Common Questions About Truck Accident Claims in Tennessee
It’s normal to have a lot of questions after you or a family member has been seriously hurt in an accident with a commercial truck. Browse the articles below to see some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from truck accident victims in Nashville and the surrounding areas, as well as clear and easy-to-understand answers from our skilled injury attorneys.
- Page 1
Is it true that I cannot sue the driver of a municipal vehicle in Tennessee?
While municipal vehicles such as ambulances, police cars, garbage trucks, and school buses are just as likely to be involved in an accident as passenger cars, state laws make cases against the at-fault driver more complex. Tennessee laws prevent car accident victims from suing individual drivers who are employed by state or city governments. However, the victim can bring a claim against the governing body to cover medical bills and other losses sustained in the crash.
Filing a Crash Lawsuit Against a City or County Government in Tennessee
Drivers of city, county, and state vehicles are protected under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA). The Act allows the governmental entity to be held liable instead of its negligent driver, as long as the driver was an employee of the city or county and was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the crash.
Unfortunately, the GTLA places a number of restrictions on these cases, including:
- Per victim recovery limits. The law limits the amount of compensation for bodily injury or death of any one person in an accident at $300,000.
- Per accident recovery limits. The Act places a total per accident cap of $700,000 for city and county defendants, and a cap of $1,000,000 for accidents caused by state employees.
- Loss of punitive damages. Since the amount that can be recovered in these accidents is limited by law, any amount awarded for punitive damages do not have to be paid (unless the government entity has an insurance policy in place that could cover the additional amount).
- Statute of limitations. Most claims against governments must be brought within one year of the date of injury.
- Loss of jury trial. Most of these cases are decided by a judge rather than a trial by jury.
If you were struck by a municipal vehicle, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Among other things, we can determine whether the driver was a government employee or an outsourced driver—a difference that can have a major impact on your case. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page or request a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.
Are commercial truckers allowed to use cell phones while driving?
When a driver becomes too distracted to pay attention to the potential traffic risks around him, he greatly increases his odds of causing an accident. Cell phones are rapidly becoming the number one distraction for drivers. Unfortunately, the popularity of cell phone use isn’t restricted to sedan and mid-size car drivers. The most worrisome trend is that commercial truck drivers have begun to pick up their phones as well—making them more dangerous on the road—despite federal regulations prohibiting distracting behavior.
Ignoring Regulations Leads to Dangerous Behavior
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recently published specific rules regarding commercial truck and transporters from using cell phones. These rules prohibit interstate truck drivers and drivers who transport hazardous materials from texting or using hand-held mobile devices while their vehicles are in motion. To prevent any confusion, the U.S. Department of Transportation has explicitly defined the words “texting” and “cell phone use” so that truckers can easily tell if they’re violating the rules:
- Texting. The DOT recognizes texting as not only the manual entering of alphanumeric information into an electronic device, but also the reading of information off of a device. Under this definition, the FMCSA regulations prohibit truck drivers from performing actions such as short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, accessing Web pages, or using multi-button communication. In short, if the driver pushes more than a single button on his device to perform any action, he’s guilty of violating the texting regulation.
- Cell phone use. Under the DOT definition, holding or even reaching for a mobile phone with the intent of conducting voice or multi-button communication is considered cell phone use, and is prohibited. The FMCSA regulations allow truckers to use hands-free communication devices, as long as they are located within easy reach of the driver.
In other words, truckers can only use mobile devices if the device is within close proximity, requires a single button push to activate communications, or is totally hands-free.
Risks and Punishment
If caught, violators of these cell phone safety regulations can suffer severe penalties. In addition to legal consequences following an accident, if a commercial truck driver uses an electronic device against the FMCSA rules, he may suffer the following consequences:
- Civil penalties. Violators can be stuck with fines and penalties up to $2,750 for violation of safety regulations.
- Employer civil penalties. If determined that the driver’s employer willfully allowed him to use a cell phone while driving, the employer can be liable for damages.
- Increased risk of damaging safety record. Violators can be awarded the minimum safety measurement rating for a commercial driver, which could lead to the loss of his commercial license.
- Increased risk of causing an accident. Commercial truck drivers who text while driving are 23.2 times more likely to cause an accident than those who do not. Drivers who dial mobile phones while driving have a 20 percent greater chance of causing an accident than those who follow the rules.
- Increased insurance premiums. Violations of safety protocols could drastically increase a driver’s insurance premiums, especially if he caused an accident as a result.
- Increased risk for vehicular manslaughter charges. If the driver’s actions directly caused a fatal collision, in addition to personal injury, wrongful death, and property damage liability, he could also face a manslaughter or vehicular homicide charge.
Making Your Case
Have you recently been the victim of a distracted truck driver? If so, you need help to build and strengthen your case. Contact our office directly to schedule your FREE consultation. We’re waiting to help you better understand and pursue your injury claim. Take it from us, knowing the driver was violating his safety protocols is not the same thing as being able to prove it. Allow us to take that burden from you. Simply click the contact info on this page and see how we can help you get the justice you deserve.
Can multiple parties be held responsible for a truck accident?
When you and your family suffer a devastating truck collision, the first thing you need to worry about is getting the medical care you need. Once everyone’s injuries have been addressed, your next concern should focus on the cause of the accident. After a car accident, these questions can generally be answered one of two ways: You are at fault or the other driver is at fault. However, truck accidents aren’t necessarily that black and white.
Multiple Liability for Truck Accidents
The trucking industry is required to follow strict laws mandated by the federal government. These laws can help determine who should be held responsible for an accident depending on which regulations were ignored. Four possible candidates for liability are the driver, the trucking company, the cargo company, and the truck manufacturer
- Driver. Truck drivers are responsible for following traffic laws, controlling their rigs, and maintaining a level of professionalism at all times. Unfortunately, they also have to worry about deadlines, impatient employers, and efficiency bonuses. As a result, it’s easy for a truck driver to choose speed over caution and reckless behavior over safety. When a driver dismisses protocol and disregards traffic safety, he may be liable for any damages that result from his actions.
- Trucking company. A trucking company may be held liable for a collision if it placed unrealistic expectations on the driver. Federal laws mandate when and how long a driver must rest between shifts. However, when an employer encourages a driver to push through his breaks to meet his deadline, he forces the trucker to drive negligently and places you at risk. Furthermore, a trucking company can be held responsible for hiring inexperienced or dangerous drivers and for failing to maintain trucks in their fleet.
- Cargo company. One of the most common causes of truck accidents is overloaded or poorly loaded cargo. When the cargo in the trailer is unbalanced, the entire truck becomes compromised. In addition to increasing the risk of rollovers and jackknives, unbalanced loads can greatly affect the driver’s ability to control the vehicle, no matter how skilled he is. In these situations, the driver can’t be held liable, as there was nothing he could do to prevent the accident.
- Truck manufacturers. Truck manufacturers have a duty to test components to ensure their safety. If a defective part directly results in the truck’s loss of control, liability can be passed to the manufacturer. Again, since the driver would have no knowledge of the defect, he can’t be blamed for losing control.
Pursuing Your Claim
Need more information about your truck accident liability and claim options? Please feel free to download a complimentary copy of John L. Griffith’s free guide on Tennessee personal injury cases. You’ll not only learn more about your rights and claim options, but you’ll also get a better feel for how GriffithLaw can help you file a persuasive injury claim.
When pursuing a truck accident claim, you’ll need as much help as you can get to ensure a strong and convincing claim. At Griffith Law, we’re here to give you the guidance you need to feel confident and prepared for your claim’s success. We know how frustrating and complicated accident injury claims can be, so let our experience and knowledge work for you. Contact us today at 615-807-7900 for a FREE consultation.