According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were a total of 1,851 large truck accidents in Mississippi in 2021, resulting in 68 deaths and 970 injuries. In 2020, the state had the highest traffic accident fatality rate per 100,000 people nationwide. Some of its deadliest roads, where truck accidents often occur, are Interstates 55 and 20, as well as Highway 61. These pieces of information indicate that commercial vehicle accidents in the state can be fatal and cause significant harm to those involved.
If you or a family member has been involved in a truck accident in Mississippi, it is in your best interest to seek the help of an attorney to navigate the legal system, protect your rights, and obtain the compensation you deserve. This article discusses matters that may be relevant to your situation, including traffic laws, the statute of limitations, and valuable legal resources.
Mississippi Commercial Driver’s Licenses
Mississippi commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) are special and mandatory licenses for commercial vehicle drivers. To obtain a CDL, applicants must meet certain requirements and pass a series of exams that test their knowledge and skills in operating commercial vehicles.
In order to obtain a CDL in Mississippi, it is necessary to have a spotless driving record and meet the age requirements for either an intrastate CDL (18 years or older) or an interstate CDL (21 years or older). Applicants must also pass a written knowledge test and a driving skills test. The written test covers driving laws and regulations, safe driving practices, and vehicle maintenance. The driving skills test assesses the applicant's ability to operate a commercial vehicle safely and efficiently.
Mississippi CDLs are grouped into three different classes, each with its own set of requirements and endorsements:
Class A - This is the highest level of CDL and allows drivers to operate a combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the vehicle being towed weighs more than 10,000 pounds. Drivers with a Class A CDL can also operate Classes B and C vehicles.
Class B - This CDL allows drivers to operate a single vehicle with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more or a combination of vehicles with a GCWR of less than 26,001 pounds. Drivers with a Class B CDL can also operate vehicles in Class C.
Class C - This CDL is for drivers who operate a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or hazardous materials that require placards. Class C drivers can operate vehicles with a GCWR of less than 26,001 pounds. They can also operate vehicles in Class D, which is a Light Commercial License class that covers other vehicles or a combination of vehicles not included in Classes A to C.
CDL Revocation and Disqualification
One may face CDL revocation or disqualification due to certain rule violations, criminal convictions, or failure to comply with regulations. It is important to notify both the state and the driver's employer about any traffic violations and CDL suspensions.
Serious traffic offenses and railroad crossing violations can lead to license revocation, while convictions for certain crimes, such as failing to render aid in an accident, can result in disqualification for a period of one year. Alcohol use while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) can also lead to a one-year disqualification if the driver fails a breath test or refuses to take one.
In addition to license revocation or disqualification, other penalties may be imposed on violators. A driver may be disqualified for three years if a violation occurs while transporting hazardous materials. Moreover, a CMV driver may be disqualified for 60 days if convicted of two serious traffic violations.
CDL holders must understand the rules and regulations that apply to their driving privileges to avoid penalties and maintain their licenses.
Mississippi Truck Size and Weight Limits
The state has established size and weight limits for commercial vehicles regulated by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT).
The maximum weight allowed for commercial vehicles varies depending on the type of vehicle and the number of axles. The weight limits for single-axle vehicles are 20,000 pounds, while those for tandem-axle vehicles are 34,000 pounds. Tridem-axle vehicles are limited to 42,000 pounds, while quad-axle vehicles can carry up to 60,000 pounds. Additionally, the maximum weight limit for combination vehicles is 80,000 pounds.
The maximum height allowed for commercial vehicles is 13 feet and 6 inches, while the maximum width is 8 feet and 6 inches. The maximum length allowed for single vehicles is 40 feet, while combination vehicles are limited to 53 feet.
If a motor vehicle has a distance of more than 29 feet between its extreme axles, it can travel on highways, except for the federal interstate highway system, as long as it is registered with the State Tax Commission. In this case, the vehicle is considered to have a distance between the extremes of any group of axles that is 12 feet longer than the extreme measurement of that group.
It is essential for commercial vehicle operators to comply with these size and weight limits to avoid fines and citations. Violations can cause damage to infrastructure and pose a safety risk to other drivers on the road.
Mississippi Truck Speeding Law
The Mississippi speeding law applies to all vehicles, including trucks and commercial vehicles. The law sets a maximum speed limit for those traveling on Mississippi highways and imposes penalties on drivers who exceed it.
The maximum speed limit on highways is 70 mph, except in areas where a lower limit is posted. Commercial vehicles, including trucks and buses, are subject to lower speed limits, with the maximum being 65 mph on highways, regardless of any posted speed limit. Under unsafe conditions like poor visibility and extreme weather, a truck should not exceed 45 mph.
Violating the Mississippi speeding law can result in penalties such as fines ranging from $150 to $300, license suspension, and even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.
CDL holders are required to inform their employers of any violations within 30 days. Certain offenses may lead to additional penalties under federal regulations, such as suspension of their license or disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle.
Mississippi DUI Laws for Commercial Drivers
Mississippi's DUI laws for commercial drivers are strict and carry severe penalties. Under state law, it is illegal for a commercial driver to operate a CMV with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04% or higher. This is lower than the 0.08% limit that applies to non-commercial drivers.
A commercial driver convicted of a DUI while operating a CMV will face a one-year disqualification from his CDL. For a second offense, the disqualification period becomes a lifetime. Additionally, if the CMV were carrying hazardous materials, the disqualification period would be three years for a first offense and a lifetime for a second offense.
Moreover, commercial drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer or chemical test to determine their BAC will face a one-year CDL disqualification for a first offense and a lifetime disqualification for a second offense.
It is essential for commercial drivers to understand the serious consequences of DUI and to take every precaution to ensure they do not operate a CMV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Mississippi Highway Patrol is responsible for enforcing these laws and regularly conducts sobriety checkpoints to detect and deter DUI violations.
Mississippi Commercial Driver Health Requirements
Mississippi has specific safety requirements in place to protect the health and safety of both commercial drivers and the general public. Commercial drivers must meet certain medical standards and undergo regular drug and alcohol testing to ensure that they are fit to operate CMVs.
Commercial truck drivers in Mississippi must pass a medical exam every two years to maintain their CDL. Trucking companies need to comply with this regulation to avoid penalties and legal consequences. Compliance can also promote safety within the industry and prevent accidents.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
Mississippi has strict regulations in place for drug and alcohol testing for commercial drivers. They are required to undergo pre-employment drug testing, as well as random drug and alcohol testing throughout their employment. These are designed to detect the presence of illegal drugs or alcohol in a driver's system and prevent them from operating CMVs under the influence.
Mississippi Commercial Trucking Insurance Requirements
Mississippi has specific insurance requirements for commercial trucks within its borders. According to MDOT, all commercial vehicles operating in the state must carry a minimum amount of liability insurance.
The minimum insurance requirements for commercial vehicles are:
$100,000 for bodily injury or death of one person.
$300,000 for any one accident.
$50,000 for property damage in any one accident.
There are also insurance requirements based on cargo. Trucks carrying hazardous materials must have $5,000,000 in coverage, while those transporting oil should have $1,000,000. Additionally, $750,000 in insurance covering both property damage and bodily injury is required for general freight carriers.
It is important to note that these are just the minimum requirements, and commercial trucking companies may opt for higher coverage based on their individual needs and risk factors. Some add-ons include physical damage, cargo, workers’ compensation, and commercial general liability insurance.
Failure to maintain adequate insurance coverage can result in fines, license suspension, and even the revocation of a company's operating authority. A first offense leads to a fine of up to $500, while subsequent offenses can result in a fine of up to $2,000. In addition, not carrying proper insurance coverage can leave commercial trucking companies vulnerable to costly lawsuits in the event of an accident.
How Much Can One Sue for a Truck Accident in Mississippi?
Truck accident victims in Mississippi may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and losses. However, determining the total value can be a complex process that depends on the specific details of the accident and resulting damages.
Mississippi imposes a cap on noneconomic damages, limiting the amount of compensation that can be awarded for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-economic losses to $1,000,000, except for medical malpractice claims, which are limited to $500,000. However, this cap does not apply to economic damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage.
Mississippi Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents
The statute of limitations in Mississippi for a truck accident is three years from the date it happened. This means an injured individual has three years to file a lawsuit.
However, if one is pursuing legal action against a government agency or employee, the statute of limitations is just a year from the date of the accident. Additionally, a victim must notify the proper government entity within 90 days from when the injury occurred.
Meanwhile, according to Section 15-1-59 of the law, the statute of limitations for minors is paused until they turn 21, except in medical malpractice cases.
Filing a lawsuit within the statute of limitations is important, as failure to do so may result in the loss of your rights to recover damages. Talking to an experienced trucking accident attorney right after the accident can help victims protect their rights and obtain the compensation they deserve.
Mississippi Is a Fault State for Insurance Claims
Mississippi is a fault or tort state, which means a driver found to be at fault for causing a truck accident is responsible for paying damages to the victims. A lawsuit may be necessary if the parties cannot agree on who is at fault.
If you are found to be responsible for an accident, your insurance company will have to pay the incurred damages up to the limits of your liability coverage. However, if the total cost exceeds your coverage limits, you may be held personally liable for the remaining amount.
If you are a truck accident victim in Mississippi, it is advisable that you seek a legal practitioner who knows how to navigate the legal system and obtain personal injury claims on behalf of clients.
Mississippi Is a Pure Comparative Negligence State for Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Mississippi follows a pure comparative negligence system. This means a plaintiff can still recover compensation from a defendant even if they are found to be partially at fault for the accident. However, the amount of damages they can recover will be reduced proportionally to their degree of fault.
For example, if a person is deemed 20% to blame for a truck accident and the damages are $100,000, their recovery will be reduced by 20% (or $20,000), resulting in a final amount of $80,000.
This rule applies to all types of trucking accidents, including those involving commercial trucks, tractor-trailers, and other large vehicles. In cases where multiple parties are found to be at fault for an accident, each party may be responsible for paying a portion of the damages.
Even if an individual's damages are reduced due to his own negligence, he can still potentially recover a significant amount after an accident. By seeking the assistance of a personal injury attorney, he can receive legal guidance and receive the maximum amount of compensation if he chooses to pursue legal action.
Average Settlement for Mississippi Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Determining the average settlement for a Mississippi trucking accident will depend on a variety of factors, such as the severity of the accident, the extent of the injuries, and the degree of fault of each party involved.
Since Mississippi is a pure comparative negligence state, the settlement amount for a trucking accident lawsuit can vary widely based on each involved party’s degree of fault. In cases where the plaintiff is found to be partially to blame, the settlement amount may be significantly lower than in lawsuits where the plaintiff is completely blameless.
Legal Resources for Mississippi Trucking Accident Victims
The Mississippi Bar Association has developed an online directory to connect truck accident victims from low-income families with volunteer lawyers who offer free legal services. The group provides a wide range of services, including legal representation, advice, and education. For inquiries, contact (601) 948-4471.
This is the Mississippi Insurance Department’s online resource on how truck accident victims may request assistance and how the agency can provide help. Its consumer helpline contact numbers are (800) 562-2957 and (601) 359-2453.
The Driver Record’s Division of the Mississippi Driver Service Bureau has an online resource with an Accidents and Judgments search tool. It allows people to look for information about truck accidents and legal judgments that may be associated with a particular driver's record. The information that can be gathered on the site can be used for a variety of purposes, including background checks, insurance, and legal proceedings. Contact the agency via (601) 987-1224, ext. 1; (601) 487-7076; or (601) 487-7079.
MDOT’s Traffic and Travel Information website offers real-time traffic data, including travel time estimates, traffic camera locations, and incident alerts for car crashes.
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