What Types of Vehicles Are Involved in Commercial Vehicle Accidents?
The most common vehicles are semi-trailer trucks, but essentially, it really is any kind of motorized vehicle that is used by a business or owned by a business for business purposes. Therefore, it can be passenger vehicles, semi- truck trailers, and vans, any of those.
Is There a Certain Type of Commercial Vehicle That Is More Prone to Bing Involved in Accidents?
Yes, absolutely, the most common type that we see is semi-trailer trucks. The bigger they are, the more dangerous. They are on the road more frequently, specifically highways and freeways, and they are operating twenty-four hours a day. They are constantly around us, and it is part of the traffic mix that we all deal with.
Are Semi Trucks Subject to Different Rules and Regulations Than Other Motorists?
Yes, semi-trucks do have different rules and regulations. It depends on the size of the vehicle, but semi-trucks, in particular, require drivers to carry a CDL, which is known as a commercial driver’s license. Their trucks are subject to the federal motor carrier safety administration, the Utah Motor Vehicle and traffic laws that we all have to abide by. There are also specific rules and regulations regarding commercial vehicles found in what we call NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) rules and regulations.
There is also the hazardous materials regulation that covers just about any kind of load that you would find on any semi-trailer. Then there are the motor carrier division administrative rules too. The Utah Highway Patrol and the Motor Carrier Division Transportation Safety investigators enforce those rules and regulations. In addition, other state and federal law enforcement personnel have the ability and the jurisdiction to enforce any of those regulations that I just mentioned above.
Are Certain Regulations Violated More Often Than Others by Commercial Vehicle Drivers?
Yes, there are certain regulations that are violated more than others. The most common types that we see are fatigue. There are also many safety issues. So many of the cases that we have handled, in fact I would say all of them have a component of some sort of safety violation. The drivers have bad brakes or the tires were not properly inflated, alignments were off, the load was not attached to the truck properly, or was not loaded properly, so there was a danger with the load shift. Those can all be significant issues. They are part of just about every case that we have ever handled. There are also issues with unsafe driving behavior, and this is very prevalent these days.
Distracted driving is what we call the new DUI. Many studies now show that driving while looking at or using your cell phone is actually more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol and or drugs. Therefore, that is a huge issue with these drivers who have been on the road driving for long periods with no stops. They are checking their text from their families, or emailing rather than paying attention to the road. They have loads that weigh many tons, so their ability to stop quickly is extremely limited.
Obviously, those two things do not mix very well when you are distracted. Merged stopping distances and distracted driving does not match well. We see many collisions that could have very easily been avoided if the drivers were just paying attention.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Commercial Vehicle Accident?
There are a couple of different individuals that could be held liable in a commercial vehicle accident. The first obviously is the company that owns the vehicle. In most cases, they are primarily liable. There is a legal term called Respondeat Superior that says that the principal of the company is responsible for the acts of its agents. Therefore, in the case of commercial trucks, the principal would be the company that owns all of the trucks and then the agents are all the drivers who make these deliveries. That company is responsible for the conduct of its agents. Sometimes, the drivers can be held liable. There are a number of different ways where the agents are held liable.
One is if the driver is a sub-contractor, and actually owns the rig outright and there is no company that owns that truck, and then the driver can be personally held liable. Even though sub-contract drivers have their own business that is properly insured, the two groups, meaning the company or the driver or a combination of both, are responsible. One of the things that we do at Feller & Wendt is look at what entity or entities are potentially liable. We want to preserve evidence of course, but we will also look to see what kind of coverages and assets are available. We want to make sure that they have sufficient assets to take care of any injuries that they, their friends or family members may have due to the negligent actions of one of these commercial drivers.
For more information on commercial vehicle accidents in Utah, a free initial consultation with an Ogden accident attorney is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 499-5060 today.