There has been an influx of trucking-related wrongful deaths every time we turn on the news. The most recent being Herma Jervis, 68 of Boynton Beach, Florida. Mrs. Jervis was struck by a delivery truck and run over by it's outer left wheel, according to law enforcement. Because the case is still under investigation, not much else in known about the tragic situation except that Mrs. Jervis was pronounced dead upon her arrival to the hospital. In the coming days, the Shaked Law Blog intends to keep up with this tragedy as it unfolds.
Wrongful deaths such as what happened to Mrs. Jervis are entirely avoidable, caused by a driver who lacks the duty of care to carry out safety precautions according to FMCSA regulations. When FMCSA regulations aren't met, tragedies such as pedestrians being struck by careless operators occur. FMCSA has strict regulations in place for a reason–to keep the public–as well as commercial trucking operators–safe.
Pedestrians, public safety at-risk
FMCSA is the government agency tasked with the responsibility of a wide range of trucking laws. They also enforce the upholding of the regulations for each of those laws. These regulations are in place to increase safety of commercial trucks on the road. Their purpose is to aid in reducing truck-involved accidents by enforcing federal regulations. Most importantly, FMCSA exists to protect the public safety of the other vehicles, drivers, and commuters on the road.
Truck driving is a federally regulated job due to drivers constantly crossing state lines. Drivers must abide by a specific set of regulations laid out for them before they can take the wheel. These regulations span a wide range of subjects; from the number of licenses legally allowed to be acquired, health and fitness requirements that govern safety, and specialized training specific to trucking.
One way motorists often lose their life in trucking-related collisions is due to truck driver fatigue. This epidemic is too common among operators, due to harsh deadlines imposed upon them by their employers. Employers who lack duty of care will disregard the Hours of Service requirements imposed upon drivers by the Department of Transportation if a costly deadline runs the risk of not being met. Even if the lives of others on the road are put at-risk.
Employer liability at a glance
This creates a situation called "employer liability", something the Shaked Law Blog has also published in-depth articles about in the past.
Briefly, there are two general ways that an employer can be held responsible (in legal speak: “liable”) for a trucking accident caused by an operator.
- Negligence caused by the trucking operator; driver fatigue, hit-and-run, improperly secured cargo
- Vicarious liability; this legal theory is in direct relation to the principle of “Respondeat Superior” as discussed in “Commercial Liability in Trucking Accidents: What Drivers Need to Know!”
The legal definition of Vicarious Liability: “Liability that a supervisory party (such as an employer) bears for the actionable conduct of a subordinate or associate (such as an employee) based on the relationship between the two parties.”
This means that the trucking carrier [employer] bears responsibility for any objectionable conduct on the part of the trucking operator [employee] of whom they legally supervise.
Cracking down on collision prevention
However, times change, and new information comes to light. Now the Department of Transportation is coming down hard on Hours of Service regulations.
Truck driver fatigue is deadly; that's why Hours of Service are strongly enforced. The number of trucking accidents has risen dramatically due to truck drivers who think they can just go that extra mile before they stop to rest. This is never acceptable reasoning on the part of the truck driver has resulted in numerous preventable fatalities such as other vehicles and pedestrians being struck and killed when the driver begins to nod of or even falls asleep behind the wheel.
Rules and regulations: in place for a reason
The Shaked Law Blog has published numerous highly regarded articles on Trucking Law and its positive impact on public safety. However, after the death of another pedestrian due to the carelessness of a commercial truck driver right here in South Florida, it's important that we once again detail the specific regulations imposed upon trucking operators.
Newly adopted regulations state [in part], that: "truck drivers can drive a maximum of (11) eleven hours in one work day, after which time they are required to a minimum of (10) ten hours off downtime." Log books are now implemented (and legally required by law) to maintain accurate records of hours spent by drivers physically on the road, driving.
There are other requirements as well, all in place to prevent avoidable accidents such as the death of Herma Jervis. To provide this information to our new readers, we've provided the new regulations below:
- Truck drivers are issued (1) one driver’s license in their home state; this license is issue only after they have completed multiple knowledge and skill exams.
- If the driver is a Hazmat (hazardous material) employee, they are required to undergo addition testing before they are issued a license.
Special training requirements:
- Truck drivers are required to complete and pass specific training every two years; if the requirements aren’t kept up to date or the driver fails to pass the exam, they are then restricted from driving.
- Truck drivers are required to pass a physical exam every (2) two Failing this test can also restrict their ability to drive.
- The physical well-being of the driver is important because health problems can lead to fatigue and loss of consciousness, putting themselves and other drivers on the road at risk for collision.
Alcohol and controlled substance regulations:
- No driver under any circumstances is allowed to report to work with a blood alcohol level of 0.02 or higher.
- Drivers are prohibited from carrying any alcohol with them. The exception to this is if it is a part of the cargo they’re transporting.
- Alcohol or other substances known to affect driving abilities are prohibited in the (8) eight hours before a shift.
For families left behind rules and regulations solve nothing
One thing to remember when reading the stories of wrongful death around the country is that there are human beings behind each and every one. Surviving family members have lost someone they loved dearly due to a senseless tragedy. Mrs. Jervis' death was avoidable. Her family did not have to lose their loved one. Neither did any of the other families whose loved ones have passed away in recent months to the increase in carelessness of truck drivers, even as regulations have gotten more strict, fines and other repercussions higher for those who violate the law.
Each and every family loved the person they lost too soon and no dollar amount can ever replace them. It's tragedies like these that remind Personal Injury attorneys why they chose the specialty. It's about the PEOPLE. A Personal Injury attorney chooses the specialty because they want to provide justice to those who have been injured, and to those families who have to live the rest of their lives without someone close to them.
An experienced attorney strives to remain compassionate but aggressive when necessary. That means they feel empathy for each and every client, and will stand up and fight in the courtroom if it comes down to it, in equal measure. The mark of a great attorney is not only being Board Certified, but representing exactly what "Board Certified" means: maintaining their passion for the law above and beyond that of their non-certified peers.