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In truck accident lawsuits, commercial motor carriers must know, train and comply with FMCSRs

March 9, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Tip No. 11 for truck attorneys: highlight the truck company’s negligence in not knowing or ignoring mandatory safety rules

Here’s my latest tip in my series of posts for attorneys handling truck accident lawsuits. It’s an important Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rule, but one often neglected or ignored by trucking companies.

Trucking companies must be familiar with mandatory trucking safety regulations, and they have a responsibility to instruct their drivers, dispatchers and employees about these safety rules (49 C.F.R. § 392.1).

Further: “Every motor carrier, its officers, agents, representatives, and employees responsible for the management, maintenance, operation, or driving of commercial motor vehicles, or the hiring, supervising, training, assigning, or dispatching of drivers, shall be instructed in and comply with the rules in this part.”

Here’s more to the rule:

  1. Every employer shall be knowledgeable of and comply with all regulations contained in this subchapter which are applicable to that motor carrier’s operations.
  2. Every driver and employee shall be instructed regarding, and shall comply with, all applicable regulations contained in this subchapter.
  3. All motor vehicle equipment and accessories required by this subchapter shall be maintained in compliance with all applicable performance and design criteria set forth in this subchapter (49 C.F.R. § 390.3(e).

Trap: A common mistake truck attorneys make is failing to sue the commercial motor carrier for direct negligence.

Litigation tip:
I’ve taken a few hundred trucking depositions, and I’ve probably tried as many truck accident injury cases to verdict as any lawyer in the country (note – of the dozen or so lawyers who say they are “truck accident lawyer specialists,” at least half have never even taken a trucking case all the way to trial.  The adage “buyer beware” applies to hiring a lawyer, just like everything else in life.  But I digress.). Why is this rule important?  It avoids the blame game that otherwise ensues where each person who you depose says they don’t know and it (safety, knowledge of the rule, the law, the required task, etc.) was another person’s job.  Safety is everyone’s job.

Related information:

When motor carriers break the law

 

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2 Replies to “In truck accident lawsuits, commercial motor carriers must know, train and comply with FMCSRs”

  1. Could you give an example of an act of direct negligence by the carrier that was a proximate cause of a truck crash. I get failing to enforce hours of service leading to a fatigued driver not being aware or even awake at the time of a crash. Keeping on unsafe drivers. Not training a driver to properly inspect the truck.

    But when a truck rear ends someone because the driver looked away from the road and was fully in compliance with hours of service and was stone cold sober where do you go with the tip you mentioned?

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge .

  2. Anthony – in the example you give of a truck that rear-ends another because the driver looks away, assuming everything else is in compliance, then the only cause of action against the carrier is under an owners liability statute (which Michigan has) and respondeat superior assuming the driver is in the course and scope of his employment. You raise a good point because while the bad trucking companies out there are terrible, there are a lot of good ones out there and sometimes you (thankfully) don’t have another 20 violations of the FMCSRs to add to your case. It is just a negligent act where someone was hurt. When this happens, you as the victim’s lawyer and the trucking company’s lawyer that is hired by its insurance company work to fairly resolve the case. Assuming the insurance company is not AIG – see the post I wrote about them today: 11 tips lawyers need to know about how AIG treats auto accident victims.

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