Commercial Trucking Laws & Accident Liability

Truck Driver Charged After Fatal I-70 Crash In Columbus

On May 8, a Columbus truck accident took the lives of two Ohio women. Each victim was in her vehicle on Interstate 70, waiting out a traffic jam, when a semi truck barreled into them from behind. Franklin County prosecutors recently filed charges against the negligent truck driver.

The trucker, a 42-year-old Chicago man, faces misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges for causing the deaths of a 71-year-old Beavercreek woman and a 48-year-old London woman.

While the fatal rear-end collisions were unintentional, Columbus officials feel the need to prosecute because preventable interstate truck accidents have been a serious problem in Ohio.

In 2012, 137 people died in Ohio truck crashes and another 3,411 were injured. Ohio Department of Public Safety statistics also reveal that the truck driver was at fault approximately 53 percent of the time in truck accidents resulting in injuries.

Commercial motorists are professionals: They are trained and compensated to drive safely, responsibly and courteously. The size and weight of tractor-trailers present serious danger to other motorists; when a trucker fails to uphold his or her duty to drive cautiously, the risk of serious injury or wrongful death is high.

Because commercial driver negligence often has fatal consequences, truck companies and their employees must comply with a variety of laws.

Commercial Trucking Laws

When someone wants to become a commercial driver in Ohio, they must satisfy criteria designed to promote traffic safety. People with particular health conditions or those who take certain medications are not eligible for a commercial driver's license (CDL). People who have repeat convictions for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI) forfeit their rights to a CDL.

In addition to the aforementioned rules, commercial drivers must follow hours-of-service (HOS) laws. These laws put rigid time restrictions on the number of hours a truck driver can work in a single shift, as well as capping the number of driving hours over a period of consecutive days. HOS restrictions are in place to promote commercial drivers who are well-rested and alert. Drivers and companies that falsify logbooks face serious penalties.

The law also controls the weight, volume and nature of cargo a tractor may haul. Improperly balanced loads can be deadly, causing drivers to lose control of their rigs when they could have otherwise avoided an accident. The danger also increases when weather conditions are poor or when the semi truck is hauling hazardous material such as fuel.

Who Is Liable After A Truck Accident?

When a commercial driver causes an accident, a variety of parties may be at fault. To receive total compensation for an injury, a plaintiff must typically name the commercial driver's employer and insurer in a lawsuit. The trucking company can often be held liable for its employees' negligence through the theory of vicarious liability.

Further, the truck company or a third party may also bear direct blame for the crash. Perhaps negligent maintenance of the vehicle caused the accident or the trailer was overloaded. Maybe another motor vehicle caused or contributed to the crash.

An experienced attorney can help you sort through these complicated legal issues. A lawyer can also help collect and preserve evidence that may prove valuable in winning you maximum compensation.

Ohio has strict time limits for bringing a personal injury or wrongful death claim, known as the statute of limitations, so act swiftly to avoid waiving your rights to money damages.

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