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Articles Posted in Rules and Regulations

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Accidents are more likely to take place when the weather gets bad. Rain, snow, ice, and other storms increase the likelihood of drivers getting into wrecks which can cause personal injury and property damage. Even if you are a safe driver and understand the importance of going slower, other drivers on the road may not proceed with enough caution. This is when bad things can happen to people who are trying to do the right thing and drive safely.

When inclement weather hits, drivers must proceed safely and take necessary caution behind the wheel. This obligation means more in the context of commercial trucks, 18-wheelers, and tractor-trailers that can weigh 80,000 pounds and inflict serious damage on cars they strike. Obvious precautions include reducing speed and turning on your lights. The failure to act reasonably under the circumstances is a legal concept known as negligence. The law places a responsibility on everyone to act reasonably. Thus, if another driver hit you but it was not your fault, you can hold the at-fault driver responsible for negligent conduct.

Federal truck drivers have additional obligations when operating their vehicles during bad weather. Interstate trucking companies and their drivers must follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The federal trucking regulations specifically discuss periods of bad weather, and steps truck drivers must take when facing these conditions. The rule is contained in Section 392.14 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Specifically, truck drivers must use “extreme caution” when operating a vehicle in “hazardous conditions” which can include:

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Two Memphis intersections have landed on a list of the riskiest roads in the United States. Lyxt, a company providing video telematics, data and analytics for commercial and public sector fleets, released a list of the top 10 intersections with the highest observed driver cell phone use, and two within the Memphis city limits made the list. Lytx provides dash camera technology to commercial trucks and 18-wheeler fleets. In 2018, the company identified over 1.3 million instances of cell phone use within trucks who used the technology.

The two Memphis intersections on the list are Compress Drive and S. Lauderdale Street (area code 38016), and E. Holmes Road and Lamar Avenue (area code 38118). Compress and Lauderdale ranked number 1 on their list of riskiest roads in the United States. This intersection is close to a FedEx Ground Hub, located at 555 Compress Drive, Memphis, TN 38106, meaning lots of commercial vehicles enter this area on a daily basis. Holmes and Lamar ranked number 4 on the list. This section is also known to Memphians as a high-traffic area.

According to Lytx, drivers who use handheld cell phones while behind the wheel are approximately 50% more likely to be involved in an accident compared to drivers who do not. Lyxt’s data appears in line with data collected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): cell phone use and texting while driving significantly increase the odds of a collision. Per federal regulators, the odds of being involved in an accident, unintended lane change, or near-crash are 23.2 times higher for commercial drivers who text while driving. When reading or sending a text, drivers tend to take their eyes off the road for around 4.6 seconds – which can equate to driving the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour.

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One of the main causes of big rig truck and 18-wheeler crashes is driver fatigue. Unfortunately, Tennessee is no stranger to driver fatigue trucking accidents. In June 2019, a man pumping gas in Rutherford County was killed when a semi-truck driver fell asleep at the wheel. The trucker crashed into a pickup truck, hit a diesel tank at a convenient store and flipped over, causing it to catch fire before then hitting two more cars and the victim, who was fueling his vehicle. Tragic accidents like this Murfreesboro truck wreck illustrate the dangers of driving while tired or fatigued.

The National Transportation Safety Board is a federal agency charged with the task of investigating accidents, determining their causes, and making recommendation to improve safety within the transportation industry. The NTSB has estimated that driver fatigue plays a role in nearly 30-40% of commercial truck crashes. Science concludes that tired individuals are more prone to making mistakes. A recent AAA study found that drivers who get even 1 hour less sleep than normal have an increased crash risk. Drivers who only get 4-5 hours of sleep exhibit some of the same risks as one driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of intoxication.

What constitutes driver fatigue, you may ask? A number of conditions can lead to driver fatigue. Common examples include the lack of sleep or driving too long of a shift, which could lead to lower reaction times and lapses in judgment. Since commercial trucks can weigh nearly 80,000 pounds and transport dangerous chemicals, getting proper rest should be of utmost importance. However, some trucking carriers put pressure on their drivers to make as many deliveries as quickly as possible, and the only way to comply with such strict deadlines could mean foregoing sleep and rest breaks.

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If someone else causes you to get hurt or suffer losses, all states, Tennessee included, have laws that allow you to get reimbursed, or “made whole.” These are known as compensatory damages, and they are designed to put you in a place as if the accident never happened in the first place. While most people would prefer to turn back time and never have to be involved in a wreck in the first place, we know that is not possible. That is why financial damages are the recourse, under Tennessee personal injury laws.

In some situations, lawmakers have determined that compensatory damages are not enough. Instead, a plaintiff can obtain a different class of damages that serve a different purpose. These are known as punitive damages, and they are designed to punish the at-fault party for his/her conduct. Punitive damages are important to consider in truck accident cases, especially when injuries are severe and permanent.

Punitive Damages Law in Tennessee

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