Commercial Driver Negligence in Utah
State and federal laws require commercial truck drivers to obtain special licensing and complete training programs before getting behind the wheel. After all, tractor-trailers are large and cumbersome vehicles that are more challenging to operate than passenger cars. Truck drivers must also obey traffic laws and operate their vehicles with care to keep themselves and other road users safe. A catastrophic accident can occur when a trucker fails to uphold this duty through negligent driving.
But what counts as negligent driving? Swenson & Shelley PLLC break down common forms of truck driver negligence. If you believe truck driver negligence was responsible for your truck accident, reach out to us for a free case review.
What Is Truck Driver Negligence?
Every motor vehicle operator, including truck drivers, has a duty to obey traffic laws and behave reasonably behind the wheel to prevent causing harm to others. Federal and state regulations hold truck drivers to a higher standard than non-commercial drivers because their vehicles are significantly larger than passenger vehicles and can inflict serious injuries in wrecks. They might also carry dangerous materials inside them. A truck driver might be considered negligent if they fail to abide by these rules or fail to exercise necessary caution behind the wheel.
Negligence is the legal theory in most truck accident cases. You must typically show that the truck driver was negligent before you can recover compensation for your injuries.
Common Types of Driver Negligence
Truck drivers can be responsible for accidents for various reasons, such as by disobeying traffic laws or failing to drive safely. Some of the most common negligent driving examples include the following:
- Aggressive driving – Aggressive driving can include unsafe lane changes, weaving in and out of traffic, or following another vehicle too closely.
- Speeding or driving too fast for conditions – Exceeding the speed limit can be dangerous in any vehicle. However, the risk of a catastrophic crash increases when the vehicle in question is a large truck. High-speed accidents involving commercial trucks are often fatal to the occupants of smaller vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 11,250 people died in speeding accidents nationwide in one recent year.
- Alcohol or drug use – Truck drivers might turn to prescription drugs or illegal narcotics to stay awake during long shifts. Intoxicating substances interfere with a driver’s normal faculties, preventing them from focusing on the road ahead or reacting quickly to dangerous situations.
- Hours of service (HOS) violations – The HOS regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) require truckers to stay within maximum driving limits and take breaks during their shifts. A truck driver might violate the regulations to meet a deadline or stay on the clock. The risk is that the driver will be tired while driving, posing a risk to other motorists. Fatigued driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. It causes a slower reaction time, poor decision-making, and impaired judgment. Also, truck drivers who are tired from spending long hours on the road can fall asleep at the wheel.
- Distracted driving – Distractions are dangerous because they direct a driver’s attention away from the road. Texting while driving often contributes to accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reading or sending a text while traveling 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with one’s eyes closed.
What Is the Employer’s Liability for a Trucker’s Negligence?
A truck driver who causes an accident is often responsible for the resulting injuries and damage. However, the company that hires the negligent driver may share in the blame. Trucking companies might be liable for truck accidents for many reasons, including the following:
- Hiring new drivers without performing thorough background checks
- Failing to provide adequate training
- Encouraging truckers to drive beyond the maximum driving limit
- Violating federal standards to conduct random drug and alcohol testing
- Loading cargo beyond the maximum weight or size limit
- Poorly supervising truck driver activity, including not reviewing logbooks to ensure compliance with state and federal laws
- Failing to perform routine truck maintenance and repair damage promptly
- Ignoring evidence of alcohol or drug use and allowing employees to operate commercial trucks anyway
- Using defective securement systems for cargo
Additionally, trucking companies can be held liable for the negligence of their employers because of the legal theory of vicarious liability, which holds employers responsible for their employees’ negligence.
How to Prove Negligence in a Utah Truck Accident
Proving negligence in a Utah truck accident is not always easy. However, an experienced truck accident attorney can investigate the crash to determine liability and obtain valuable evidence to prove that the truck driver or trucking company failed to act with care.
The evidence a lawyer gathers might include the following:
- Police accident reports
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Photographs from the accident scene
- Truck maintenance and repair logs
- Truck’s event data recorder (EDR)
- The truck driver’s documented employment history, including previous accidents and criminal records
- Traffic camera footage of the collision
- Copies of your medical records and bills
- Testimony from experts, such as accident reconstruction specialists and medical providers
- Repair estimates for all vehicles involved
- Truck driver’s cell phone records
We can determine the available insurance coverage and file a claim on your behalf. We can then negotiate with trucking and insurance companies to pursue a settlement to compensate you for your medical bills and other expenses. If the insurer denies or undervalues your claim, we can file a lawsuit and take your case to court.
How an Experienced Utah Truck Attorney Can Help
Proving negligence in a truck accident case can be complicated. It often requires substantial evidence of the truck driver’s actions before the crash. Gathering relevant documentation from the motor carrier might be necessary to establish whether the trucker’s employer shares fault for the collision. Handling these issues while recovering from injuries can be overwhelming, particularly if you have never done so before.
Let the team at Swenson & Shelley PLLC lift this burden from your shoulders. You should focus on treating your injuries and moving forward with your life while our experienced Utah truck attorneys take care of everything else. If you sustained injuries in a truck accident due to driver negligence, call or contact us online for a free consultation.