Understanding Truck Wrecks in Tennessee

1. What are the responsibilities of truck and bus drivers?

Answer: Truck and bus drivers are required to live up to the same standards and laws as every other driver on the road. In addition to these general rules, there are special safety laws that also cover most commercial drivers.

First, to prevent drivers from driving so long that they become dangerously tired, the law sets maximum hours they are allowed to work before taking a break. Truck drivers cannot drive more than eleven hours in one shift without stopping to take a break. Also, no matter how much time they spend behind the wheel, a truck driver has to stop and take a break within fourteen hours of the time the driver first clocks in to work for a shift. A break has to be ten hours in a row completely off duty. It does not matter if a truck driver works for two or three different companies; to comply with the law, the truck river must take a ten hour break from any and all jobs.

Bus drivers cannot drive more than ten hours in one shift before taking a break. However, bus drivers are only required to be off duty for eight hours between shifts (instead of the ten hours for truck drivers), and can stay on duty for up to fifteen hours from the time they clock in for a shift.

There are also limits on the amount of time a commercial vehicle driver can be on duty in a week, depending on what type of company the driver works for.

In order for police to check whether a driver is complying with the law, truck drivers and bus drivers are required to keep log books detailing, for every fifteen minutes, whether the driver is driving, at work but not behind the wheel, completely off duty, or sleeping in a bed in the back of the vehicle’s cab.

Truck drivers and bus drivers are required to check their vehicles and cargo before and after driving to make sure there are no safety issues, and to keep records of each time they checked and the vehicle’s mileage at the time.

Both truck drivers and bus drivers are legally required to pull over and stop driving if the weather or road conditions become too dangerous.

If a truck or bus driver is involved in an accident and either the driver gets a ticket or someone dies as a result of the accident, the driver is required to promptly take a drug and alcohol test.

As you can see there are numerous rules that apply to those that drive commercial vehicles. It is important to hire a lawyer that has substantial experience in this field to assist you in these cases.

2. What responsibilities do trucking and bus companies have?

Answer: First, generally speaking, trucking and bus companies are responsible for what their drivers, mechanics, and other workers do. If a truck driver negligently causes an accident that hurts or kills someone, the company is typically responsible.

Companies are responsible for performing background checks before hiring drivers. Companies must check with the drivers’ most recent employers to see if the driver has a history of crashes or tickets. Companies also must see that all of their drivers have medical examinations to determine whether the driver has a medical condition that would make them dangerous behind the wheel. (For example, if the driver has a condition that causes him or her to fall asleep unexpectedly, such as narcolepsy, the driver does not belong on the road.) Companies must keep personnel files on their drivers to verify that they performed these checks and did not turn a blind eye to any concerning information in the driver’s past.

Trucking and bus companies are also responsible for seeing that their drivers are not breaking the law by driving more than the maximum number of hours. To do so, companies are required to keep copies of their drivers’ log books.

Companies also must comply with common sense rules, like dispatching drivers with realistic time frames for shipments that will not require the drivers to break the law by speeding or driving more than their maximum hours.

3. What damages are available in a trucking accident claim?

Answer: In a personal injury cases, you can recover monetary damages for past and future medical bills incurred because of the injuries, past and future physical pain and suffering, past and future mental or emotional pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, disability, lost capacity for the enjoyment of life, and disfigurement.

A significant part of many personal injury claims in the recovery of the reasonable medical bills necessarily incurred as a result of the incident. To the extent that the injuries likely require on-going medical bills in the future, those future medical expenses can also be recovered.

Physical pain and suffering is physical discomfort caused by an injury. In the event you suffer an injury that will cause pain in the months and years after a settlement or trial, you can recover damages for that as well.

Mental or emotion pain and suffering includes anguish, distress, fear, humiliation, grief, shame, or worry.

Disfigurement is a permanent injury that impairs a person’s appearance. This includes permanent scars and lost limbs.

Lost capacity for the enjoyment of life compensates the injured person for limitations put on the ability to enjoy the pleasures of life as a result of an injury. This includes the inability to engage in activities you once enjoyed.

Disability is the loss of your ability to do the same physical things that you did before you were injured.

Loss of earning capacity is the loss of your ability to work and earn money. It may be an amount equal to your lost wages as a result of the injuries you received in the incident. If you have suffered permanent injuries that affect your ability to work and earn money, it includes those monies you are likely to lose in the future because of your injuries.

The reason loss of earning capacity may exceed lost wages is because sometimes it can be shown that a person is earning a particular wage only temporarily and will be progressing up the income ladder. For example, if a college student is injured and can never work again, it would be unfair to say that the student’s earning capacity is what he or she was making at a part-time job at McDonald’s. Instead, expert witnesses are employed to demonstrate the likely earnings of the student over his or her work-life expectancy if the injury had not occurred.

4. How much time do I have to file a claim for a wreck with a tractor-trailer or bus?

Answer: In the wreck took place in Tennessee you should assume you only have one year to bring a legal action against the people and companies that caused the wreck unless a competent lawyer with knowledge of all of the circumstances tells you to the contrary.

However, it would be a mistake to wait any significant time to call a lawyer. The insurance and trucking companies often have expert witnesses and lawyers go to the scenes of serious trucking accidents. They are gathering evidence and preparing for a defense, and you need to have a lawyer start doing the same for you. Waiting even thirty days to get legal assistance may mean that valuable evidence is gone and therefore we urge you to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

5. Do cases against truck or bus companies require a lawyer who special expertise?

Answer: Legally, no – any lawyer, even a tax lawyer or a real estate lawyer, may represent you in a trucking or bus case.

Practically, we suggest you want a lawyer who has experience with this type of case. There cases can be very complicated, and you would be advised to hire a lawyer who has substantial experience with this type of case. Our firm regularly handles trucking cases, and in fact John Day’s first jury trial, in June of 1982, was a case against a trucking company and a truck driver. The truck driver was not paying attention to traffic slowing ahead of him and swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid colliding with the vehicles in his lane. Unfortunately, John’s client was coming in the other direction, and was badly hurt in the crash. John assisted his mentor, the late John T. Conners, Jr. in the trial of that case. A jury in the Sixth Circuit Court for Davidson County, Tennessee returned a significant verdict for the client and his wife.  John has continued his work on behalf of truck accident victims for over 25 years.

6. What do I do if I have a case against a truck or bus company?

Answer: You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. It is important that evidence be gathered to determine the validity of the claim. The insurance company for the person or company that caused the death will be working hard to gather that evidence, and you should have a lawyer doing the same.