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Why bad weather should never cause a truck accident

December 3, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Video tip 9 for truck lawyers: There’s no such thing as a bad weather truck “accident”

This is the ninth of my series of 13 videos for attorneys handling truck accident lawsuits, from a past American Association for Justice truck accident lawyer seminar. My latest tip explains how a truck lawyer can prove that hazardous driving conditions and changing weather are never an excuse for a truck accident.

The takeaway: According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rule 49 CFR ? 392.14, a truck driver must use extreme cautions in conditions caused by: snow, sleet, rain, hail, smoke, dust, ice, fog, mist etc.

“Extreme caution” means what it says. It does not mean you keep driving when conditions become unsafe. It means you pull over when it is safe to do so.

Also, be aware that many states actually go one step further with this rule. Michigan CDL manuals, for instance, require that a truck driver to reduce his speed by 2/3 of the posted speed limit, when there are extreme driving conditions.

I always say that there’s no such thing as a truck “accident.” Weather’s role in causing truck accidents in states like Michigan is not as significant as it seems when you consider a driver’s heightened responsibility under state and federal law to use good driving judgment and especially to drive with “extreme caution” and care in bad weather.

According to government statistics (and most of the lawsuits our truck lawyers have handled), there were no contributing weather conditions in more than 80 percent of the reported Michigan truck accidents.

And the remaining 20 percent of these truck accidents attributed to weather could have been prevented. For instance, many Michigan truck lawyers and police officers say that where weather played a contributing role in a truck crash, it was because the trucker failed to comply with CDL guidelines, such as reducing the speed by 2/3 of the posted speed limit, braking properly or driving according to the regulated hours of service.

So a truck lawyer can use Rule 49 CFR ? 392.14 to prove a truck driver may have not used the proper precaution in hazardous weather. The truck lawyer can also check the CDL manuals for a particular state to see if the hazardous roads rule is taken a step further, requiring drivers to slow down. Finally, I would encourage every truck accident attorney to request the company driver handbook to see what language they have in there for drivers when they encounter bad weather.

Often, the trucking company has very strong language instructing a trucker to pull over and wait out bad weather so as not to put other lives on the road in senseless jeopardy.

Here’s a blog with more information: Why weather is never an excuse.

Steven Gursten is a partner of Michigan Auto Law and one of the top truck lawyers in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported jury verdict in Michigan for a truck accident case. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck safety.

Related information to protect yourself:

Michigan weather’s role in truck accidents

Truck accident lawyer seminar: 13 videos

Michigan truck rules and regulations

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (248) 353-7575 to speak with one of our truck lawyers today.

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