Semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles and the employees operating them are required to abide by various safety regulations and guidelines that may not apply to normal drivers. Companies and drivers can be cited by state transportation authorities if an inspection or accident reveals violations of the driving or equipment regulations established by the authorities. Companies or drivers with repeated or excessive violations may face administrative consequences, especially in the event of an accident related to the violation.

UnderpassThe Role of Previous Safety Violations in an Accident Lawsuit

The victims of a Maryland semi-truck accident may discover that the commercial vehicle or driver involved in their crash has been cited in the past for a safety violation that relates to the apparent cause of their own accident. As the plaintiff in a Maryland truck accident lawsuit, the accident victim may be able to introduce evidence of previous safety violations to demonstrate the defendant’s negligence in causing the accident. Evidence that a defendant has repeatedly violated safety regulations in the past should give the plaintiff an advantage in making the case for damages. However, this evidence will not necessarily be admitted without litigation over its admission.

Punitive Damages and a Pattern of Gross Negligence in Maryland and D.C.

In some jurisdictions, an accident victim may be entitled to additional damages above and beyond the economic and noneconomic damages relating to their injuries from the accident. In Maryland, punitive damages may only be awarded in a negligence lawsuit by showing actual malice, but in Washington, D.C., punitive damages can be awarded when a defendant has acted in willful disregard of the plaintiff’s rights and was reckless toward the plaintiff’s safety. In some cases, it could be argued that a pattern of gross negligence by a defendant who was guilty of repeated safety violations that resulted in an accident justifies an award of punitive damages to the plaintiff.

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Accidents involving semi trucks and other large commercial or industrial vehicles are relatively common in Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia. Tragically, the victims in the accidents with these large vehicles are more often seriously injured or killed than in other types of crashes. Accidents involving commercial vehicles may be caused by the negligent act of the commercial driver or else malfunctioning or unsafe equipment. Semi-trucks and many other commercial vehicles are not always easy to operate safely; with the large number of commercial vehicles on our roadways, it is necessary to set high standards for training and safety for commercial drivers.

Tanker TruckAdditional Safety Responsibilities for Commercial Drivers

Commercial drivers are required to carry a commercial driver’s license, or “CDL”, to legally operate a large commercial vehicle. Semi-trucks, vehicles transporting hazardous materials, and construction-related vehicles may require additional certifications. In commercial driving courses, drivers should learn about the hazards of driving a large vehicle, as well as the additional safety and legal responsibilities of commercial drivers, such as time logging and more frequent equipment checks. Unfortunately, many commercial vehicles on the road are not being safely operated by a properly licensed driver. When these vehicles are involved in accidents, the danger of somebody involved being seriously injured or killed increases.

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Of the many causes of truck accidents, equipment failures are among the more common. Large trucks rely on a number of components and systems to run properly. If any one of these systems is compromised, the truck may not operate according to the driver’s expectations. Obviously, this can then result in the truck driver losing control of the vehicle, resulting in a serious or fatal truck accident.

Winter TireDue to the risks inherent in operating a large truck, the law places a duty on all truck drivers to maintain their vehicles in a safe manner. The level of the duty somewhat depends on which type of truck is being operated and which cargo is being transported. For example, truck drivers transporting hazardous materials have an increased duty to maintain their vehicles in a safe condition to avoid the spilling of the hazardous cargo.

Generally speaking, a truck driver’s duty to inspect and maintain his vehicle extends to the systems that are easily inspected and those for which failure can result in serious problems in the vehicle’s operation. These systems include the tires, brakes, cargo area, and lights and signals. If an accident is caused by a truck driver’s failure to inspect his vehicle, that driver may be held financially liable for the injuries caused as a result. This may even be the case if the truck driver was not issued a traffic citation.

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There are many populous cities in and around the Maryland region, and traffic can be brutal and congested. The busy metropolitan cities are home to many businesses that rely on transportation companies to deliver their goods. With the rise in online purchasing and same-day delivery, transportation companies are now beginning to face potential competition among them. This new competition-driven system has resulted in an influx of trucking accidents in the state.

Dark RoadThere are many reasons that trucking accidents occur in Maryland. Some of the top causes of trucking accidents and trucking-related fatalities are truck driver inexperience, trucking malfunction, jackknifing, and truck driver fatigue. Out of all of these common causes, truck driver drowsiness and fatigue is arguably the most dangerous. In fact, a recent study revealed that although medical professionals recommend at least 7-8 hours of sleep for an adult, many truck drivers get less than five hours of sleep. This is clearly insufficient when they are in control of such large and dangerous vehicles.

As mentioned above, competition between trucking companies is so fierce that many times trucking companies demand their drivers to make delivery goals that are potentially unsafe. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has lenient standards that allow drivers to drive up to 11 hours in one day without stops. This number translates to almost 70 hours in just over a week’s time. In order to ensure job security, truck drivers may feel compelled to violate these requirements. In some cases, truck drivers may even take illicit substances to ensure that they are awake. However, many of these substances lead to drivers who are less alert and aware of their surroundings. The combination of strict delivery times and fatigued drivers can only lead to a deadly result.

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Truck accidents are dangerous for many reasons, not the least of which is the potential havoc that can be wreaked when a large truck crashes into smaller vehicles or pedestrians. In fact, most accidents involving large trucks are exactly this type of accident, in which a truck collides with a smaller vehicle or a pedestrian, many times after the driver fails to notice the other person. However, another type of truck accident can occur when a truck’s cargo spills onto the highway, causing a serious hazard for passing motorists.

Tanker Truck

By now, readers of this blog are aware that truck drivers all have a duty to those with whom they share the road to safely operate their vehicles. And, as discussed above, most victims of truck accidents are those with whom the truck physically collided. However, what readers may not know is that truck drivers and their employers can also be held liable for damage or injuries caused by the truck’s cargo being spilled onto the road.

Tanker Truck Crashes, Spilling Over 8,000 Gallons of Fuel

Earlier this month, a single-truck accident in Des Moines, Iowa left thousands of gallons of fuel spilled near the highway. According to one local news report covering the accident, the truck was heading westbound on a state highway when witnesses say the truck driver lost control of the rig. After losing control, the truck rolled several times, eventually coming to a complete stop in the median.

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Not all courts are the same. While judges are all supposed to follow the law as it is written, there are situations in which a case does not neatly fit into the laws as they currently stand. In such cases, judges may be required to interpret statutes or give meaning to previous judicial opinions and apply this analysis to the facts in the case before them. This can result in a situation in which the judge “creates” the law as it applies to the specific case.

Truck's GrillBecause of this, it can be very important which court hears a case. A recent case before the Texas Supreme Court highlights the lengths parties will go to in ensuring that the venue hearing the case is of their own choice.

In re J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc.

In this case, J.B. Hunt was a trucking company that employed a truck driver who was involved in a fatal accident that claimed the life of another motorist. According to the court’s written opinion, an Isuzu Rodeo broke down on the highway and pulled off to the far-right lane. A truck owned by J.B. Hunt was driving in that same lane, and after a few moments, the truck slammed into the rear of the Isuzu, killing one of the occupants.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Delaware issued an opinion in favor of a young plaintiff who was injured when she was struck by a car as she was about to board a school bus. In the case, State Farm Mutual Insurance Company v. Buckley, the girl’s family sought recovery from the insurance company that insured the school bus. The court allowed the girl’s recovery because, although the physical collision did not involve the bus, the court determined the school bus was “involved” in the accident because the bus driver signaled for the student to board the bus.

School BusThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was waiting for the school bus to take her to school. When the bus showed up, the driver stopped the bus and signaled for the girl to board the bus. As she began to cross the street to board the bus, however, a car struck the girl. It was determined that the driver of the car was at least partially at fault for the accident.

The girl’s family sought financial recovery through the insurance company that had insured the school bus. The insurance company contested the claim because the school bus was not involved in the physical collision, and the girl was not aboard the bus when she was struck. The girl’s family claimed that the girl was relying solely on the bus driver’s cue to board the bus, which involved the bus in the accident.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of New Mexico issued a written opinion holding that the statute of limitations in a product liability case filed against a car manufacturer may be tolled if there is a showing that the manufacturer fraudulently concealed information that could give rise to the claim. In the case, Estate of Brice v. Toyota Motor Company, the court reversed a trial court’s ruling that the plaintiff’s case was filed beyond the applicable statute of limitations and allowed the case to proceed toward trial.

The Facts of the CaseGas Pedal

Back in 2006, a Toyota Corolla driven by Alice Brice inexplicably accelerated into an intersection, where it was struck by a semi-truck. The vehicle caught fire, and Brice ultimately died as a result of the injuries she sustained. Approximately three years and 11 months later, her estate filed a product liability lawsuit against Toyota, the manufacturer of her vehicle.

In a summary judgment motion, Toyota asked the court to dismiss the case against it, arguing that it was filed too late. Under New Mexico law, wrongful death actions of this sort must be filed within three years from the date of the death. The plaintiff responded that Toyota had known about the sudden-acceleration problem but had acted to conceal the safety issue, preventing the plaintiff from realizing that there was a potential claim. The plaintiff also explained that as soon as the information became available, the lawsuit was filed without delay.

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Earlier this month, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a written opinion affirming a lower court’s award of $1,200,000 to the family of a woman who was killed in a truck accident. In the case, Quilez-Velar v. Ox Bodies, Inc., the plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a woman who was killed when the vehicle she was driving struck a semi-truck from the rear and “underrode” the truck.

Tanker TruckWhat Is an Under-Ride Accident?

Whenever a car crashes into the rear of a semi-truck or other large vehicle, there is a chance that the car will squeeze underneath the bottom of the truck. This is especially dangerous to motorists, since in doing so the car’s cabin is crushed, almost always resulting in serious injury or death. To help prevent under-ride accidents, federal law requires that truck companies install under-ride guards on their vehicles.

The Facts of the Case

Back in 2010, the deceased was driving her Jeep Liberty on the highway when she collided with a slowing semi-truck from behind. As the two vehicles collided, the Jeep went under the body of the truck, and the rear of the truck ended up entering the cabin of the Jeep. As a result of the accident, the driver of the Jeep was killed.

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Truck drivers have an enormous responsibility. With loaded rigs weighing up to 40 tons, the trucks these drivers operate are massive, difficult to steer, and prone to causing mayhem if not properly controlled. For these reasons, federal and state laws act to regulate the trucking industry, requiring drivers to obtain special licenses, register their cargo and route, and constantly ensure that their rig is in safe working condition. In addition, truck drivers must also follow the rules of the road that apply to all motorists, such as refraining from drunk or distracted driving.

PotatoesWhen there is a lapse in judgment, or an oversight on the part of a truck driver, the driver may be held liable in a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. These lawsuits, brought under the theory of negligence, require an accident victim to show that there was some negligent act or omission that caused the accident that resulted in the victim’s injuries. If this is successfully proven, an accident victim may receive compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and any pain and suffering they endured as a result of the accident.

Truck Accident Caused by Sleeping Driver

Earlier this month in North Carolina, 50,000 pounds of potatoes spilled onto the road after a semi-truck driver crashed into a barrier and rolled the truck onto its side. According to one local news source covering the accident, the truck driver was traveling on Interstate 77 at around 2 a.m. when the accident occurred.

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