Virginia Trucking Laws Staff Profile Picture
Written By:
Joseph Blaszkow Profile Picture
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Virginia recorded 2,645 large truck crashes, or 2.2% of all traffic collisions, in 2021. More than 31% of those crashes resulted in injury or death, and 68.3% caused property damage.

It's worth noting that in 47.4% of these accidents, the driver did not commit any violations. Furthermore, in 97.3% of these crashes, the commercial truck driver was sober. These statistics suggest that Virginia truck drivers are typically well-disciplined motorists who sometimes find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The following serves as a guide to Virginia's laws regarding trucking accidents. It includes truck safety laws, Virginia’s state-specific insurance and negligence systems, and damages to which injured parties may be entitled. 

Virginia Trucking Weight and Size Limits

Overweight trucks can be difficult to control, making them highly likely to cause accidents. They also tend to damage roads and bridges, increasing the cost of maintenance and repairs. 

To protect the structural integrity of the highway and bridge systems, Virginia imposes weight and size limits for commercial trucks. 

Truck Size Limit

In Virginia, trucks must not exceed 102 inches in width and 13 feet, six inches in height, according to § 46.2-1105 and § 46.2-1110 of the Virginia Code.

If a truck hits an overhead bridge or structure because it exceeds the size restrictions, the truck’s driver or owner can be held financially liable for any damage caused by the collision.

In addition, the driver or truck owner must immediately notify a law enforcement officer or public authority that owns or maintains the overhead structure. They must provide their full name, address, commercial driver's license (CDL) number, and vehicle registration information.

Failure to give such notice immediately is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $2,500 or jail time of up to 12 months, or both. The driver’s CDL may also be revoked, depending on the circumstances.

Gross Vehicle Weight Limit

Virginia’s weight limit for each truck or combination depends on the distance between axles and the number of axles. The maximum weights for common axle configurations are listed in § 46.2-1126 of the Virginia Code.

Commercial trucks may exceed their allowed limit by up to 5%, provided that they purchase an overload permit. For example, a six-axle semi-truck with a length of 22 feet between its extreme axles can have a maximum gross weight of 67,000 pounds. If the trucking company secures an overload permit for that truck, it can increase that truck’s gross weight limit to 70,350 pounds.

An overload permit is valid for one year and has a fee of $250. However, no permit may be issued to any motor vehicle whose gross weight exceeds 84,000 pounds.

The fine for driving an overweight truck can range from $100 to around $15,000, depending on how much the truck’s gross weight exceeds its legal limit. 

Excess weight over the prescribed gross weight limit

Assessed amount per pound

2,000 pounds or less

1¢ per pound

2,001 to 4,000 pounds

3¢ per pound

4,001 to 8,000 pounds

7¢ per pound

8,001 to 12,000 pounds

12¢ per pound

12,001 pounds or more

20¢ per pound

The penalty rate doubles if the truck exceeds its weight limit by 25%-50% and triples if its gross weight goes over the limit by 50% or more. More information on overweight fines can be found in § 46.2-1135 of the Virginia Code.

Virginia Hours of Service Regulations

Commercial drivers of trucks weighing more than 10,001 pounds must comply with federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. These laws, enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), apply to all interstate commercial drivers. 

The HOS regulations stipulate the following:

  • Truck drivers may not drive up to 11 hours after taking 10 consecutive hours off duty.

  • Truck drivers may not work up to 14 hours a day. This includes driving and non-driving time. The 14-hour work period begins after a driver has had 10 consecutive non-driving hours.

  • Truck drivers must take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving.

  • Truck drivers may not work more than 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. The workweek gets reset after a driver takes 34 or more hours off.

  • A driver may use the sleeper berth to accumulate the required off-duty time for rest periods.

  • Compliant electronic logging devices (ELDs) must be used on every truck. An ELD records a commercial driver's hours of service (HOS) electronically. This prevents the falsification of data when logging hours.

Drivers and their employers may incur fines and penalties for failing to follow these HOS regulations.

HOS violations are Class 1 misdemeanors. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has the authority to impose civil penalties on non-interstate commercial drivers who violate HOS regulations. These fines can go up to $5,000.

However, if a truck involved in interstate commerce commits the violation, it becomes a federal offense. The FMCSA determines the fines and penalties for federal violations. These can include up to $16,000 in fines for each offense, a CDL suspension, and an out-of-service (OOS) order for the driver.

Lane Changing in Virginia

Improper lane changes made by commercial truck drivers are a serious safety hazard on Virginia highways. To keep its roads accident-free, Virginia has enacted laws and regulations that require commercial truck drivers to follow specific rules when changing lanes.

State law requires drivers of commercial vehicles, including heavy trucks, to stay in the right-hand lane of any highway with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction. They can only make an appropriate lane change when making a left turn or exiting the highway. FMCSA recommends that commercial truck drivers use their turn signals for at least 4 seconds before changing lanes to give other drivers enough time to react.

The fines and penalties for improper commercial truck lane changes in Virginia are as follows:

  • First offense: Up to $250

  • Second offense: Up to $500

  • Third and subsequent offenses: Up to $1,000

In addition to fines, commercial truck drivers who are found guilty of improper lane changes may also have points assessed against their driver's license. Points can lead to increased insurance rates and, in some cases, CDL suspension or revocation.

Furthermore, commercial truck drivers involved in an accident caused by an improper lane change may face harsher penalties, such as higher fines and even criminal charges, if the accident causes injury or death.

Virginia Commercial Truck Minimum Insurance Requirements

Federal law sets the minimum liability insurance coverage that carriers and truck owners must have for their commercial trucks.

If there are injuries, fatalities, or property damages because of a truck accident, liability insurance covers the required compensatory damages.

In Virginia, the minimum required liability coverages are as follows:

  • For-hire carriers transporting non-hazardous property

    • $300,000 for vehicles under 10,001 pounds GVWR

    • $750,000 for vehicles over 10,001 pounds GVWR

  • For-hire carriers transporting oil and hazardous materials

    • $300,000 for vehicles under 10,001 pounds GVWR

    • $1,000,000 for vehicles over 10,001 pounds GVWR

  • Private carriers transporting non-hazardous property

    • $300,000 for vehicles under 10,001 pounds GVWR

    • $500,000 for vehicles over 10,001 pounds GVWR

  • Private carriers transporting oil and hazardous materials

    • $300,000 for vehicles under 10,001 pounds GVWR

    • $1,000,000 for vehicles over 10,001 pounds GVWR

These rates apply per vehicle. Thus, if a food company operates five private carriers, each weighing under 10,001 pounds and carrying non-hazardous property, the food company’s required liability coverage is $1,500,000.

A carrier found to be operating without insurance may be issued a citation and fined up to $500 for the first offense. For subsequent offenses, the fine can increase up to $1,000. In addition, the carrier may face other legal consequences, such as the suspension or revocation of its operating authority.

How Much Can Someone Sue for a Truck Accident in Virginia?

Virginia law does not place a limit on damages for personal injury or property damage. Damages that may be awarded to the plaintiff can include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.

In most cases, however, punitive damages are limited to $350,000. Punitive damages are meant to penalize the defendant for their wrongdoing and deter similar behavior in the future.

However, there are two exceptions to this rule:

  • If the defendant acted with malice toward the plaintiff, the cap does not apply.

  • If the defendant's conduct was motivated by financial gain and the behavior was willful and wanton, the cap does not apply.

In these cases, punitive damages may exceed the $350,000 limit. Therefore, unless the trucker was intent on killing you and there was a way to prove it in court, you won't be getting more than $350,000 in punitive damages.

Virginia Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents

The statute of limitations for truck accidents in Virginia is two years from the date of the accident. This means that a plaintiff must file a lawsuit within two years from when the accident occurred, or they may be barred from pursuing the claim. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

One exception is known as the "discovery rule." Under this rule, the statute of limitations begins to run once the plaintiff discovers that they have suffered an injury because of the truck accident.

Another exception is for cases involving minors. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for a minor injured in a truck accident does not begin to run until they reach the age of 18.

Finally, if the defendant leaves the state of Virginia after the accident and before a lawsuit is filed, the statute of limitations is suspended until the defendant returns to Virginia. This exception is known as the "absence of defendant" rule.

If the defendant never returns to Virginia, the plaintiff may have to pursue the case in the state where the defendant currently resides, which may involve going through that state's legal system.

For property damage, the statute of limitations in Virginia is five years. The same exceptions mentioned above for personal injury apply to property damage.

Suppose a truck rear-ended someone’s car, breaking one of the driver’s legs. If two years have passed without a legal lawsuit being filed, the victim can no longer pursue compensatory damages for his injury but can still seek compensation for the damage to his car.

Virginia Is a Fault State for Insurance Claims

Under the fault-based system, victims may seek compensation from the at-fault driver's insurance provider. The insurance provider for the driver who was at fault will then investigate the claim and decide how much should be given to the victim.

The at-fault driver’s insurance company might assert that the victim contributed to the collision. If this happens, the case might end up in court.

This is where the contributory negligence system comes into play, which is why these court proceedings can become heated.

Virginia Is a Contributory Negligence State for Trucking Accident Lawsuits

Virginia follows the "contributory negligence" doctrine, which means that if the injured party is found to have contributed to the accident in any way, they may not be able to recover any damages.

So, if you run a red light and are hit by a truck, you’re not getting a cent of compensation, even if your car is severely impacted.

A judge or jury typically deliberates on how much the plaintiff was at fault for the accident. If the court decides that the plaintiff is even 1% at fault, the plaintiff receives no compensation, regardless of the large medical bills. 

There’s a lot at stake with Virginia’s fault system for insurance claims, paired with its contributory negligence system. Either you get fully compensated by the at-fault driver’s insurance provider or you get none. So, acquiring a well-equipped lawyer is crucial if you’re on the receiving end of a truck accident in Virginia.

Average Settlement for Virginia Trucking Accident Lawsuits

The facts of each case determine settlement amounts in truck accident lawsuits. The extent of the plaintiff's injuries, the expense of the property damage, and the distribution of blame are additional elements that affect the amount of recoverable damages.

In Adams v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., the settlement reached $165 million in favor of the plaintiff. This settlement included $32 million in compensatory damages and $133 million in punitive damages — way above Virginia’s $350,000 statutory cap.

The jury found that FedEx was 100% liable for the accident and that its conduct was "willful and wanton." This means that the driver’s conduct went beyond mere negligence. It involved intentional or reckless behavior, to which the $350,000 statutory cap no longer applies.

The accident occurred in 2011 when a FedEx truck crossed the median on Interstate 81 and struck a minivan carrying a family of four. The parents were killed instantly, while their two kids were seriously injured.

The lawsuit was brought by the surviving children and their grandfather, who was the administrator of the estate of the deceased family members. They alleged that the FedEx driver was fatigued and had violated HOS regulations. They also claimed that FedEx had failed to train and supervise its drivers.

FedEx appealed the verdict, arguing that the damages were excessive and that the company had not acted recklessly or maliciously. However, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the verdict in 2019, stating that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's findings.

Legal Resources for Virginia Trucking Accident Victims

Virginia Department of Transportation

The VDOT's Incident Response Team assists with accidents on Virginia's highways, ensuring the safety of those involved. The team helps control traffic, remove debris from the roadway, and provide medical assistance until additional help arrives. VDOT also works with local law enforcement and other agencies to investigate the causes of truck accidents. This can be beneficial to a plaintiff’s case in court.

Virginia State Bar

The Virginia State Bar has a lawyer referral service that can connect victims with attorneys with experience handling truck accident cases. The initial 30-minute consultation will cost you no more than $35. This service can be particularly helpful for victims who are unfamiliar with the legal process or who are unsure of how to find a qualified attorney. The Virginia State Bar also offers “Free Legal Answers,” where volunteer attorneys answer any legal questions.

Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia

The Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia provides free legal representation to low-income individuals who need help with civil legal matters, including personal injury cases like truck accidents. This means that if a plaintiff qualifies for their services, they won't have to pay anything out of pocket for legal assistance. Even if they don't qualify for free legal representation, the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia can provide legal advice and information about their rights and options. Their current initiatives also include justice for homelessness and housing programs.

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Joseph BlaszkowReviewer

Joe Blaszkow is an experienced litigator, and has been fighting for injured people in VA, DC, and MD for almost 40 years. He was one of the first lawyers in Virginia to obtain punitive damages against a drunk driver who had hurt his client. Visit: