Unqualified Truck Drivers
Large trucks are generally more difficult to operate than your average motor vehicle, so the law requires truck drivers to undergo rigorous training, testing, and requalification procedures before getting behind the wheel.
If you suffer injuries in a truck accident caused by an unqualified truck driver, it is important to seek the help of a truck accident lawyer to pursue legal action against them. Unqualified truck drivers still manage to make it onto the road, posing a serious hazard to everyone around them.
Why Are Trucks so Dangerous?
We all rely on commercial trucks to deliver goods, supplies, mail, fuel, and other products we depend on. However, these trucks present a real danger to the people and vehicles they share the road with.
Trucks pose such risks because of their:
- Size: Trucks are physically much larger than passenger cars, making them more difficult to maneuver and more likely to cause serious damage in an accident.
- Weight: Especially when fully loaded, trucks outweigh the vehicles around them, often by many thousands of pounds. This extra weight can turn the truck into a deadly weapon if the driver loses control.
- Time spent on the road: Many truck drivers work long hours, which can lead to exhaustion or burnout and increase the chances of a truck accident occurring. Long hours on the road also put more wear and tear on the truck itself.
- Cargo: Some trucks carry dangerous substances, like oil or hazardous chemicals. While these trucks are designed to transport such substances safely, an accident could endanger people’s lives. Even objects not classified as harmful, like small or medium-sized packages, can cause harm if they fall out of the truck and hit a vehicle.
Drivers and trucking companies can mitigate these risks by ensuring that drivers have plenty of chances to take breaks, keeping the trucks in good condition, and only allowing qualified drivers to work.
If the driver, trucking company, or any other involved party fails to take such precautions, anyone they injure may have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against them and recover financial compensation.
What Qualifications Do Truck Drivers Need?
Anyone who wishes to drive a truck must obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), which requires:
- Undergoing a medical examination to show you are fit to drive
- Proving you are a legal resident of the state where you will obtain the license
- Obtaining a learner’s permit so you can practice on the road
- Completing all training and passing all tests required by your state
Truck driver regulations differ slightly depending on what type of cargo they carry.
FMCSA states that drivers who intend to carry passengers must:
- Have a satisfactory driving record for at least the past three years
- Undergo annual reviews and recertification
- Get a “clean bill of health” from a qualified medical examiner (in other words, the driver does not have a condition that could impair their ability to drive safely for long periods)
- Have a satisfactory grade on a road test
In addition to these federal rules, each state has its own set of regulations about how much a truck can carry, what types of trucks can transport cargo across state lines, and how trucking companies must treat their drivers. Ignoring these laws could result in a truck accident that robs survivors of their good health, their vehicle, and/or their ability to support their families.
What Might Disqualify Someone From Becoming a Truck Driver?
Truck drivers may be deemed unqualified if they violate any one of the requirements listed above.
According to FMSCA, the most common truck driver qualification issues include:
- Having insufficient English language skills
- Missing paperwork in the driver’s file
- Driving with a suspended or inappropriate license
- Having an expired medical license or failing to carry a current medical license in the vehicle
A truck driver could also be unqualified if their employer failed to train them properly. For example, the driver may have a license to drive the truck, but they do not have the special endorsement required to carry the cargo currently in that truck (such as hazardous materials or passengers).
Finally, even if a truck driver has all the proper certificates and licenses, they may lack the qualifications to drive on a particular day if they have:
- Drank alcohol
- Took any drug (legal or illegal) that affects their perception, judgment, or reaction time
- Did not take a break or sleep in a long time
Why Do Unqualified Drivers Still Drive?
In some cases, the disqualification may result from a simple misunderstanding: the driver may have genuinely believed their credentials were valid, or they took all the steps to update those credentials and did not realize something went wrong.
Other times, the disqualification stems from something more sinister.
- The truck driver’s employer pushed them to work or threatened to fire them if they did not continue driving, regardless of their qualifications
- The truck driver’s judgment was impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a medical condition that should have precluded them from getting a CDL
- The truck driver and/or their employer deliberately misled others into thinking they were qualified in order to save time and money
These situations are the most dangerous for other people on the road, as they involve truck drivers who truly do not belong behind the wheel.
How Common Are Truck Accidents?
Recent statistics from the FMCSA show that accidents involving large trucks and buses have declined. However, these accidents still occur thousands of times every year.
Some common types of truck accidents include:
- Jackknife accidents: When a large truck loses control, the cab (where the driver sits) may move in a different direction from the truck bed or cargo.
- T-bone accidents: T-bone accidents occur when one vehicle plows directly into another from the side. If a truck hits you in this way, the entire side of your vehicle could cave in.
- Sideswipe accidents: Due to their large size, a truck does not have to hit a vehicle head-on to do serious damage. Simply swerving out of its lane far enough to bump or scrape a parallel vehicle can injure others.
- Single-vehicle accidents: A truck accident can hurt others even if the truck does not directly hit another vehicle. For instance, it may spill cargo into the roadway, or the truck itself may topple over and block traffic.
- Multi-vehicle accidents: Due to the truck’s large size, it could end up hitting several other vehicles if it goes out of control. In addition, if a truck blocks the road, other vehicles could hit each other as they scramble to stop in time.
These and other types of truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries, such as:
- Spine and back injuries
- Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Broken bones
- Mental trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Nerve and tissue damage
How to Get Truck Accident Compensation
You can hire a truck accident attorney to figure out whose insurance you should seek damages from.
An attorney can also:
- Review your car insurance policy to determine what it covers
- Help you file a claim with your own insurer
- Send a demand letter to the liable party’s insurer, asking them to pay a fair settlement amount for the injuries their client inflicted
- Speak to any adjusters or other insurance company representatives who contact you for additional evidence or information
Your ability to collect fair truck accident compensation could determine what medical treatments you can afford if you can continue to support your family, and how you can hold the truck driver responsible for their actions. For these reasons, you should seriously consider hiring a truck accident attorney after a crash.
Why Else Should I Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?
A truck accident lawyer can protect your rights if an unqualified truck driver hits you. They can also:
Investigate the Crash
It is very unlikely that you will know every detail of your accident the moment it happens. Even if you took steps to collect evidence afterward—for instance, you took photos of your damaged car or got the truck driver’s insurance information there is probably still a great deal about the incident you do not know.
A personal injury attorney can help build your case against an unqualified truck driver by:
- Speaking with everyone involved in the accident, including you, the truck driver, the trucking company, and eyewitnesses
- Requesting copies of the truck driver’s records and the trucking company’s records
- Collecting photo and video evidence from as many sources as possible so they can see the accident and its consequences for themselves
- Requesting copies of your medical records to confirm how badly you were injured
- Requesting copies of the police report to get a clearer picture of everyone’s actions before, during, and after the collision
If your lawyer finds the driver was not unqualified or in any way responsible for the accident, you may still have a case against the cargo loading company, the truck maintenance team, or someone else.
Calculate Your Compensation
The injuries inflicted by an unqualified driver could entitle you to monetary compensation for:
- Physical pain
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of consortium
- Reduced quality of life
- Disabling injuries
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future loss of wages
- Loss of employment opportunities
- Property damage (especially damage to your car)
To ensure that you get the appropriate amount of compensation and do not inadvertently shortchange yourself, your lawyer can examine all the evidence and calculate how much you should ask for in your lawsuit.
Fight for Compensation
Should you sue the truck driver for damages, or should you sue their employer instead? Is the liable party open to negotiating a pre-trial settlement, or will you have to take your case to court?
The answers to these questions could determine your case’s future including whether or not you get compensation.
Your lawyer can:
- Fight for you and negotiate hard if the insurance company tries to deny you fair compensation
- Stand up for you in court by delivering oral arguments, presenting evidence and testimony, and more
- Make sure that no one tries to violate your rights as you lawfully pursue damages
Is a Truck Accident Attorney Worth It?
In the end, only you can decide if you should hire a truck accident lawyer. Before you decide, however, you can speak to a law firm to learn more about your case and your rights.
You could do this by:
- Searching law firm websites for case results and testimonials
- Contacting firms that offer free consultations and asking them to evaluate your case
- Scheduling a visit with a firm you like to meet the team in person and ask questions
You should certainly ask prospective law firms about their legal costs, including when and how they want you to pay them.
Weigh the legal costs against:
- How much compensation do you expect to receive
- The amount of work you would have to do to seek that compensation without a lawyer’s help
- Your lack of experience with lawsuits versus the amount of experience the liable party’s insurance company probably has
You Can Get Help After an Accident With an Unqualified Truck Driver
Truck accident lawyers help keep this nation and everyone in it safe from unqualified truck drivers by investigating truck accidents and fighting for fair compensation for accident victims.
If an unqualified truck driver harmed you, an attorney can help you seek the compensation you deserve.