What laws impact the trucking industry, and how can you establish fault after a truck crash in the Show-Me State?
Trucking is big business in Missouri. There are more than 12,000 trucking companies located in the state transporting more than 260,000 tons of cargo every day.
Although large commercial truck accidents are less common in Missouri than most other states, the state still averages 1.06 deaths per every 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
Let's take a closer look at truck accidents in the Show-Me State, including the common causes of truck accidents, the state and federal laws that govern the trucking industry, and how to establish liability in a Missouri truck accident case.
Missouri truck accident statistics
The term "truck accident" refers to an accident involving a truck that is used primarily for the transportation of goods. This includes:
- Delivery trucks
- Oil and gas trucks
- Big rigs
- Box trucks
- Dump trucks
- Tow trucks
- Refrigerated trucks
Large trucks travel more than 9 billion miles every year in Missouri. With all those miles traveled, accidents are bound to happen sooner or later—and they do, every year:
|Missouri truck accident statistics (2020)|
|Truck type||Fatal crashes||Injury crashes||Property damage only crashes||Total crashes|
|Single unit truck (2 axles, 6 tires)||33||721||2,534||3,288|
|Single unit truck (3 or more axles)||17||234||902||1,153|
|Tractor-trailer with no units||3||53||222||278|
|Tractor-trailer with 1 unit||61||1,114||5,080||6,255|
|Tractor-trailer with 2 or more units||2||38||136||8|
|Other heavy truck||0||1||7||8|
|Source: Missouri State Highway Patrol Statistical Analysis Center|
Common causes of truck accidents
Truck accidents occur for many of the same reasons that car accidents happen. With that being said, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) investigated the actions that have specifically led to truck accidents and found that they could generally be broken down into 6 categories:
Most of these categories are self-explanatory, but here’s a helpful breakdown:
|Decision||38%||The driver was driving too fast for conditions, misjudged the speed of other vehicles, or followed other vehicles too closely.|
|Recognition||28%||The driver was inattentive, distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle, or failed to observe the situation adequately for some other reason.|
|Non-performance||12%||The driver fell asleep, was disabled by a heart attack or seizure, or was physically impaired for another reason.|
|Vehicle||10%||Vehicle failures, such as brake problems, were responsible for the crash.|
|Performance||9%||The driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control.|
|Environment||3%||Fog, heavy rain, bad weather, or roadway problems caused the crash.|
Federal and state truck accident laws
Federal laws govern the commercial trucking industry across the nation.
These laws establish rules and standards that all trucking companies and drivers must meet. The vast majority of federal regulations can be found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations and cover things like:
- Maximum vehicle weight
- Transportation of hazardous materials
- Drug and alcohol testing
- Licensing requirements
- Emergency signal equipment
- Use of hand-held devices (they're strictly prohibited)
- Minimum insurance requirements for trucks that cross state lines
Additionally, Missouri has passed a number of state laws that address everything from the inspection and maintenance of trucks to alcohol and drug testing for drivers. Most of these laws can be found in Chapters 386-394 of the revised Missouri State Statutes.
When it comes to truck accidents, one of the Missouri laws that most frequently comes into play is the hours of service requirement for truck drivers. Generally speaking, here's what you need to know about the hours of service requirement:
|Missouri hours of service requirement for commercial drivers|
|Property carriers||Passenger carriers|
Another law that frequently comes into play in commercial truck accidents is the law prohibiting commercial truck drivers from driving while having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 (as opposed to the 0.08 legal limit for most other drivers).
Donald Creed, of Willard, Missouri, received the maximum 1-year of probation for each count, 30 days in jail, and is subject to electronic home monitoring.
Donald had been driving for 10-hours and had just concluded a 22-minute cell phone call before his tractor-trailer slammed into a line of cars stopped on the highway because of an earlier wreck.
The incident is a good reminder that, in addition to civil lawsuits, truck drivers may face criminal charges in certain situations.
Establishing liability in a Missouri truck accident case
To establish liability in a Missouri truck accident case, you need to prove that someone else was at fault for the accident.
Parties that may be at fault for a truck accident include:
- The truck driver
- The owner of the truck
- The company that leased the truck from the owner
- The manufacturer of the truck or truck components
- The person who loaded the truck's cargo
In most truck accident cases, establishing liability means proving that the defendant was negligent — in other words, that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care, and this failure caused the accident.
It's not always the case that someone is 100% responsible for a truck accident. Sometimes, both the plaintiff and the defendant share a little of the blame.
Missouri, like a handful of other states, has adopted the legal doctrine of pure comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, a plaintiff who's partially responsible for their accident may only collect damages in proportion to the defendant's degree of fault.
Let's look at an example:
At the same time, Boris is driving his big rig along Highway 47. In violation of Missouri's hours-of-service laws, he's been driving for 16 consecutive hours.
Boris, who's struggling to keep his eyes open, sideswipes Laura's vehicle. Laura suffers severe injuries and sues Boris and his employer for $100 million.
The jury finds that Boris is 95% at fault for the accident, but that Laura is 5% at fault (for neglecting to turn on her emergency lights).
Under the doctrine of pure comparative negligence, Laura is permitted to recover $95 million.
Available damages for a Missouri truck accident
Missouri allows truck accident victims to recover the following types of damages:
- Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by your accident (e.g., medical expenses, lost wages, property damage).
- Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by your accident (e.g., pain and suffering, loss of consortium).
- Punitive damages are intended to punish defendants and are only available when the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally injured the plaintiff.
Truck accident statute of limitations
All states limit the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. This time limitation is called the "statute of limitations."
Missouri has one of the most generous statutes of limitation in the country. For personal injury lawsuits, including truck crash injury lawsuits, you have 5 years from the date of the accident to file your lawsuit. If you fail to do so, your lawsuit will be forever barred.
To find an experienced Missouri personal injury attorney, use our free online directory.
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more