Trucking companies are subject to strict rules regarding the inspection, maintenance, and repair of their vehicles. These laws serve the primary purpose of keeping dangerous trucks off the road. That’s good for the rest of us drivers — as long as those rules are enforced.
When a tractor trailer causes a crash, its inspection records serve a valuable role in proving negligence, which is the key to a successful truck accident settlement or trial.
To best use this evidence here, a Fort Worth injury attorney studies safety regulations and knows where to locate inspection reports, past violations, and the truck’s and company’s crash history.
Truck companies have a duty to maintain safe vehicles
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has the authority to pass and enforce maintenance and inspection regulations concerning commercial vehicles. These trucking regulations apply to motor vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 lbs. or more and to trucks that carry hazardous materials.
Any company, whether a one-man operation or a large multinational corporation, is responsible for inspecting and maintaining its vehicles and repairing problems before putting its trucks back on the road. The company is also required to keep its records for one year and make them available to inspectors. Failure to do so is a violation of the FMCSA regulations.
The FMCSA rules cover every aspect of a tractor-trailer, including tires, brakes, brake lights, headlights, turn signals, reflectors, fuel systems, windows, hitches, windows, wiring, body frame, cargo retention areas, and other equipment and auto parts. Anything that could cause an accident should be inspected.
Violation of the law is negligence per se
A defendant that breaks these laws is per se negligent. The law presumes the company is negligent. What bearing does this rule have on your case?
It relieves you of the burden of proving in court that a reasonable person (or company) should have acted differently. Ordinarily you would have to prove this element by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it is more likely than not.
Once you have established negligence per se, the burden of proving it was not negligent shifts to the trucking company. Rarely can a defendant meet that burden upon a court’s ruling of per se negligence.
Does this mean you win? Unfortunately, no. You must still prove the other elements of your claim, including that the accident proximately caused your injuries and what damages you suffered as a result.
How an experienced truck accident attorney can help
One of my first actions I take in a truck accident claim is to review the 18 wheeler’s or commercial vehicles’ inspection reports. Did the company skip inspections or put off repairs? Was the company cited for an inspection violation? Does the company have a history of crashes caused by poor vehicle maintenance. I can also file an emergency motion for a restraining order to stop the company from destroying the truck or making repairs (and thus destroying evidence). This gives my accident reconstruction experts the opportunity to inspect the truck for equipment failure, download the black box (see photo), inspect the cab, and find other evidence that will help my client in court.
A good personal injury lawyer will be able to maximize recovery if he can establish that the company didn’t comply with the required inspection rules.
I keep up with the latest laws and regulations. I also exchange information with other members of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys, the American Association For Justice’s Trucking Litigation Group, and other plaintiff attorney organizations. I use this knowledge to help my clients who are injured in collisions with 18 wheelers and company trucks get the compensation they deserve.