Tennessee Court Discusses Admission of Evidence in Truck Accident Cases

Tractor-trailer drivers are not only obligated to follow the rules imposed on all motorists, but they typically must also comply with federal regulations regarding the operation of commercial motor vehicles. Thus, if a truck driver causes an accident, whether the driver complied with the regulations may be relevant to the issue of liability. A Tennessee court recently issued an opinion discussing whether federal motor carrier regulations should be admitted into evidence in a case in which the plaintiff suffered significant injuries in a truck accident. If you were hurt due to the negligence of a commercial truck driver, you might be able to recover compensation, and you should talk to a trusted Tennessee truck accident attorney regarding your options.

The Accident and Trial

It is reported that the plaintiff was driving her car when she was struck by a commercial truck driven by the defendant. The plaintiff questioned the defendant during his deposition regarding his duties as a commercial truck operator under federal motor carrier regulations. The defendant then filed a motion to preclude the plaintiff from entering the regulations into evidence, on the grounds that she had not argued they formed the basis of a negligence per se claim or demonstrated that they established the standard of care. The plaintiff opposed the motion, but it was granted by the court. Following a trial, the jury found the parties equally liable and denied the plaintiff recovery. The plaintiff then appealed, arguing the trial court erred in refusing to allow her to admit evidence of the federal motor carrier regulations.

Admission of Evidence in Truck Accident Cases

After reviewing the case, the appellate court ultimately ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the defendant’s motion. The plaintiff argued that the federal motor carrier regulations were relevant, and the refusal to allow her to introduce them into evidence was prejudicial. The court noted that under the Federal Rules of Evidence, evidence will be considered relevant if it tends to make a fact more or less likely than it would be without the evidence, and the fact is important in deciding disputed issues.

The court went on to state that the regulations in question did not replace the Tennessee standard of care, but they did support the argument that a truck driver requires different skills and knowledge than an ordinary motorist. As such, the court found that they had some tendency to show the care required when driving a commercial vehicle and were arguably relevant. The court explained, though, that a court can exclude relevant evidence if its value is substantially outweighed by the danger of prejudice or confusing the issues. In the subject case, the court found that the trial court’s reasons for precluding the evidence were sound. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Meet with a Trusted Tennessee Attorney

Truck drivers have an obligation to drive in a safe manner, and if they drive carelessly and harm people, they should be held accountable. If you were injured in a truck accident, you should meet with a lawyer to assess your potential claims. Eric Beasley is a trusted Tennessee truck accident attorney with ample experience fighting on behalf of people hurt by the negligence of others, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Beasley at 615-859-2223 or through the form online to schedule a meeting.

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