Michael Rehm Law – (916) 476-9781

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer Michael Rehm provides representation to the victims of commercial truck accidents. Due to the sheer mass of commercial trucks, the damages sustained when an accident occurs are normally substantial, leading to sever injuries and/or possibly death. Truck accident cases are different from car accident cases, and it is important for you and your Personal Injury Attorney to understand the differences.  This website will attempt to highlight the unique characteristics of truck accidents, but it is just a simple overview. For a more detailed look at the law surrounding truck accidents, and how they are unique, as well as how they apply to the facts of your case, contact Sacramento Truck Accident Attorney Michael Rehm at (916) 476-9781.

First and foremost, the law in truck accident cases is different form your normal accident case. The law applicable to commercial vehicles is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). This is a federal statute, and the statute is designed to govern more than just the driver and the driving rules. The FMCSR is designed to apply to all people and entities (motor carriers) that are involved in commercial motor vehicles. In other words, it also applies to the business that hired, supervised and monitored the driver, and a score of other individuals involved in commerce. This is a major difference from a car accident case. In a car accident case, the law is normally only going to look at the drivers of the vehicles to determine lability. In truck accident cases, there is much more to it. The FMCSR designates rules for the loading of trucks, for the hiring and supervising of drivers, dispatch rules, for the business to monitor compliance with the rules, and many other regulations that extend far beyond the accident scene. Therefore, it is normally not just the driver of the truck that is liable, but the business behind him. In fact, under the FMCSR, in circumstances where a duty has been placed on the driver of the commercial truck, there is also a duty placed on the motor carrier to ensure the driver is properly trained on the duty, and that there is a system in place to monitor compliance with the duty. The duty to hire, train, supervise and monitor compliance with legal duties is something every motor carrier must certify they are aware of before they are even allowed the right to act as a motor carrier.

Second, the evidence in truck accident cases is much different than an automobile accident case. In regards to the truck driver, some of the evidence will be:

  1. The training file of the driver;
  2. The inspection records of the driver;
  3. The log books of the driver;
  4. Any drug or alcohol test result that was done after the accident. (This would also apply in car accident cases)

In regards to the commercial truck in and of itself, some of the evidence should be:

  1. Any documentation of maintenance and inspection history;
  2. GPS history and information;

Finally, there should be evidence related to the loading of the truck. The FMCSR has rules related to the loading of the vehicle, and companies involved n loading the vehicle can also be held liable if the rules and regulations were not followed. Some of this evidence includes bills of lading and delivery correspondence. This aspect of truck accidents alone obviously is completely unique compared to other accident cases.

Third, the insurance requirements are different. In California, the minimum legal insurance requirement for automobiles is $15,000. Under the FMCSR the minimum commercial insurance is $750,000. This number is the minimum, and for those commercial vehicles transporting certain hazardous materials, it increases to the millions depending on the hazardous material. That is obviously a big difference. Of course, it represents sound public policy, as discussed earlier, a truck accident will generally lead to serious injuries, and therefore the insurance minimum should be substantially higher than an automobile, and it is. Commercial truck insurance policies are also required under the FMCSR to contain what is referred to as an MCS-90 endorsement in the policy. This endorsement limits the normal policy defenses insurance companies will use in an automobile accident case, effectively leaving the insurance company without most of the normal defense on which they deny coverage.  It is another example of the far-reaching effect the FMCSR has.

Fourth, the gathering of evidence is different. Most commercial truck carriers and their insurance companies have established plans of actions for when an accident occurs. Generally, the motor carrier is notified immediately when an accident occurs, and they act immediately. The motor carrier or their insurance company will normally immediately send a team to the scene of the accident to gather evidence and conduct their own investigation. This does not happen in auto accident cases. Therefore, the truck accident attorney handling the case must be aggressive themselves in obtaining the evidence.

Finally, commercial truck accident cases can have a more scienter element than auto accident cases. The main goal of the commercial truck industry is to transport goods from one place to another, and make a profit while doing so. There can be tremendous pressure on commercial drivers to get goods from one place to another within a certain amount of time, and the failure to do so can lead to potential problems at work. Anytime you add a profit motive to these scenarios you will come across companies and drivers that act less than ethical in following the rules and regulations of the profession, especially those specified by the FMCSR. The rules and regulations imposed by the FMCSR are there for safety reasons, and the intentional breaking of those rules can occur, and many times this breaking of the rules leads to exactly what the rules were designed to protect against, accidents. You generally will not see this in car accident cases.

Sacramento Truck Accident Attorney Michael Rehm is available for free consultations at (916) 476-9781. For more detailed information on the rules and regulations related to commercial truck accidents, contact Michael Rehm Law and determine how those rules apply to your case.