Accidents involving trucks can be even more dangerous and cause more injury than those with standard automobiles, due to their size and heft. Because they can be such dangerous instruments, they must also be maintained well. However, among the many possible causes of trucking accidents, improper truck maintenance is a major factor in many. It can be difficult to prove, though, so any information you are able to obtain may be of help.
Federal Violations Are Common
In the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) propagates a set of rules and regulations that both trucking companies and their drivers are intended to abide by. These include routine equipment tests for everything from tires to brakes, with potential fines for missed tests and other violations. However, studies in the most recent handful of years have shown that these guidelines, as well as the rules about driver fatigue and limits on hours, are routinely violated, usually in the name of trying to save money (or make more, depending on the situation).
It is important to keep in mind that these federal violations are not proof of any negligence, as they are regulations, not laws. If one breaks a law in Texas, and it injures a member of the class that law is meant to protect, that is referred to as negligence per se, which can be used to prove several criteria needed to establish liability all at once. However, violating an FMCSA regulation is not the same as breaking a law, so it is more likely that you will have to establish liability the old fashioned way.
The fact of improper truck maintenance can be used in a suit for damages in multiple ways, but a standard negligence lawsuit is probably the most common. In a standard negligence lawsuit in Texas, four criteria must be proven before damages may be obtained. The plaintiff must prove that a duty of care existed between them and the defendant (which in most cases, is stipulated in the Texas Transportation Code). They must also show that that duty of care was breached, and that the breach happened directly because of the defendant’s conduct, with no superseding cause. Actual damages must also be shown – not necessarily of a physical nature, but more serious than mere cuts and bruises or a shock.
Improper truck maintenance cannot necessarily be alleged against a truck driver, but rather against the company. However, it is possible to sue the company along with the driver under a doctrine called vicarious liability or respondeat superior. Texas case law generally holds that “a master is vicariously liable for the torts of its servants,” as long as those torts are committed within the scope of their employment. In other words, if a trucker is conducting personal business, rather than working on their employer’s behalf, the trucking company cannot be held vicariously liable for anything they do.
Seek Experienced Assistance From Our Attorneys
When you have been in a truck accident, any and all information you can get access to can make a difference. If you have questions about how to proceed, the passionate New Braunfels truck accident attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm may be able to assist. Contact our office today.