FMCSR Violations Affecting a Florida Truck Crash Lawsuit
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) can be of great significance in a Florida truck crash injury or fatality case, when it comes to recovering damages. The FMCSR applies to all commercial motor vehicles, commonly known as tractor trailers, big rigs, semi-trucks and 18 wheelers, that weigh in excess of 10,000 lbs. or are used to transport hazardous materials and are engaged in interstate commerce. Interstate commerce, as opposed to intrastate commerce, refers to a vehicle transporting cargo or passengers between states.
A skilled Florida truck crash attorney will know how to leverage FMCSR violations to obtain compensation for clients who were injured or lost someone in a Florida truck crash. Both trucking companies and their employees are held to minimum safety standards under the FMCSR. The “employee” can be a full time driver for the company or an independent contractor hired by the trip.
The negligence of the driver will be attributed to the trucking company, creating liability for damages caused by the Florida truck crash. The liability may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damages, and punitive damages in some cases. Punitive damages are designed to punish a company for its willful disregard of safety regulations.
Possible FMSCR Violations
There are several responsibilities imposed on trucking companies under the FMCSR. Violations of one or more of these requirements can be used to help prove a negligence claim. Under the FMCSR trucking companies are responsible for:
- Hiring Drivers –Under the FMSCR it is the responsibility of the company to be certain that the driver is qualified in accordance with a specific set of criteria. The driver must have a valid commercial vehicle driver’s license. (CDL) The driver must show that he or she has the ability to safely operate the tractor trailer and has completed a road test. The driver must also be proficient in both performing pre-trip safety inspections and in the use of emergency equipment. The trucking company is also required to thoroughly investigate the driver’s employment history and three year driving record. Failure to obtain the proper information could be considered negligent hiring by permitting an unqualified driver to operate the vehicle.
- Safety Program – A program in place to ensure compliance with the FMCSR is required by the Federal Highway Safety Administration. The FHSA will conduct unannounced, on-site examinations to verify these programs. Reports showing a lack of compliance can serve as evidence of negligence.
- Drug and Alcohol Testing – The performance of drug and alcohol testing is required under the FMCSR prior to hiring a driver and following an incident where the company suspects the driver was using drugs of alcohol while on duty. The FMCSR also requires the company to randomly test 50 percent of their drivers for drugs and 10 percent for alcohol. The company could be held liable for a Florida truck crash if they failed to comply and an impaired driver caused the mishap.
- Driver Supervision – Every driver is required to have their safety record reviewed annually. The company must check for traffic violations and also disqualifying offenses such as a DUI conviction. The driver’s actual hours on the road must be checked also to ensure the number allowed by the FMCSR was not exceeded. The company must never encourage exceeding safe driving hours. Failure in these areas could support a negligence claim against the company.
- Inspection, maintenance and repair – It is required under the FMCSR that all equipment be checked, repaired and maintained. This includes, but is not limited to, lighting, signals, wiring, brakes, reflective sheeting, windows, fuel systems, tires, frames, emergency equipment and cargo retention equipment. Inspection records are required to be kept for a minimum of one year per vehicle.
It is also the responsibility of the driver to operate the truck in a safe manner using reasonable judgement. Failure in these areas can serve as a vicarious liability to the trucking company. Some of the areas where negligence could be proven include:
- Failure to inspect – It is the driver’s responsibility to inspect the truck and the load for safety under the FMCSR
- Driving while drowsy – Drowsy driving is a leading cause of Florida truck crashes. The FMCSR specifies the amount of hours a driver may operate and requires a ten hour break between shifts. Drivers are required to keep a driving record for seven days. Trucking companies must retain drivers logs for six months
- Drug or alcohol use – Once very common with interstate drivers, amphetamine (pep pills, uppers, speed) use has declined greatly due to testing. Driving within four hours of alcohol consumption is prohibited as is being under the influence of any controlled dangerous substance.
- Unsafe driving conditions – Drivers are required to take adequate precautions during wet, icy or windy conditions. Failure to do so can be considered negligence.
- Inadequate warnings – A truck that is stopped on the roadway is required to activate hazard flashers. After being stopped for ten minutes or longer, markers are required to be placed behind and in front of the vehicle. Slow moving trucks should also activate hazard flashers. Failure to warn can be considered negligence.
- Distracted Driving – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration specifically bans all texting while driving. The prohibited activities include instant messaging, emails, requests/commands to access web pages, pushing more than one button to end a call and all forms of electronic text entry. Companies that encourage or permit texting by drivers face individual fines of up to $11,000.
Injured in a Florida Truck Crash
Anyone who has suffered injury or lost a loved one in a Florida truck crash needs to speak with a qualified truck accident attorney who is very familiar with the FMCSR. The attorney will know how to determine if there were any violations of the FMCSR both past and present and use those violations to gain the maximum compensation for their client. Truckers are required by Federal Law to carry substantial insurance policies. The insurers have experienced truck accident law firms that will go to great lengths not to pay large awards. You need an attorney who has the experience and resources to take a firm stand against these law firms.
Doman Law Group is a successful Florida truck crash attorney with a proven track record of winning substantial compensation for victims of trucker negligence. If you were seriously injured or you lost a loved one due to a Florida truck crash, call Dolman Law Group at 727-451-6900 and speak with an experienced truck crash attorney today. You may be entitled to compensation. Do not hesitate as the time to file your case is limited. There is no cost to speak with a qualified attorney.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765