Sustaining bodily injury as a result of any kind of city or highway traffic accident can be both physically and psychologically traumatic. Car accidents, boating mishaps, motorcycle wrecks and bus collisions can all prove injurious to an individual given the right circumstances. Some of the most serious and deadly traffic accidents are caused by commercial trucks, such as construction vehicles, semi tractor-trailers, large delivery box trucks and even smaller, but heavily-laden commercial work trucks.
In any case, being injured as a result of another party’s negligence may be reason to file a personal injury lawsuit or claim against the negligent individual or individuals. In the case of trucking crashes, the fault — as initially determined by the local law enforcement agency — may lie with the driver of the vehicle, or it may be the fault of the trucking carrier or even a third party, such as a maintenance or repair facility. Naturally, the job of determining which parties should be named in a personal injury suit is typically too much for the average person, especially if that person is incapacitated by the accident.
Finally, injury as a result of a traffic accident involving a large commercial vehicle can be due to a poorly designed or manufactured part or component. Historically, it is not uncommon for motorcycle, truck and car accidents to be caused by incorrectly manufactured tires, steering components and braking systems. Lawsuits stemming from these kinds of car and truck collisions are also known as product liability claims; they can be tied to an injury accident — or in cases of fatal wrecks, may be related to a wrongful death lawsuit.
Because commercial trucking companies conduct the majority of their business operations on public roads — and in close proximity to other vehicles carrying individuals and families — federal and state governments have established numerous laws, legal statutes and industry guidelines to regulate certain critical aspects of these firms’ business conduct that may affect the public adversely should those practices be overlooked or ignored to the detriment of public safety.
One area that is important to public safety is the act of inspecting commercial trucks periodically to detect and correct potentially life-threatening problems of faults on the vehicle or its safety components. Because commercial trucks have a great amount of moving parts and other components, they must all be in proper working condition for a truck to be safe on the highway.
Federal law requires commercial carriers and the trucker who work for them to conduct pre- and post-trip inspections of critical parts/components and record the findings in a permanent inspection log. Should a commercial truck driver fail to adequately inspect every important part, the driver may be guilty of negligence if one of those un-inspected components were to fail and cause a trucking-related traffic accident.
The law requires that a trucker inspect his vehicle and assure himself that all of the major components are fully functional and in correct working order. However, while the law requires this, it is well known that many truckers many only conduct perfunctory inspections, noting only a nominal inspection time for this cursory inspection in their logbooks. Part of a Maryland personal injury lawyer’s job is to bring to light any facts that show a failed component or part was not adequately checked prior to causing an injury or fatal trucking wreck.
Through what is called the “discovery process,” an injury accident attorney makes every effort to get a possibly negligent truck driver to provide detailed descriptions of his pre-trip vehicle investigation in order to uncover any discrepancies. Some of the most crucial areas that must be checked on a commercial vehicle prior to being used on the highway include the following:
— Service and parking brakes
— Trailer brakes for all axles/wheels
— Steering system
— Main lighting, marker lamps, signaling devices and reflectors
— Horn and other audible warning devices
— Windshield wipers and mirrors
— Tires on both the tractor and trailer
— Straps and hold-downs used to secure the load
When interviewing the driver, it is important to note any discrepancies between what the trucker stated as the time it took him to inspect a particular item and that reported in the inspection logbook. If there the times do not match or if there is a significant difference, then there exists a possible credibility gap in the trucker’s statements and actions.
Naturally, as professionals who operate these many times massive and potentially dangerous motor vehicles on public roads, truckers and their employers have not only a legal responsibility to keep the public safe, but also a moral one. As Maryland automobile accident attorneys, we know all too well the carnage that can result when an 18-wheeler hits a much smaller passenger car, SUV or minivan carrying adults and children. There is little margin for error and no room for negligent or thoughtless behavior on the aprt of these individuals.