In our previous post, we began speaking about a request made by an organization
representing private mail carriers for an exemption from the 14-hour limit
rule. The rule is one of so-called “hours of service” rules
under federal law which puts limits on how much time commercial motor
vehicle drivers can spend behind the wheel in any one work day or work week.
The hours of service rules are important not only as a means of ensuring
highway safety with respect to the trucking industry, but also as a means
of holding truck drivers and their employers accountable. When a trucker
fails to abide by federal driving time limits and his or her employer
fails to ensure compliance with these rules, his or her accident victims
can use this noncompliance as evidence in personal injury litigation.
Utilizing noncompliance with federal hours of service regulations is a
real possibility in personal injury litigation, but it requires that a
plaintiff do thorough work in the discovery phase of the litigation process.
This means obtaining records of any police and state or federal agency
investigations of the accident, especially investigations conducted by
the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Traffic
The ability to demonstrate regulatory violations may have another advantage
for personal injury plaintiffs, at least in some cases: the ability to
seek punitive damages. Although punitive damages are difficult to obtain,
egregious violations of federal safety rules may warrant such an award
in some cases.
Those who have suffered serious harm at the hands of a negligent trucker
should, of course, always work with an experienced advocate to ensure
their rights are protected and that they are able to hold any negligent