Laws Regarding Truck Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) are designed to make sure that companies and their drivers operate trucks safely on the same roadways shared by passenger vehicles. They dictate driver training and performance, limit driving time, and specify the type and frequency of safety inspections required for trucks and trailers. The FMCSR can’t stop all accidents from occurring, but they can reduce the number of them.
All states, including Nebraska and Iowa, incorporate the FMCSR in their own regulations. They also have specific regulations about driver licensing and vehicle safety and compliance measures.
States also limit the time an injury victim has to settle a personal injury claim or file a civil lawsuit in court. That time limit is commonly referred to as the “statute of limitations.” In Nebraska, the statute of limitations is four years from the date of the crash, but if the negligent party is a government entity, the limit is only two years. The statute of limitations in Iowa is two years in all cases. In both states, if the victim is a minor at the time of the injury, the length of time to settle a claim or file a lawsuit is extended.
There is also a statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims should the victim die. In both states, the limit is two years from the date of their death, which may be later than the date of the crash if your loved one died later from their injuries.
Potentially Liable Parties
Obviously, the driver of the truck that caused the crash can be held liable for their actions or their failure to act. Drivers do not merely operate a truck but are responsible for conducting routine safety checks as well. They owe everyone else on the roadway a duty of care.
The trucking company that employs the driver is as liable as the driver and is required to carry liability insurance policies with significant policy limits that indemnify the company and anyone acting in its agency, including the driver. Companies are responsible for the training, performance review, scheduling, compliance, and acts of their employees.
If the crash happened due to a parts malfunction on the truck or trailer, the manufacturer may be held liable. So can those who failed to perform adequate maintenance and repairs on the truck and trailers, and those who loaded the truck if unsecured or unbalanced cargo contributed to the crash.
The operators of passenger vehicles may also share some fault for a crash. Failing to signal, using a mobile device, following too closely, hovering in a truck’s blind spot, or driving too fast may contribute to the crash.
Finally, road conditions may affect liability. Weather, signage, and road maintenance may contribute to circumstances that cause an accident.
Filing a Claim
If you were injured in a crash involving a commercial motor vehicle, you can file a claim for medical payment benefits on your own auto insurance policy to help pay your immediate medical bills. So long as you are not more than 50% at fault for the accident, you can file a claim.
If your spouse or family member has been incapacitated by injuries sustained in a truck-involved crash, a personal injury claim can be filed by the person designated as a durable power of attorney or the court can appoint a guardian to file a claim on behalf of the incapacitated victim.
The personal representative of the estate of a crash victim who dies may file a wrongful death action in Nebraska and in Iowa. If the victim did not have a will at the time of their death, the court will appoint a personal representative for the estate. Any financial recovery garnered by the wrongful death action will be awarded to the estate for the benefit of its heirs.
Under any circumstances, you should consult with an experienced truck accident attorney right away.
Why You Need Legal Representation
One of the most critical parts of pursuing a bodily injury or wrongful death claim in an accident involving a truck is the crash investigation. Vehicle and equipment inspections, obtaining documents related to driver training, time on the road, performance record, and preservation of all relevant evidence must be carried out without delay. Your attorney can work to ensure these things are done.
You also need to hire a personal injury or wrongful death attorney experienced with trucking cases. Your attorney must know the FMCSR and state regulations inside and out to establish liability and substantiate your claim.