Taking the Confusion Out of Common Injury and Estate Planning Worries: Answers to Your Frequent Questions
The most important job for any attorney is making sure that his client understands every aspect of her case. Although some lawyers are comfortable keeping their clients in the dark, we feel that you deserve more. You deserve to have all of your questions and concerns addressed in order to pursue your own case confidently and successfully. This is why we take the initiative to answer common questions that you may have even before you even step into our office. If you don't see your question answered below, please contact our office at 855-522-5291.
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What is a commercial driver’s license and why is it important in a truck crash case?
Drivers need special skills and comprehensive training to operate commercial vehicles. For this reason, it is illegal to drive a tractor-trailer, school bus, or other large vehicle without a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). If a trucker is involved in a car accident and does not have a CDL, the driver’s employer can be held financially liable for penalties as well as the costs of the crash.
Employers Share Liability for Drivers Without a Commercial Driver’s License
Fault for a truck accident can fall on the truck driver, but also on the employer who failed in its responsibility to hire a safe, qualified driver. These duties include ensuring that drivers pass written and practical CDL skills tests, maintain their licenses, and do not drive on revoked or suspended licenses. If they fail to carry out their duties, employers can shoulder some, or all, of the financial burden of an accident.
Trucking companies have a duty to ensure that their drivers have met all CDL requirements, including:
- Proper classification. There are different kinds of CDLs depending on the type of vehicle driven as well as the type and location of travel. The 3 classes of CDLs have specialized qualifications depending on the weight of the vehicle (such as for driving tractor-trailers or tankers) and number of passengers (such as for operating school buses). If a driver involved in a crash has the wrong type of CDL, the employer may be held liable.
- Endorsements and restrictions. If companies require a driver to carry hazardous materials or oversized loads, the company is required to obtain the correct permits and driving endorsements for these journeys.
- Interstate travel. Federal law requires that CDL drivers must be 21 years or older in order to cross state lines, and must be 18 years or older to drive commercial vehicles within state lines. Employers must not allow underage truck drivers to perform journeys between multiple states.
- Driving safely and legally. Trucking companies have a responsibility to perform adequate pre-employment testing, including skills tests and screening for controlled substances. Drivers can lose a CDL indefinitely for using drugs or alcohol behind the wheel, and the trucking company can face action for allowing a driver who failed a drug test to stay on the active driving schedule.
- Hours of service records. Fatigued driving is a major cause of truck crashes, and drivers must be trained on hours of service rules and maintain logbooks that record hours driven. Companies that encourage the falsification of logbooks can face federal criminal charges and penalties.
Our attorneys represent individuals throughout Illinois and Missouri who have suffered serious personal injuries, including those caused by commercial trucks. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment for a free consultation, or download your FREE copy of one of our books, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!
How much does a truck accident lawyer cost?
Most people who have been struck by a semi-truck do not have the financial resources to pay a lawyer who charges by the hour, and cannot take the risk of losing the money invested in a legal case. For this reason, the vast majority of attorneys charge on a contingency fee basis for all personal injury cases. This allows victims to get the legal representation they need without paying any costs up front. If the attorney does not win the case, the victim does not have to pay any fees at all—and if the case is successful, the attorney will take a portion of the victim’s recovery as payment.
Estimating the Costs of a Truck Accident Attorney
In Illinois and Missouri, there are no limits on the percentage allowed as a contingency fee in personal injury cases, as long as the fee is considered “reasonable.” However, lawyers and clients must agree on a percentage and sign a written fee agreement in contingency fee cases before the attorney begins working on the case.
The amount your attorney charges will depend on the specific factors of your case, including:
- Expenses. Most personal injury lawyers will pay for expenses incurred throughout the case, such as court costs, accident scene investigation, hiring expert witnesses, travel expenses, mail and copying costs, and creation of court exhibits. These are usually paid back to the attorney after the case has been resolved.
- Effort. Tractor-trailer accidents can be extremely complex, involving the intersection of state and federal laws and the interpretation of trucking company regulations. This can require a lot of a law firm’s time and effort—and the more time devoted to the case, the higher the percentage an attorney may charge.
- Trial or settlement. Court cases can take much longer to resolve than cases that settle in negotiation. Law firms may include a stipulation in the fee agreement that allows them to collect a different amount based on whether the case settles or proceeds to trial.
Our attorneys have successfully represented individuals throughout Illinois and Missouri who have suffered serious personal injuries. We listen to your concerns and provide clear options for your next steps, giving you the personal attention you need throughout your case. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment for a free consultation, or download your FREE copy of one of our books, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!
Are there laws preventing commercial truckers from driving distracted?
Commercial truck drivers are not just expected to make their deliveries on time, they also have to complete a variety of non-driving activities to remain compliant with the law. Unfortunately, attempting to complete these actions while driving is a common form of distraction—especially if they involve cell phones or smartphones. Truckers may also attempt to pass the long hours behind the wheel by talking or texting, increasing the risk of an accident.
Laws Restricting Cell Phone Use for Commercial Truckers
Texting and talking on cell phones are a major source of distraction for drivers, including those hauling two-ton trailers. A truck driver who takes his eyes off the road for three seconds may not be able to stop to avoid a hazard, potentially leading to injuries and deaths to the passengers of smaller cars.
There are several laws in place that restrict cell phone use for truck drivers, including:
- Federal laws. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has banned texting and driving for operators of commercial motor vehicles (CMV). The law covers a variety of distracting behaviors that require “manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device.” A trucker who is caught dialing a cell phone, entering text, reading messages, or even reaching for a phone can face a fine of up to $2,750 and suspension of his or her commercial driving license (CDL).
- Illinois laws. Illinois law prohibits drivers of both commercial and passenger vehicles from reading, writing, or sending text messages from behind the wheel when the vehicle is in motion. Commercial vehicle drivers are only permitted to talk on the phone if they are using an acceptable hands-free device. If commercial drivers are caught breaking this law, they may be ordered to pay a penalty fee of up to $2,750. If a distracted driving crash results in great bodily harm, disfigurement, or permanent disability, then the driver can be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. However, if the accident results in the death of one or more victims, a driver can be convicted of a Class 4 felony and face a fine of up to $25,000 and between one and three years in prison.
- Missouri laws. Using a cell phone while driving is only illegal for Missouri bus drivers and drivers under the age of 21. However, commercial truckers are still bound by FMCSA laws restricting cell phone use even in states where electronic devices are permitted.
Even if the trucker’s specific actions were not illegal under state or federal laws, there are many driver distractions that can be seen as negligence. If the trucker was reading a paper map, typing directions into a navigation system, or watching a video on a portable device while driving, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and loss of income. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment for a free consultation, or download your FREE copy of one of our books, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases, or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!