Between the construction of new homes and businesses, the necessity of bringing shipped items into Reno or sending them out of the city, and being located in a state with highways that link to large cities, commercial trucks are a common feature on streets in our region. While the commercial trucking industry is heavily regulated, accidents still happen. If you’ve been injured in an accident with a big rig truck, you’re likely facing medical expenses that continue to mount. You should speak with a lawyer that is knowledgeable about trucking law and can determine your eligibility for compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
A Highly Regulated Industry
Because of their large size and high risk of causing catastrophic injuries to others in accidents, commercial trucks and their drivers are held to a higher standard than the drivers of passenger vehicles. Commercial truck drivers or the companies for which they work for are required to purchase a higher amount of insurance than other drivers, must obtain special licenses, and are subject to regulation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Some of the regulations that they must abide by include:
Hours of Service rules . Fatigue is a major concern among lawmakers in regards to long-haul truck drivers whose tight deadlines often force them to drive long distances and through the night. Hours of service regulations require that drivers take an off-duty break of at least thirty minutes every eight hours. Drivers can work no more than 60 hours every seven days or 70 hours every eight days, after which time the driver must take an off-duty break of at least 34 consecutive hours.
Medical fitness for duty testing to ensure that drivers are medically able to meet the demands of the job.
Workplace drug and alcohol testing in accordance with federal law.
Electronic logging devices to record hours of service. Regulators inspect these devices and the information that they provide to ensure that the driver and shipping company are abiding by the hours of service laws. The information from these devices can also be accessed in the event of an accident to determine if a driver was negligent in his or her duty to obey the law and drive safely.
Proper securement of cargo to prevent it from shifting during transport. Shifting cargo is a major source of rollover accidents with big rigs.
Rules prohibiting texting while driving and requiring hands-free cell phone usage.
Safe transportation of hazardous materials that may harm people, wildlife, and the environment should the materials spill during an accident.
State Laws Pertaining to Commercial Trucks
In addition to the federal regulations, truck drivers in Nevada are also regulated by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles motor carrier section . The state rules govern the length and weight of trucks permitted to transport goods on roadways in the state, and also how the vehicle should be registered within the state. Trucks from out of state that weigh more than 10,000 pounds that are used for business within the state are required to bear a non-resident business permit within 10 days of commencing operations within the state. Additionally, trucks transporting hazardous materials into or through the state are required to obtain a hazmat permit.
Nevada’s joint and several liability rule allows for truck accident attorneys to hold truck drivers accountable in multi-vehicle crashes, even if the trucker was only one percent responsible for the accident. Joint liability means that each at-fault party is responsible for the full amount of damages; several liability means that each at-fault party is only responsible for their share of the liability in an accident, and the victim is left to collect each responsible party’s share separately. In most cases, including most traffic accident cases, only several liability applies. However, in the case of an accident involving a commercial truck, joint liability is available as well.
Common Causes of Reno Truck Accidents
In spite of the regulations that are in place, commercial truck accidents still occur due to negligence on the part of the truck driver. Some common negligent driving behaviors seen in truck accidents include:
Fatigue. The National Safety Council reports that driver fatigue worsens reaction time, awareness, and ability to sustain attention. Surveys suggest that violations of the hours of service regulations do occur, and that such violations increase the likelihood of fatigued driving.
Distracted driving. Truck drivers spend a lot of time in their vehicles and fall prey to the same distractions that confront other drivers, such as texting or talking on their phones, eating, and adjusting vehicle controls.
Alcohol and drug impairment. Alcohol and illegal drugs aren’t the only substances that can impair a driver. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs can also lead to impaired driving.
Poor maintenance. Trucks transporting goods across the country rack up a lot of miles. Along with those miles comes the need for frequent maintenance.
Improperly loaded or overloaded trucks. Loaded trucks that operate on U.S. highways cannot weigh more than 129,000 pounds. Those that are overloaded or are not loaded properly are harder to control, hence the tight regulations.
Speeding. Pressured to meet deadlines, commercial truck drivers sometimes exceed the speed limit to reach their destination as quickly as possible. While speeding is a major cause of traffic accidents involving any type of vehicle, fully loaded trucks can weigh up to thirty times more than passenger cars and require a lot more distance to come to a safe stop in the event of roadway hazards.
Injuries From Truck Accidents
Accidents that involve commercial trucks often involve severe injuries and fatalities. Those who survive such accidents are often left with debilitating and sometimes permanent injuries. Some common injuries that are involved in truck accidents include:
Internal bleeding** or hemorrhaging, generally caused by the truck rolling over or falling onto a passenger car.
Cuts or impalement from pieces of broken glass or metal.
Neck, head, or spinal injuries that may leave a victim paralyzed or suffering from severe head or brain trauma.
Burns from the airbags or from fuel or hazardous materials that the truck is carrying. Fires started by a fuel tank that ruptures in an accident can also cause burns.
Broken bones, which are often severe due to the impact of colliding with a large vehicle.
Contact Us Today
If you sustained an injury or lost a loved one due to a truck accident in Reno, let us help you determine your legal options. Schedule your free consultation today by contacting Benson & Bingham online or by calling us at (775) 600-6000.