Deadly Ice Storms in the South Raise Question of Trucker Liability

It has been hard to watch the news and avoid references to the deadly ice storms that have swept across the Southern United States this year. From dozens of vehicles piled up in a line to large semis jackknifed across the middle of the freeway, it’s been a deadly winter for drivers.

But does that mean that truck drivers are responsible for causing an accident when their rig jackknifes in the snow? The repeated appearances of these dangerous snow and ice storms have made it difficult, even dangerous, for truckers to be out on the road. But drivers cannot stop moving freight just because of bad weather.

The nation relies heavily on supplies trucked all over the country. Also, truck drivers have rights, especially when it comes to accidents in inclement weather. Let’s take a closer look.

Inclement weather and accidents

There are laws that govern bad weather and motor accidents. For example, you can get a speeding ticket in bad weather, even when you are observing the speed limit. This is because the police have the option to cite you for going too fast in poor weather conditions, and that means you could be liable for reckless driving in a dangerous situation, when you haven’t exceeded the posted limits.

Truck drivers can contribute to accidents by not following the rules of the road under poor driving conditions. These laws go beyond what is merely specified by the rules, however. When people drive too fast in poor driving conditions, even if they stay below the speed limit, they can still be held at fault for any accidents they might cause. This includes truck drivers.

Laws for truck drivers

Each state has specific laws with regard to truck drivers. One law, in fact, requires truck drivers to slow down when driving conditions are hazardous, such as when snow or ice are present. Also according to that law, some commercial truck drivers are required to pull over and wait until the conditions are safe to resume driving.

That means in some weather conditions, a truck driver could legally be required to stop driving. Therefore, if a truck driver is involved in an accident during extreme weather, he or she may be liable for the accident if it is decided that the driver violated that statute.

Who is liable in this case?

While it might be the truck driver who caused the accident, in most cases the trucking company is held liable for any personal injuries that occur. This is especially true of the truck driver is told by the employer to drive in poor weather, regardless of what the law says.

Even if the driver chose to go against employer orders, the employer could still be held liable because it owns the truck and employed the driver who was on the road and caused the accident.

Drivers involved in a road incident, whether in the truck or another vehicle, should always consult an attorney as soon as possible after the crash. Because inclement weather cannot be predicted, and there are special circumstances in every case, the expertise of an attorney can help decide who’s at fault and who should be held liable in the matter.

Anna Johansson
Anna is a freelance writer and researcher from the Olympia, WA area who loves to obsess about weird topics and then write about them. When she isn't writing, she is outside on her bike and comtemplating her eventual trip to graduate school.

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