Truck operators have an obligation to park their vehicles out of harm’s way, but too often they will cut corners. The incentive to do this is often caused by trying to maximize delivery time, because of undue pressure on them by companies that expect higher and higher amounts of goods to be shipped in an unrealistic amount of time. On this blog post we will look at examples of how improperly parked trucks can cause loss of life, so that these behemoths of the road pose a safety problem even when not in motion.
Revisiting a Tragic Accident
A 28-year-old father of four tragically lost his life in an accident involving a dangerously parked tractor-trailer. Our law firm had the privilege of representing the victim’s family. On the day of the accident, our client was driving north on a two-lane Missouri highway, reaching an intersection with an eastbound four-lane highway with a speed limit of 65 mph. As our client crossed the intersection, his vehicle was violently struck on the driver’s side by an oncoming car traveling east.
Prior to the accident, a truck driver parked a tractor-trailer he was driving for his employer on the south shoulder of the eastbound highway, just 50 feet from the intersection where the collision occurred. This careless decision to park on the shoulder of a major highway and so close to an intersection created a dangerous sight obstruction for motorists. Unfortunately, this careless decision cost our client his life.
Even more egregious, the truck driver parked on the shoulder not because he had an emergency, but because a local business was having a customer appreciation luncheon. Parking on the shoulder did nothing more than provide the driver a shorter walk to the front door of the facility.
What the Law Says
Although this type of parking may be prohibited by local law or ordinance, it is unfortunately not strictly forbidden by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), the rules that truckers and truck companies across the country must follow. However, that silence on the issue does not mean this type of activity is not dangerous. More importantly, such silence does not preclude this activity from being a basis for recovery.
In our case, we took the position that no reasonable person would conclude that parking a rolling billboard on the shoulder of the highway near an intersection is a safe activity. It is more than negligence, it is clearly recklessness, which becomes egregious when it serves no purpose except to provide convenience to the driver.
In addition, although the FMCSR do not strictly prohibit this activity, this regulatory scheme dictates the actions a driver must take when stopping a truck on the shoulder or a roadway.
For example, 49 CFR 392.22 of the FMCSA regulations states that when a commercial vehicle is stopped on the traveled portion of a highway or the shoulder, the driver must:
Immediately activate the vehicular warning signal flashers and continue such use until warning devices are placed by the driver.
Place warning devices, such as flares or reflective triangles, around the vehicle to enhance other driver’s recognition of the stopped truck as a hazard, which must be done as soon as possible (and at least within 10 minutes) after stopping.
In our case, the truck driver violated these critical safety rules. He neither activated his warning flashers nor put out emergency triangles when he parked on the shoulder of the highway. As such, he compounded the dangerous situation he caused by creating a sight obstruction.
Further, because of the unique dangers posed by large trucks parked along the side of roadways, many trucking companies have adopted policies that specifically forbid such activity. Unfortunately, this trucking company failed to adopt such a policy, which served as an additional basis for recovery out of this tragic accident.
How Do I Know if I Have a Case?
If you or someone you know has been involved in a trucking accident involving a parked semi-truck, keep in mind that the accident report may not provide an accurate picture of what caused the accident. In our case, the parked truck was not even considered or mentioned in the accident report. It was not until we began our investigation that we discovered this dangerous act. Without this type of investigation, victims and their families may not know they have legal rights and a potential claim to pursue against the truck driver and his or her employer.
Our law firm will thoroughly investigate an accident to determine all potential causes. If a parked truck is involved, we determine why the truck driver stopped; the location of the stopped truck; and if the truck driver followed applicable safety guidelines.
If we find in our initial investigation that you have a claim, we will vigorously pursue justice on your behalf and hold the truck driver and trucking company responsible for the injury to or death of your loved one. Fortunately, in our case, we successfully showed that both the truck driver and the company for which he worked violated critical safety rules—and in the end—we obtained a substantial recovery for the victim’s family. While no amount of money can replace the loss of their loved one, we worked diligently on their behalf to get the recovery they deserved.