Big trucks are commonplace in North Carolina’s thoroughfares, with semi-trucks transporting different types of goods and sharing the roads with other vehicles. In 2021, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recorded 7,148 accidents involving large trucks and buses in the state, resulting in 5,072 injuries and 155 fatalities. Some of the state’s deadliest roads can be found in Charlotte, Asheville, Greensboro, Gastonia, and Rocky Mount, including Interstates 85, 77, 95, and 240, as well as U.S. Route 29.
Truck accidents can result in significant property damage, severe injuries, and even death. Therefore, trucking companies and drivers must adhere to state and federal regulations to protect public safety.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident in North Carolina, it is essential to seek the assistance of an experienced truck accident lawyer who can help you navigate complex laws and fight for your rights and just compensation. The attorney can assist in investigating the accident, gathering evidence, negotiating with insurance companies, and representing you in court, if necessary.
North Carolina Commercial Driver’s Licenses
Commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) are required for North Carolina drivers who operate certain vehicles, including those with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, those designed to transport 16 or more passengers, and those used to transport hazardous materials.
Applicants must meet specific qualifications and undergo testing to obtain a CDL. They must be at least 18 years old, possess a valid North Carolina driver's license, and satisfy the medical requirements. However, they must be 21 years old or above to be allowed for interstate commerce. Applicants must also pass written and driving tests that evaluate their knowledge of the state's traffic laws and ability to operate a commercial vehicle safely.
North Carolina issues three classes of CDLs based on the type of vehicle and cargo being transported:
Class A CDL - For drivers of combination vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.
Class B CDL - For drivers of single vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more or combination vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the towed vehicle/s have a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less.
Class C CDL - For drivers of single or a combination of vehicles that do not meet the definitions of Class A or Class B but are designed to transport either hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers, including the driver.
Drivers may also need to obtain additional endorsements or certifications based on the type of cargo they are transporting, like hazardous materials, tanks, or double/triple trailers.
The state has implemented other laws and regulations related to CDLs, including requirements for regular vehicle inspections and mandatory training and certification for drivers of vehicles carrying hazardous materials.
North Carolina Hours of Service Laws
North Carolina has hours of service laws that regulate how long commercial drivers can operate their vehicles and require them to take rest breaks to prevent fatigue-related accidents and promote safe driving practices.
The state follows federal regulations established by the FMCSA, which stipulate that drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are generally limited to 11 hours of driving time after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. CMV drivers are also required to take a 30-minute break after driving for eight hours. In addition, they must keep accurate records of their driving time, breaks, and rest periods. Truck drivers are subject to a 60/70-hour limit, which means they are only allowed to be on duty for a maximum of 60 hours in any seven-day period, or 70 hours in any eight-day period.
The regulations also include a provision on sleeper berths, which allows truck drivers to split their required 10-hour off-duty period. To use this provision, the driver must spend at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, with the remaining portion of the off-duty period being at least two hours long. It should be noted that all sleeper berth pairings must add up to at least 10 hours. When this provision is used, neither time period counts against the maximum 14-hour driving window.
Records of a truck driver’s hours of service can be kept electronically or on paper, but they must be available for inspection by law enforcement officials upon request.
North Carolina Truck Accident Reporting Rules
North Carolina trucking companies and drivers are required to follow specific reporting rules in case of an accident to ensure that all incidents involving commercial trucks are reported accurately and promptly. The laws that govern these are outlined in the state's CDL Manual and the FMCSA regulations.
Any commercial driver involved in an accident while on duty must report it to their employer and the Public Service Commission within 24 hours of its occurrence. The employer is then required to report the accident to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days if:
The accident resulted in a fatality.
The accident caused an injury requiring immediate medical attention away from the scene of the accident.
Any vehicle involved in the accident required towing away from the scene.
Additionally, if the accident resulted in property damage of more than $1,000, either the driver or employer should report the accident to the DMV within 10 days. The report must include information such as the date, time, location, and description of the accident, as well as the names and addresses of any parties involved. Failure to comply with the reporting requirements for truck accidents in North Carolina can result in a misdemeanor.
North Carolina Truck Speeding Laws
North Carolina has implemented truck speeding laws on the state's roadways. The maximum speed limit for CMVs like trucks is generally 55 mph on highways and 35 mph on other roads. Exceptions to these include certain highways, such as portions of Interstates 40, 77, and 85, where CMVs are allowed to travel up to 65 mph.
The speed limits for CMVs may be lower than those for other vehicles, and drivers should be aware of these when operating their vehicles. Violating the truck speeding laws can result in penalties, such as fines for a class 3 misdemeanor and license revocation.
It is important to note that these are general guidelines, and the specific penalties for speeding with a CDL in North Carolina are based on the circumstances of the offense. Additionally, CDL holders may also face penalties from their employers for violating company policies regarding speeding or traffic violations.
North Carolina DWI with CDL Laws
The laws regarding driving while impaired (DWI) with a CDL in North Carolina are strict, and violations can result in serious consequences for the driver.
A CDL holder is considered to be driving under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.04% or higher while operating a commercial vehicle. This is lower than the legal limit for non-commercial drivers, which is 0.08%.
A first-time offense for a DWI with a CDL in North Carolina can result in a fine of $200 and a jail sentence of up to 60 days. Meanwhile, second and subsequent offenses can lead to a lifetime revocation of the driver's CDL on top of up to $4,000 in fines and up to two years of jail time. This can have a significant impact on the driver's livelihood, as he will be unable to operate a commercial vehicle for work purposes legally.
The penalties for a DWI with a CDL can be severe, and drivers should take precautions to ensure that they are not operating a CMV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Implied Consent to BAC Tests
The implied consent law states that an individual who operates a commercial truck or another type of vehicle has given their implied consent to a chemical analysis of their breath, blood, or urine if law enforcement suspects them of being impaired.
If a driver refuses to submit to a chemical test, his driver's license will be revoked for a minimum of one year. He may also face penalties and fines related to his DWI charge, and a CDL holder may face harsher consequences.
North Carolina Commercial Trucking Insurance Requirements
North Carolina law mandates all commercial auto policies to have a minimum liability limit of 30/60/25, which means coverages of $30,000 per person for bodily injury, $60,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $25,000 for property damage.
There are also minimum liability insurance coverage requirements for commercial trucks based on the type of cargo being transported, including $750,000 for general freight, $300,000 for household goods, $1 million for oil transport, and $5 million for hazardous materials.
Additionally, all commercial vehicles must have uninsured motorist coverage to pay for medical expenses resulting from accidents involving uninsured drivers or hit-and-run situations. Underinsured motorist coverage may also be required depending on the liability limits selected, while personal injury protection coverage is mandatory to cover the medical expenses of drivers and passengers, regardless of their fault in the accident.
Commercial trucking companies need to comply with these insurance requirements to ensure they are operating their vehicles legally and protecting themselves and other road users. Failure to comply with these can result in fines of up to $150, license suspension, and jail time of up to 45 days.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Truck Accident in North Carolina?
Several factors come into play when calculating the total amount a victim can obtain in a truck accident case in North Carolina. These include economic and non-economic damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. In the state, there is no cap on these compensatory damages, but punitive damages are limited to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater.
Note that every case is unique, and the amount of compensation that can be awarded will depend on the specific circumstances of the accident. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney may help determine the potential value of a case.
North Carolina Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents
According to the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in North Carolina, the general time limit for filing a truck accident lawsuit is three years from the date of the incident.
However, there are exceptions to the three-year statute of limitations. For example, if the injured person was a minor at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations begins once they reach the age of 18. Additionally, if the accident involves a government entity acting within the scope of its employment, the injured person may be required to pursue legal action within two years.
North Carolina Is an At-Fault State for Insurance Claims
North Carolina is a fault state for insurance claims related to motor vehicle accidents, including those involving trucks. This means when a truck accident occurs, fault must be determined, and the party found to be at fault is responsible for compensating the other party for their damages.
The state’s motor vehicle liability policy requires all drivers to carry liability insurance to cover bodily injury and property damage in the event of an accident. The insurance companies of the parties involved will typically investigate the accident to determine who is to blame. Once fault has been established, the responsible party's insurance company will have to pay the incurred damages to the other party up to the policy's limits.
North Carolina Is a Pure Contributory Negligence State for Trucking Accident Lawsuits
North Carolina's fault-based system allows for pure contributory negligence, which means the injured party may not be able to recover damages if he or she is found to be even 1% at fault.
Contributory negligence can be a complex and contentious issue in truck accident cases, as both parties may shift blame to avoid liability. This is why it is essential to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side who can investigate the accident, gather evidence, and argue for your rightful compensation.
Average Settlement for North Carolina Trucking Accident Lawsuits
If plaintiffs do not bear any responsibility for a truck accident in North Carolina, they may be entitled to recover damages from the at-fault parties. The amount of settlement they may obtain depends on a range of factors, including the kinds and severity of damages they have suffered.
Awarded damages can go up to six digits, and multi-million settlements are also not uncommon since truck-related accidents tend to be more serious than regular car crashes.
Personal injury lawyers often take on truck accident cases on a contingency basis, meaning they do not charge any upfront fees or costs. Instead, they are paid a percentage, which ranges from 33% to 40% of the compensation awarded to the injured party if they are successful in securing a settlement or judgment. If they are unsuccessful, they do not receive payment and the injured party does not owe any fees or costs.
Legal Resources for North Carolina Trucking Accident Victims
The North Carolina State Bar has a helpful tool on its website that allows people to search for a licensed attorney by location, practice area, and other criteria. Through this tool, one can find a lawyer who is experienced in personal injury cases, specifically truck accident claims. The North Carolina Bar Association also offers legal clinics and online resources.
Legal Aid of North Carolina is a nonprofit organization that provides free services, including legal representation in civil cases, to low-income individuals and families. It has a variety of self-help resources, such as guides, forms, and videos, to help people navigate the legal system on their own. You can visit its website for information regarding its office locations, services, eligibility requirements, and how to apply for assistance.
This manual provides guidance on how to complete and submit crash reports in North Carolina. It discusses the types of crashes that must be reported, the information that must be included, and the procedures for submitting and accessing crash reports.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT's) Traffic and Travel Information site is a valuable tool for truckers who want to stay up-to-date on traffic conditions, road closures, and construction projects. Users can access real-time traffic cameras, view maps showing traffic congestion and incidents, and sign up for email or text alerts about traffic conditions on specific routes. The site also has data on road conditions during inclement weather, as well as resources for planning trips on public transportation.
The NCDOT’s Commercial Vehicle Driving Guide has information on licensing requirements for commercial drivers, vehicle registration and insurance, hours of service regulations, weight and size restrictions, and safety requirements and tips. It also talks about the North Carolina State Highway Patrol's role in enforcing these regulations and conducting roadside inspections to ensure that CMVs are in compliance.
The North Carolina CDL Manual is a comprehensive resource on the state's CDL requirements, including its types, the testing and licensing process, and the restrictions and endorsements that may apply to specific kinds of CDLs. It covers topics related to commercial driving, such as vehicle inspection, safe driving practices, cargo securement, and hazardous materials transportation.
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