A transportation attorney provides counsel and strategic planning in all segments of the transportation industry. Representative industry clients may include motor carriers; the passenger, air, water and rail transportation segments of the transportation and logistics industries; and third-party logistics providers. More specifically, potential clients include private fleets, commercial vessels, airlines (both passenger and commercial), couriers, package, truckload, less-than-truckload, liquid and dry bulk carriers, public transit authorities and the barge and shipping industries. In addition to the direct suppliers, potential transportation clients include the users of such services; i.e., industry insurers, transportation brokers, freight forwarders and the like.
Transportation law attorneys must be prepared to provide solutions and legal advice in many areas including:
• cargo claims
• civil litigation
• compliance issues with existing federal and state laws
• emergency response and crisis management
• environmental law
• general corporate matters
• independent contractor issues
• insurance coverage
• labor and employment law
• liability defense
• mergers, acquisitions and corporate structuring
• monitoring of proposed and pending legislation
• personal injury and property damage claims
• real estate transactions
• risk management
• transportation and logistics contracts
• workers’ compensation
Regardless of a transportation company’s vigilance, there is always the potential for a crisis situation in the industry. Transportation law attorneys must be prepared to provide emergency response and crisis management services for their clients, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether the circumstance involves a significant accident, fire, explosion or chemical release, the first hours after such an event are critical from a liability management standpoint. Transportation attorneys work with their clients at every step to address the issues that may arise as a result of industrial accidents, personal injuries or other catastrophes. An experienced transportation lawyer will be able to provide representation at both the state and federal court levels and is experienced in all of the issues related to the challenges of delivering, transporting and receiving commercial goods in intrastate, interstate and foreign commerce.
Transportation law is a broad legal field encompassing federal and state transportation statutes. These laws involve transportation infrastructure and all forms of road, railway, water and air transport.
Transportation law may apply to:
• Surface vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, buses and bicycles
• Aircraft, including planes, helicopters and drones
• Watercraft, including boats, ships and freighters
• Railroad systems, including trains and subways
• Infrastructure, including roads, bridges, railways, airports, shipping ports and trails
Federal Transportation Law
Congress is authorized to regulate interstate commerce under the U.S. Constitution. This means that travel between the states is subject to several federal laws and regulations. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is the umbrella agency for all federal transportation policies and regulations. The DOT’s stated goals are to keep the traveling public safe, increase national mobility, and support the national economy through the transportation system. The DOT oversees several agencies that administer federal statutes for various branches of transportation, including:
• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is responsible for motor vehicle and highway transportation safety standards and regulations
• The Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for airport, air traffic and aircraft regulation
• The Federal Highway Administration, which is responsible for laws pertaining to commercial freight and the maintenance and preservation of interstate highways, tunnels and bridges
• The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is responsible for safety regulation laws for large commercial vehicles
• The Federal Railroad Administration, which is responsible for regulating the safety and development of the U.S. railroad system
• The Federal Transit Administration, which provides financial and technical assistance to local public transportation systems
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency that provides certain safety guidelines and investigates mass transit accidents, such as plane and train crashes. The agency works on major investigations throughout the U.S. and abroad. The NTSB wants information from board investigations to improve transportation safety. That’s why NTSB findings of an accident (like fault or probable cause) generally cannot be used as evidence in court.
State Transportation Law
States have the authority to regulate transportation within their boundaries. They use their respective departments of motor vehicles to regulate everyday driving rules. While all states share basic driving rules, such as driving on the right side of the road, there are other differences like:
• speed limits,
• certain safety equipment requirements,
• insurance minimums,
• private and commercial vehicle registration regulations.
How Federal and State Transportation Law Impacts Utahans
Federal transportation laws keep Uthanans travelers safe and the transportation system moving. Federal standards in seat belts and air bags help protect drivers and occupants in passenger vehicles. When Federal laws also regulate the safety features of passenger trains. They also dictate the amount of rest time commercial truck drivers are required to take each day. Meanwhile, state laws regulate things like the speeds of private and commercial road traffic, private and commercial vehicle registration and the insurance minimums required for various vehicles.
When You Need a Transportation Attorney
The regulation of who may transport through the air, sea or on land is a separate issue that often necessitates an attorney. How licenses are granted or revoked, for instance, is a common issue. Who do you turn to if your pilot’s license is in jeopardy? What to do if your railroad or trucking access is at stake in a federal hearing? How about if criminal charges come to bear after a transportation law incident? These are all instances when you would want to consult with legal counsel. Therefore, when faced with a legal issue where transportation law applies, you should consult an attorney familiar with these special laws and rules rather than simply hiring a personal injury attorney. Additionally, transportation attorney should be familiar with the many industry-specific laws and regulations that may apply. For all these reasons, be sure to contact a Transportation Law Attorney to better protect your rights in any legal or procedural setting.
Federal Regulation Of Trucking Companies
Truck drivers and trucking companies are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). The main regulations (FMCSR sections) which are important in many 18 wheeler lawsuits are:
• Qualification of drivers – drivers must comply with this rule to be considered fit to drive commercial vehicles
• Driving of vehicles – this rule covers pre-trip and post-trip inspections, the physical condition of the driver, etc.
• Equipment – this rule covers vehicle condition and required safety equipment such as brakes, lighting and warning reflectors
• Driving time – this rule outlines the maximum “on-duty” and driving hours a driver can log over a given period of time
The complete Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations can be found at www.fmcsa.dot.gov. With few exceptions, these rules apply to drivers and motor carrier companies which travel from state to state (“interstate” trucking companies). Many states including Utah have adopted these rules (with certain exceptions) to apply to the operation of commercial trucks within Utah (“intra-state” motor carrier companies).
What Are The Most Common Causes Of Truck Accidents?
Many eighteen-wheeler truck accidents are avoidable. Although some accidents may be caused by equipment failure, many are caused by truck driver error. Poor planning, distraction and delayed reaction times by drivers can maim or kill other innocent drivers. Alcohol use, improper prescription drug use, illegal drug use, sleep deprivation, and distraction by using a cellular phone, computer or radio while driving can all lead to accidents. Trucking company employee files, truck driver medical files, cellular phone and email records, driver log books and information from witnesses can help determine if driver error caused a truck wreck.
While the average passenger vehicle weighs 3,000 pounds, 18 wheeler trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. This fact places a special burden on big rig drivers to maintain control of their vehicle at all times and make safety their number one priority. Unfortunately, the pressure on a driver to haul his load as far and as fast as possible may lead him to exceed the posted speed limit, or drive faster than is safe under certain traffic, road and weather conditions. A tractor-trailer driver has the advantage of sitting high up, allowing a greater view than a typical passenger car of any potential traffic and road hazards ahead of the truck. However, as a rule of thumb it takes a semi-truck about one third longer to stop than a car or pickup truck. This makes driver reaction time and the speed of the commercial vehicle critically important. Add driver distraction to excessive speed and the result can be tragic. Rear end collisions, rollovers and jackknife accidents are often caused by excessive speed. Many commercial trucks today have an event data recorder or “black box” with a computer that saves data including speed of the truck prior to the crash.
Insurance Coverage For Truck Wrecks
Because of the potential for serious injury and death, commercial trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds are subject to regulation under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are required to carry a minimum of $750,000 in insurance coverage. Many carriers choose to purchase a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance and many carriers with multiple trucks will carry an even larger “umbrella” insurance policy. Trucking companies that carry commercial passengers are required to carry greater amounts of insurance. Truckers that carry hazardous materials must have one million or five million dollars in insurance coverage depending on the type of material carried. Lawyers and investigators for the truck company’s insurance company will begin gathering evidence immediately after an accident to protect their financial interest by shifting the blame for the crash onto some other person, including the victim. Insurance coverage issues in a commercial truck accident case can be complicated. To protect your rights and strengthen your claim, you need an attorney to begin gathering evidence favorable to your case as soon after the wreck as possible. An attorney can help insure that all available insurance is pursued to help you receive the largest recovery for your claim.
How Do Insurance Companies And Adjusters Operate?
Usually, after an accident, while you are receiving treatment for your injuries, the party at fault in the accident will notify their insurance company. You also may contact your own insurance company in order to take advantage of any coverage they will need to provide, including the uninsured motorist protection (UM/UIM) and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage mentioned previously. The adjusters and investigators for the insurance company have lots of experience and they understand the importance of immediately investigating and processing accident claims. Understand that the other person’s insurance company has no obligation to inform you of your legal rights. All insurance companies employ very experienced adjusters and defense attorneys, who sole responsibility is to protect the financial interests of the insurance company. Insurance companies are mainly in business to make money, not to pay claims. The less they pay out in accident claims, the greater their profit.
What to Do When You Have Been in an Accident
First, do not let anyone pressure you, threaten you, or intimidate you into making a quick decision or signing any type of document. It is very common for insurance adjuster to try to get you to sign away your rights quickly. If you do this, you will regret it later. Second, document your injuries and the accident itself. Gather all medical records, accident reports, witness statements and contact information in a folder. Take photographs of the accident scene and your injuries as soon as possible and keep them with your file. As the old saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words” and documenting your claim with photographs is worth thousands of dollars in helping you win a fair settlement or verdict for your accident. Third, get as much information as you can about the personal injury claim process. Discussing your case with an attorney that handles truck accidents on a regular basis and getting a “no obligation” evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your claim is also important.
Who is Liable for a Truck Accident?
Determining liability for the cause of a truck accident is often a complex process that can involve multiple parties, such as the:
• Truck’s driver
• Trucking company that employs the driver
• Company that owns the truck
• Truck’s manufacturer
• Distribution company that loaded the truck’s contents
The cause of a truck accident can involve one or multiple parties. Identifying the true cause often requires a thorough investigation into the events that occurred before the truck was approved for road use and when the accident occurred. An attorney who has experience in truck accident cases will understand the complexities of commercial vehicle liability and can evaluate each element to identify the cause of the accident.
Transportation Lawyer In Utah
When you need legal help from a transportation attorney in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506