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Holding negligent truckers, employers accountable for regulatory violations

Last Friday was the anniversary of a truck accident which took the lives of five university students. The accident, which occurred when a tractor-trailer crashed into a line of traffic that was stalled on the Interstate due to another crash, has been the subject of wrongful death litigation, three cases of which have already resolved.

The families of all five accident victims ended up filing lawsuits, and settlements were reached in several cases, but the two remaining cases are set to go to trial. Legal counsel for the families of two of the victims has said that the Mississippi-based trucking company responsible for the accident was negligent in many ways and that this negligence is what caused the accident. 

The driver who caused the accident was found to have never applied the brakes prior to the crash. Plaintiffs believe that the driver fell asleep at the wheel or that he was looking at his cell phone or engaged in some other distracting activity. Among the contentions is that the driver responsible for the crash did not meet the company’s own hiring criteria due to his having previously rolled a tractor-trailer while he was employed by another company. In that accident, he was asleep at the wheel.

Under federal law, all commercial motor vehicle drivers—both those carrying passengers and those carrying property—are required to abide by daily and weekly limitations on driving and required rest periods. These regulations are known as the hours of service rules, and they are largely aimed at addressing the issue of truck driver fatigue. In our next post, we’ll continue looking at the hours of service rules and the part they can play in truck accident litigation

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