Few disasters come close to the impact of a large 18-wheeler commercial truck. The city of St. Louis in Missouri is all too familiar with such accidents, being the logistics hub that it is. While St. Louis’ logistics capabilities are robust, owing to an efficient inland port system and high-volume rail hubs, the city also sees unfortunately high numbers of truck accidents.
It was even titled the most dangerous US city by WalletHub due to high crime rates, natural disasters, and road accidents. Hundreds of truck accident lawsuits are filed at the district court, but in most cases, they’re complex and a result of negligent conditions.
The size and weight of a commercial truck are enough to turn even a slow-speed crash into a catastrophic one, and the common denominator in these collisions is negligence. In this article, we will discuss how negligence plays a key role in St. Louis truck accidents and the way it is established in court to identify the liable party.
Understanding Negligence in Civil Lawsuits
Negligence in the court of law refers to the failure on the part of the liable party to exercise reasonable care in fulfilling their duties. The negligence may be unintentional or willful, depending upon whether the liable party was aware of the repercussion of their actions or omission thereof.
In St. Louis truck accidents, negligence is the failure on the part of the liable party to fulfill their duty of driving or maintaining a commercial vehicle. A civil lawsuit becomes valid only when it can be proven that negligence led to considerable damage to the affected party. The standard for negligence is established by determining what a reasonable person would have done under similar circumstances.
Types of Negligence in Truck Accidents
Negligence in automobile accidents is not limited to distracted driving or phone gossip. It can take several forms, as discussed below –
1. Poor Weather Conditions
Bad weather is beyond anyone’s control, but commercial truck drivers are expected to drive their vehicles safely under all circumstances. If weather conditions are poor, extra caution is needed, or the trip must be canceled through wise discretion.
The risk of an accident is highest under the following weather conditions –
- Heavy winds or storm
- Heavy Rainfall
Visibility is compromised, and the roads are extremely slippery. Truck drivers need to reduce their speed to drive safely. If they notice the situation getting out of hand mid-commute, the safest option is to stall and get off the road until conditions are better. In case a truck driver continues operating the vehicle despite unsafe weather conditions, any crash that results from such action will make them liable on grounds of negligence.
2. Poor Vehicle Condition
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCA), commercial trucking companies need to ensure their fleets are in top-notch condition so they do not endanger road safety. Truck drivers are instructed to inspect their vehicles at the end of each working day. These include checks for –
- Tire air pressure
- Rotating tires
- Head and tail lights
- Braking systems
It is found that trucking companies choose to forego repairs and replacements (if an issue is detected during routine maintenance checks) because they will need to take the vehicle off the road. All this is done in an attempt to preserve profits and keep the business running. In case an accident is caused due to poor vehicle condition, the company will be held liable.
3. Driver Error
In most commercial truck accidents where the driver is at fault, their negligence is attributed to error or distracted driving. A top factor is lack of proper training and inexperience – driving a massive 18-wheeler is a mammoth task, more so when cargo is loaded onto it.
A commercial truck driver must be adept at gauging space as the vehicle requires more than other automobiles for stopping, turning, and other maneuvers. Sometimes, the driver miscalculates the situation and attempts to rectify an error at the last minute, leading to a collision. In such a case, both the driver and the trucking company will be held liable.
4. Improperly-Loaded Cargo
The FMCA has established strict cargo securement rules which govern the loading, unloading, and proper securement of freight transported on commercial trucks. Following these rules is of utmost importance to prevent cargo tipping and jack-knife accidents.
If too much or too little cargo is loaded onto a truck, the driver may easily lose balance, especially while driving at high speed. Likewise, improperly secured cargo will fall off the vehicle, gradually affecting maneuverability. Incorrect loading, unloading, or cargo securement is also a negligent act which may make the driver and the cargo company liable for the accident.
In a fairer world, commercial truck drivers would not have to suffer from intense fatigue. But, some trucking companies (against the Federal rules for driver rest) overwork their employees to meet tight delivery deadlines and milk profits.
Naturally, after eight to ten hours of non-stop driving, a driver has difficulty concentrating on the road, may feel dizzy, and some even fall asleep at the wheel. This creates a highly dangerous situation, mainly during night hours when visibility is already limited. If the FMCA’s regulations on driver rest and log maintenance are violated, the driver, along with their employer, will be held liable for any accident occurring as a result.
Required Elements to Establish Negligence
To prove the liable party guilty and secure fair financial compensation, a plaintiff must establish negligence in court. This is a complex process best handled by a reliable St. Louis truck accident lawyer familiar with the elements needed to establish negligence. In some cases, an expert investigator may reconstruct the accident scene for critical analysis of the events.
As per Federal law, the liable party’s actions must meet the following criteria to establish negligence in court –
- First, the plaintiff must prove that the liable party had a duty towards avoiding an accident.
- Then, evidence must be presented that this duty should was grossly neglected or willfully omitted.
- The third element involves proving how the liable party’s breach led to the loss of a loved one or the victim’s injuries.
- Finally, the plaintiff must prove that the loss or injuries led to significant damages, either physical or psychological, lost wages, etc.
According to TorHoerman Law, the plaintiff must choose a St. Louis attorney with relevant experience, reliable resources for truck accidents, a proven track record of handling complex cases, and a straightforward fee structure to secure fair settlements without trial hassles. An expert attorney will ensure all elements of negligence are present in the case, along with solid causation based on factors that influenced the collision.
Is There a Single Liable Party?
The primary reason why a truck accident is considered to be complex is because there is seldom one party to blame. The truck driver is undoubtedly the first one to come under the legal radar, but there may be more than one liable party based on the accident’s causation and circumstantial evidence –
- The trucking company owning the vehicle or the employer
- The manufacturer of the truck and its parts
- Vendors who provide services to the carrier
- The cargo company responsible for loading and unloading
- The contractors or local government authorities behind the interstate design or its maintenance
The FMCA lays down certain rigid guidelines for a commercial truck driver’s license. These surround the employer’s responsibilities, licensing and testing procedures, penalties and disqualifications, and specialized training.
Such laws are binding across all US states, which means St. Louis truck drivers and trucking companies must also oblige. If they fail to do so, accidents become inevitable, and the liable parties will be held accountable for their negligence.
Plaintiffs (especially those severely injured) can find it difficult to deal with the legal system and insurance companies during their trying times. A reliable attorney will stand by their side, ensuring they receive fair compensation for their damages.