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Commercial Carriers On the Hook for Distracted Driving Liability

Commercial carriers have the power to set the policies for how and when their drivers may use handheld devices while operating their vehicles. Current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) laws ban texting and the use of handheld cellphones while driving, but some carriers require or allow drivers to continue to text or talk on their handheld cellphones during their driving shifts. Carriers may be held liable for infractions that they inspire or allow to occur.

The FMCSA ban against texting while driving, which was issued in 2010, applies to all commercial bus and truck drivers. In addition, late last year the FMCSA proposed a ban against the use of all handheld cellphones while driving for commercial bus and truck drivers. This ban became effective at the beginning of this year and impacts more than four million commercial drivers, as well as their carriers.

Consequences of Violating the FMCSA Ban

Both drivers and carriers face fines and other penalties for violating FMCSA distracted driving rules.

Commercial drivers who text or talk on their handheld cellphones can face fines up to $2,750 for each offense. If multiple violations occur, drivers may also lose their commercial operator's licenses. Carriers that allow or require their drivers to use handheld cellphones while driving may be fined up to $11,000 for a violation, in addition to any civil damages.

The legal theory of negligence can be applied to drivers and/or carriers to show they are liable for commercial vehicle crashes, and any resulting injuries, due to distracted driving.

To prove negligence, commercial truck accident victims must provide evidence that a driver or carrier had a duty to exercise reasonable care. The victim must also show that the trucker or company failed this duty and that this failure directly caused his or her injuries. According to the legal doctrine of respondeat superior, commercial carriers may be held liable for their drivers' actions if the driver was acting in performance of his or her employment duties and the carrier exercised control over the driver when the crash occurred.

Accountability

Victims of commercial vehicle accidents may hold both drivers and their carriers accountable for crashes caused by texting or handheld cellphone use. Driver cellphone records can be requested and reviewed to prove that a commercial vehicle operator was driving distracted when the collision happened. To show that both the driver and carrier acted negligently, carrier policies that require or allow drivers to text or use handheld cellphones while driving can also be entered as evidence.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial vehicle crash, contact a local personal injury attorney in your area right away. A lawyer with experience investigating and litigating distracted driving cases can help you explore your options.

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