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Truckers in bad weather must exercise “extreme caution”

As a Georgia attorney handling trucking accident cases, I often see cases where crashes occurred in bad weather. While most state laws define the standard of negligence liability as “ordinary care,” when a motor carrier driver is driving in adverse weather, an “extreme caution” standard under 49 C.F.R. § 392.14 should preempt any lower standard under state law. “Every commercial motor vehicle must be operated in accordance with the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction in which it is being operated. However, if a [federal] regulation … imposes a higher standard of care than that [state] law, … the … regulation must be complied with.” (49 C.F.R. § 392.2.)

There is case authority it is reversible error for a trial court to fail to instruct the jury on the “extreme caution” standard in a case where an interstate commercial motor vehicle was operated in inclement weather. This is a higher duty of care than “reasonable or prudent” standard under a state’s basic speed law, and thus operators of commercial motor vehicles are required to comply with regulation. Weaver v. Chavez, 133 Cal.App.4th 1350, 35 Cal.Rptr.3d 514 (Cal.App. 2 Dist.,2005).

Ken Shigley is on the Advisory Committee of the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, former chair fo the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute, a Certified Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and Secretary of the 39,000 member State Bar of Georgia. He handles trucking accident cases throughout Georgia, the entire length of I-75, I-85, I-20, I-95, I-16, I-675, I-575, and of course the I-285 perimeter loop around Atlanta.