Many attorneys and crash victims hear the term ‘black ice’ that involves a tractor trailer accident and automatically assume that the personal injury case cannot be won, especially if the police did not cite anyone in the crash.
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This is especially common for attorneys who are unfamiliar with the requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations as well as the Commercial Driver’s Manual.
In reality, truck crashes that are caused by ‘black ice’ are and can be won. Further, punitive damages can be sought against a truck driver and the trucking company for breaking safety rules.
Truck Driver Experience
Every potential truck crash case should start from when the driver was hired. The key question is whether the truck driver was qualified. Specifically in a winter weather crash, did that truck driver have the experience and training to drive in areas where the trucking company operates where snow and ice can accumulate on the roadways? Did the company do a background check on the driver to determine if he had winter weather driving experience?
CDL Manual Rules
A truck driver to drive in snow and ice must clearly understand the rules of the CDL manual that require the driver to match speed with road conditions. The manual states that on slippery surfaces, including black ice, stopping becomes much more difficult. If the driver suspects the presence of a slippery road surface, he should reduce speed by 1/3 or more.
An attorney working on a black ice truck crash case should ask if the trucking company provided specific training to drive in winter weather. If you can show that the company does not train for these conditions or does not make it mandatory, you can start to construct a case that proves that the company is making conscious decisions to disregard public safety.
If an attorney can show that the company hired a trucker that did not know the rules of safe winter driving and that the company was not proactive in providing training, a jury may well start to wonder if the driver was ready to handle the black ice that led to the fatal accident.
Truck crash attorneys also need to show that the driver had knowledge of weather conditions before they started driving that day. Professional truck drivers now have weather apps, alerts at truck stops, alerts from their company and alerts from other truckers about hazardous road conditions. A good, trained truck driver should be aware of dangerous road conditions and drive safely.
Cases that involve black ice will always come down to showing that the truck driver made choices that he knew were not safe. It is up to the attorney on the case to make this clear to the jury. Driving while distracted is another choice drivers make that sometimes turns deadly.
Grieving families and seriously injured drivers from a truck crash should know this: ‘Black ice’ cases can certainly be won by good personal injury attorneys. As Virginia truck crash lawyers, we have worked on black ice and bad weather truck crash cases and prevailed.
In fact, we won a case for $410,000 where our client himself crashed due to black ice. As he was getting personal items out of his car on the side of the road, a truck came along and hit the same patch of black ice. He lost control and slammed into our client, killing him instantly.
Our truck accident lawyers proved that the truck driver had a commercial driver’s license and should have had the training and knowledge of weather conditions to avoid the accident.
Truck drivers do indeed have a higher obligation than regular drivers to drive safely. The Virginia CDL manual is very specific about driving slower and more carefully when road conditions are slippery, including black ice.
Truck drivers also should keep in mind that as trained professionals, roads can be just as dangerous after a snowstorm as during it.