Truckers and trucking companies are held to a higher standard to keep innocent motorists safe. Because they operate the deadliest machines on our roads, truckers and trucking companies aren’t just bound by the ordinary “rules of the road” like doing the speed limit. The law expects more from them, as required by federal trucking safety regulations. Commercial trucking accident victims who prove violations caused their crashes can qualify for punitive damages. Here’s how it works.
The Legal Basis for Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are rare. Generally, punitive damages punish reckless conduct. That doesn’t mean intentional. Our courts describe it as conscious indifference or reckless disregard for the safety of others. One way to prove recklessness is to show the trucker or trucking company violated a safety regulation in causing a semi-trailer crash.
The Higher Standard in Trucking Accident Cases: Federal Safety Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act governs safe operation of tractor trailers. These federal regulations carry the force of law. I’ve written extensively about some of their most important conditions like:
- Limiting the number of hours truckers can drive to protect us from overworked truckers
- Requiring big rig pre-trip safety inspections in order to save lives
These are just a couple of the regulations truckers and trucking companies must comply with to keep us safe. When you prove a violation caused a crash, you open the door to a potential punitive damages award. In certain cases, such as faulty equipment on an 18-wheeler, both the trucker and the trucking company can be held accountable for the same violation.
It Won’t Be Easy
While the safety regulations create more possibilities for additional compensation, you’ve got to know how to use them.
- First, you need to know the regulations.
- Second, you’ve got to know how to prove a violation. That requires knowing where to look and what you’re looking for.
- Third, you’ve got to know how to ask for the evidence you’re looking for.
- Fourth, to evaluate the amount of punitive damages you can get, you've got to be able to use the 12 factors South Carolina law gives for setting the amount of punitive damages.
- Fifth, you also need to know if you can prove the limits on punitive damages under South Carolina law don't apply.
That’s just one reason why you need an experienced trucking accident attorney. The top reason is, the trucker and trucking company may already have one or more attorneys working against you, sometimes within moments of the crash. For you, there’s no time to waste.Plus these regulations are so complicated- and so important to your case- a wise attorney may consider hiring a tractor-trailer safety expert to help. Trust me—
For more information, check out our FREE REPORT on crash cases, which contains an entire chapter on tractor-trailer accidents. And if you’ve got questions about a commercial truck wreck, get answers now by starting a live chat or filling out our Get Help Now form at the top of the page. You’ll get a response from an experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney. If your need is more urgent, you can always call us toll free at 888-230-1841.