an insurance claim as soon as possible after the accident has occurred.
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