I was hit by an 18-wheeler. How do I prove that they were at fault?

Proving fault in any Texas auto accident lawsuit means showing that the other driver’s carelessness caused the accident.

Negligence and 18-Wheeler Trucking Accidents

In legal terms, a driver’s carelessness is known as negligence. Courts look at a variety of factors to decide whether someone was being careful enough, or acting negligently.

Standard of Care

In a negligence lawsuit, judges and juries decide how careful someone should have been. This is known as the standard of care.

For example, if you were driving in heavy rain, a jury might decide you should have driven slower than the speed limit.

Negligence Per Se

Sometimes, Courts rule that when a person violates a safety law, that person’s behavior is assumed to be negligent. For example, if you are driving faster than the speed limit, a jury may assume you were driving at an unsafe speed.

18-wheelers are heavily regulated motor vehicles. Truck drivers are also required to follow a lot of safety rules to receive and maintain their truck driving licenses.

Therefore, proving an 18-wheeler driver caused an auto collision often includes showing that the trucker violated a safety requirement for truckers.

Safety Regulations for Tractor Trailer Drivers in Texas

Driving is dangerous enough without the risk of overtired truckers on the road. Truck drivers’ hours on the road and how they must log those hours fall under federal law.

Sometimes pressure from their employers to put profit ahead of safety makes some truckers break the hours of service (HOS) rules.

14-Hour Driving Window

A trucker that has been off duty for 10 or more hours in a row, is entitled to one 14-hour driving window.

  • The 14-hour window begins as soon as the truck driver starts trucking-related work (e.g., loading).
  • Taking time off (lunch break, nap), does not extend the 14 hours.
  • The trucker’s 14-hour driving window is sometimes called a “daily” limit, but it is not based upon a 24-hour period.
  • During the 14-hour window, a truck driver can drive up to 11 hours. This is known as the 11-Hour Driving Limit

11-Hour Driving Limit

After 8 hours of driving, the driver must have an off-duty or sleeping period of at least 30 minutes.

  • During the 14-hour period, truckers are only allowed to drive a truck for up to 11 total hours.
  • Drivers who have driven for a total of 11 hours must go off duty, even if the 14-Hour Driving Window is still ongoing. The driver has to be off duty for another 10 hours in a row before driving again.

The 60 / 70-Hour Limit

Drivers cannot drive after being on duty for 60 hours for the past 7 days (or 70 hours in the past 8 days).

  • They must wait until enough days pass that they have driven less than 60 hours in the past 7 days.
  • They may do other, non-driving work for the trucking company.
  • Hours spent driving for other companies are included in calculating the 60 / 70 Hour Limit.

Note that, as of December 16, 2014, the rule that there must be a 34-hour off-duty period in order for drivers to restart their 60- or 70-hour clock calculations has been suspended.

Daily Log

Truck drivers must keep a daily log of their hours on duty. This is called a record of duty status.

  • Drivers must make their own entries and complete two copies of a log with on/off duty times.
  • While there are some exceptions, the basic rule is that a driver’s log must cover all 24 hours of every day including days off.
  • Authorized government inspectors can inspect a driver’s logs at any time to ensure the log contains no hours-of-service violations.

100 Air-Mile Radius Exception

According to the FMCSA, there is an optional exception to the rules of maintaining a daily log for drivers who:

  • Drive within a 100 air-mile radius of their normal work reporting location,
  • Return to their work reporting location and are released within 12 consecutive hours, and
  • Follow all other basic hours-of-service rules including the 10-hour off-duty and 11-hour driving rules.

Drivers who meet these requirements can agree with their employers not to maintain a log. They can also choose to maintain a log, which permits them to work more than the 12-hours per day.