The trucking industry is highly regulated, and drivers and trucking companies have additional rules that they need to follow that other drivers do not. When it comes to truck accidents involving commercial drivers, 18-wheelers, and trucking companies, these rules can often affect truck accident injury cases and lawsuits in important ways.
First, truck accident cases often use a special rule called “respondeat superior” to allow injury victims to sue the trucker’s employer for injuries. Second, licensing rules add special restrictions to drivers that, if violated, can supply fault in your case. Third, there are special rules that cover truckers’ hours, vehicle safety, and loading, all of which can also supply liability. Lastly, commercial truck drivers face a different “legal limit” for drunk driving accident.
If you were hurt in a truck accident, call (410) 694-7291 to speak with the Maryland truck accident attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras.
Rules for Suing Trucking Companies After a Truck Accident in Maryland
When someone is directly responsible for an accident, you can sue them directly. In most truck accident cases caused by a commercial truck driver, the truck driver is going to be the one on the hook directly because their actions caused the crash. However, trucking companies can also face direct liability if their vehicles had maintenance issues or if they were responsible for negligent hiring or retention of a dangerous trucker. However, trucking companies can also be held “vicariously liable” under special rules.
Vicarious liability means that a third party is responsible in the place of someone directly involved in the accident. This can happen with insurance, where the insurance company is said to “indemnify” a driver. There, you hold the insurance company responsible for damages instead of the driver even though no one from the insurance company was physically in the crash.
With trucking companies, things work very similarly, except for different reasons. A legal doctrine called “respondeat superior” – meaning “let the master answer” – allows an employer to answer for the negligence of an employee. Companies and businesses are made up of people, so if one of their people does something wrong, the company answers for it. Even if a single person is the employer, they are responsible for their employee’s issues on the job, and respondeat superior recognizes that fact.
Ultimately, this vicarious liability rule means that you can sue a trucking company if their driver caused a crash through negligence while working within the scope of their duties as an employee of the company. That is a mouthful, but our Ocean City, MD truck accident lawyers are familiar with when accidents count as “within the scope of their duties” and when these rules apply.
One thing to note, however, is that this rule only works for employees, not independent contractors or self-employed drivers. In those cases, they are their own boss, and you are already suing the employer by suing the driver.
Special Licensing Rules for Truckers that Can Help Commercial Truck Accident Victims in Maryland
Truck drivers driving big commercial vehicles usually need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Drivers with a CDL have to pass rigorous health requirements and cannot drive with conditions like diabetes, significant sight or hearing issues, or any illnesses or injuries that make it hard to control their limbs. Basically, drivers in poor health cannot be hired by trucking companies.
If the driver has disqualifying health conditions and their employer failed to find out, it is possible that the trucking company and the trucker could be in violation of state and federal trucking regulations. If they cause an accident while in violation, that violation can help you prove they were at fault for the truck accident that injured you.
Other Trucking Regulations that Help Injured Truck Accident Victims in Maryland
Truckers and trucking companies must also follow other state and federal trucking regulations. Some of these deal with the hours they can drive, equipment regulations, weight limits, loading rules, and tie-down rules. It is always important to look at whether any violations of these rules contributed to your crash, as it might mean added proof of the trucker or the trucking company’s fault in the crash.
Hours of service rules create strict driving hour limitations for truckers. Many truck accident cases have involved drivers illegally going beyond these hour limitations. Some cases have even involved trucking companies forcing their drivers to falsify driving logs so their hours look correct. Some employers even held back paychecks until their drivers lied for them. All in all, truckers usually need to take breaks after 8 hours of driving and cannot drive more than 11 hours in a day or stay on duty (including break time) for more than 14 hours in a day.
Equipment regulations have rules for lights, tires, mirrors, and other parts of the vehicle. These help ensure that the truck is safe to be on the road and that other drivers can see the truck (and the driver can see them) at night. Lighting issues are actually one of the most common violations.
Tie-down rules, loading rules, and weight limits all say how a truck driver or whoever loaded the commercial vehicle should do so. These rules help keep cargo from overloading a vehicle. They also keep it from shifting so that it does not cause the truck to sway. They also help keep cargo secure on flatbed trucks by requiring proper tie-downs to keep things like logs, pipes, and construction materials from falling off and hitting other cars.
Lowered Commercial Driver DUI Limits
Call Our Maryland Truck Accident Lawyers Today
Victims of truck accidents should call our Baltimore truck accident lawyers today at (410) 694-7291 for a free case review with Rice, Murtha & Psoras.