Many components of society’s infrastructure carry risk as an inherent quality. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an estimated 38,000 vehicular deaths occurred on roadways in the United States in 2015, and another estimated 4.4 million people were injured in traffic accidents. Despite these figures, society receives great benefit from the use of vehicles on public streets and highways, and these deaths constitute a miniscule fraction of the total number of people who have taken safe passage in vehicles on public roads. The risk is simply assumed by each and every person choosing to ride in a car, truck, bus, or motorcycle.
Commercial vehicles create much greater risk than mere automobiles. Whether through driver error or mechanical failure, the immense size and weight of semi-tractor trailers means huge potential for damage, personal injury, and death. Because of this, the federal government created the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to ensure that the risk posed by trucks is managed and maintained within reasonable levels. Drivers, trucking companies, and the vehicles themselves are held to strict laws and specifications to ensure the safest possible operation of trucks on the road.
At times, these rules can be bent, broken, or forgotten by people, giving rise to risk of accident. When risk of harm to others is either created or ignored, civil claims of negligence can be made. But when does such a claim exist?
Five elements must be proven in an action for negligence: Duty, breach of that duty, cause in fact, proximal cause, and harm. This article will discuss the first two elements, duty and breach of duty, as they apply to the trucking industry. These are the actions, or omissions to act, on the part of people in the trucking industry, that give rise to a suit.
Duty is a standard of care owed by one person to another. It is a way one must act so as not to harm others. In many cases, a duty arises out of a special relationship between people, such as ambulance paramedic and accident victim. A paramedic would, by virtue of holding such a position, have a duty to recognize and treat overt bleeding in responding to an injured subject.
In the absence of a relationship, everyone in society has a duty to neither create nor ignore significant risk of harm to others posed by one’s own activities. Failure to take down a storm-damaged tree on one’s property that is teetering on collapse over a public sidewalk is an example of negligence. The property owner either knew or should have known that the tree could fall, causing property damage, personal injury, or death.
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What Are Some Duties Associated With Trucking?
Commercial truck drivers have a duty to perform an intensive inspection of the truck before and after each day of driving. Potential failure of components must be detected, reported in documents, and fixed by a qualified technician before driving. The driver is the first line of defense against mechanical causes of accidents.
Likewise, trucking companies must execute several duties before putting drivers behind the wheels of their trucks. One example is the duty to train their drivers in working knowledge and safe operating procedures. Another is the duty to test drivers for drug and alcohol use.
Breach of Duty
Breach of duty is simply a failure to execute that duty. Failing to report and fix tires with insufficient tread depth and proceeding to drive on them is one example of negligence on the part of a driver. Tread depth is required for safe operation in wet or snowy weather, and bald tires create risk of excessive skidding upon braking or steering.
Failing to test drivers for drug use and provide them with training are examples of negligence on the part of motor carriers. Neglect of these required procedures creates risk that drivers might be impaired or incompetent, and these conditions cause risk of accident.
Get Knowledgeable Help
Truck drivers and their employers are charged with numerous and strict regulations in the operation of trucks that can be both complex and subtle. Non-compliance with these regulations is often difficult to detect in the ruins of an accident, and requires the skill of a knowledgeable attorney to be brought to light. If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, allow an experienced Kennesaw auto accident attorney to find elusive breaches. Call the Law Offices of Roger Ghai, P.C. for a confidential consultation.