Every commercial truck in California must follow federal and state guidelines that govern virtually every aspect of the business, from qualifications for drivers to how often the trucks must be checked for maintenance. How many hours at a time the driver may be on the road and the legal relationship between the driver and trucking company are all determined by these regulations, which are intended to make the road safer for all motorists. When these rules are breached, there may be a legal presumption that the driver or trucking company is legally responsible for the accident.
The interaction of state and federal laws is complex. If you have been injured in a truck accident, it is important to select a Los Angeles personal injury attorney who has experience litigating truck accidents. Your attorney’s knowledge and understanding of commercial trucking regulations can be the key to winning your case.
Who can drive a commercial truck in California?
California requires drivers of large trucks to hold a special license known as a commercial driver’s license (CDL). CDLs are issued for specific classes that are based on the size of vehicles and their purposes.
To obtain a CDL, drivers must go through extensive testing. Candidates for certain CDL classes, as well as novice drivers, must meet a minimum number of hours of behind-the-wheel training to be eligible for the test. They must also prove their identity, citizenship, and where they live. Anyone holding a California CDL can be disqualified based on out-of-state CDL suspensions, criminal convictions, serious traffic offenses, or violation of equipment regulations. Even convictions for offenses while driving their personal vehicles can lead to a driver’s CDL disqualification.
If a driver violates these requirements, in some cases they may be personally liable for accidents, but often it is the trucking companies that are vicariously liable. A truck accident lawyer in Los Angeles looks at many factors to determine who may be held legally responsible for the damages that result from a serious accident.
Safety-related restrictions for truck drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted regulations that apply to all truck drivers and trucking companies in the United States. These rules are intended to reduce risk to motorists and hold unsafe trucking companies responsible for the harm that they cause.
Some of the regulations that often play a role in truck accident litigation include:
- Hours of service – To reduce fatigue and some of the dangerous effects that it can cause, commercial drivers are limited in the number of hours that they may drive at a time, as well as the minimum number of hours that they must be off the road before beginning another shift. These regulations vary based on whether the driver is carrying passengers.
- Maintenance – Commercial vehicles must be inspected and repaired regularly to prevent accidents. The regulations also require motor carriers to keep logs of the inspections, maintenance activities, and repairs for the vehicles.
- Insurance – Commercial vehicles have higher minimum coverage requirements than passenger vehicles. These limits vary depending on whether the vehicle carries passengers and by how many passengers it holds.
- Convictions – Depending on the offense, even a first-time conviction can lead to a driver’s CDL suspension.
- Statutory employees – In many contexts, a company is not liable for the negligence of an independent contractor, and this used to prevent many truck accident victims from receiving due compensation for injuries. Thanks to changes in the laws to protect the public, when a truck operates only in California, state laws will determine whether an independent contractor driver will be treated as an employee of the trucking company for liability purposes. When a truck is used in interstate commerce, federal interstate carrier laws may deem the driver a statutory employee to hold the company liable for drivers who are independent contractors.
Los Angeles truck accident lawyers consider these and other laws when determining where fault for a crash lies.
Speak with a Los Angeles truck accident lawyer
Truck accident lawsuits are more complicated than typical car accidents, but they also involve more serious injuries, so there usually greater damages to recover. Make a difficult time easier by teaming with an experienced truck accident attorney who understands the legal and factual nuances of the trucking industry.
At Salamati Law, we are committed to helping those injured in Southern California truck accidents fight for full compensation for their injuries. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.