Langdon & Emison attorneys Kent Emison and Mark Emison co-authored anarticle, “How Lack of Visibility Can Become a Major Theme in a Trucking Accident Case,” for a recent issue of AIEGVoice.
The article addresses theories of liability often overlooked in conspicuity cases such as a motor carrier’s duty to comply with federal conspicuity requirements to enhance its commercial vehicles’ visibility at night. Conspicuity cases often involve trucking accidents caused by a driver’s inability to properly see a tractor-trailer or instances where a semi-truck was illegally parked and obscured a driver’s view.
“Conspicuity cases often look like bad cases for plaintiff’s attorneys because clients initially appear to be 100 percent at fault, but several studies and federal regulations turn these cases into viable claims with good results,” the authors wrote.
Conspicuity Studies and Regulations
Studies conducted for more than three decades have concluded that nighttime crashes involving tractor-trailers were more severe because drivers did not see the trucks at all; misjudged the distance; or perceived the truck’s location too late. One study confirmed that retroreflective tape and other visibility materials reduce rear impacts and save lives, according to the article.
In the early 1990s, the federal government, through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, adopted conspicuity requirements for commercial vehicles and trailers manufactured after December 1, 1993. The regulations:
- Allow tractor-trailers to use either reflex reflectors or red and white reflective tape.
- Codify requirements for the placement and size of lamps and reflectors.
- Outline procedures for parking on a roadway or shoulder.
Theories of Liability in Conspicuity Cases
Kent and Mark advise other attorneys to evaluate cases for conspicuity claims and investigate factors that may have limited a client’s visibility, particularly if the client crashed into a commercial vehicle at night. Key questions to consider:
- Did the motor carrier allow dirt and mud to accumulate on the reflective material and diminish its effectiveness?
- Did the operator use corrosive chemicals to wash the reflective tape, which causes the tape to fade, wear and lose its reflectivity?
- Did the truck driver follow federal, state and local rules for stopping on a highway or the shoulder of a highway?
- Did the truck driver obscure your client’s vision by parking too close to an intersection, stop sign or fire department?
About the Authors
Kent Emison and Mark Emison litigate trucking accident cases nationwide with a range of issues at stake, including conspicuity, driver fatigue and other factors. They can be reached at 800.397.4910.