Truck Drivers Owe Higher Duty of Care

Sharing the highway with big rig trucks in hard on the average driver’s nerves. These hulking vehicles are wider than most cars, leaving little room for error while staying in lane. In addition, truck drivers have a hard time seeing traffic in the lane to the right and may not see cars traveling next to them before switching lanes. Add to these difficulties tired drivers, reckless behavior and speeding, and a recipe for disaster ensues.

It may seem natural that drivers of vehicles with so much capacity to do harm should be required to drive more carefully and warn other drivers of the hazard. While it is true that big rig drivers are held to a higher duty of care while driving, that duty arises from reasons other than the size and weight of the trucks.

States like Georgia, California, Tennessee and Texas recognize a greater standard of care for truckers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates trucking and provides rules for how truckers should operate their rigs. Several courts have found a “higher standard of care” for commercial truck drivers, based on language in the regulations instructing drivers to use “extreme caution” in situations of bad weather. Lawsuits involving trucking accidents have interpreted this to mean that truckers need to be more careful than car drivers.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines reasonable care as “that degree of care which a person of ordinary prudence would exercise in the same or similar circumstances.” “Extreme” is defined as “greatest, highest, strongest, or the like.” The definition of “extreme” shows that federal law requires a higher level of caution than a reasonable and prudent person in a similar situation would. More over, the FMCSA 49 C.F.R. § 392.2 states, “the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration imposes a higher standard of care than that law, ordinance or regulation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulation must be complied with.”

But failure to exercise sufficient caution is not the only regulation that may hold a truck driver liable for injuries to car drivers. Some situations involve driver negligence from alcohol or drug use, poor truck maintenance or driver fatigue. The trucking company, rather than the driver, may also be negligent because of failing to conduct an adequate background check on the driver or failing to provide proper training. Companies may also encourage drivers to place false entries in logs in order to drive more than the maximum hours allowed.

Trucking companies cannot claim they did not know about the federal regulations that apply. Rules say that companies are required to become familiar with the laws and to instruct drivers, dispatchers and employees about the rules. Companies cannot encourage employees to break the rules by ordering them to make deliveries that will put them over the maximum hours allowed.

If you have been in a serious trucking accident and believe the driver of the rig is to blame, contact our office for a free evaluation of your case. We may be able to help you recover compensation for your injuries and damage.

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