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What are the federal “hours of service” rules and why do they matter to truck accident victims? P.2

In our previous post, we began looking at the federal hours of service rules and provided a brief summary of the rules for property-carrying passengers. As we noted, the primary aim of the hours of service rules is to ensure truckers are adequately rested behind the wheel.

The hours of service rules cannot guarantee truckers are adequately rested on the job, of course, but they make it much more likely than if the industry was left to its own devices. Truckers put in long hours on the road and can easily become a liability when they fail to take adequate rest. Employers in the trucking industry too often put undue pressure on truckers to work longer hours than they are allowed, making compliance difficult. Regardless of the circumstances that lead to a fatigued trucker causing an accident, though, those who are harmed in the accident have the right to receive fair compensation. 

How can the hours of service rules come into play in personal injury litigation, then? In any personal injury case, a plaintiff is required to demonstrate four basic elements: the existence of a legal duty; the breach of that duty by the defendant; that the plaintiff suffered harm; and that the defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s harm. It is critical, therefore, for the plaintiff to clearly demonstrate what the defendant did and what he or she should have done by law.

Violation of federal and state truck safety regulations, when sufficiently proven, can serve as evidence of breath of duty where applicable. The key would be obtaining evidence of the breach. This might include gathering evidence of the trucker’s compliance with hours of service rules, looking at the employer’s history of dealing with hours of service rules and violations, and so on. All of this can be done in the discovery phase of litigation with the help of an experienced advocate

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