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Wisconsin Supreme Court Holds Truck Drivers to High Standard in Dakter v. Cavallino

There are an estimated 2 million semi-tractor trailers in operation throughout the United States. With this many in operation on our highways, it is not surprising that motor vehicle crashes involving semi-tractor trailers frequently occur. When they do, the resulting injuries are usually more significant, given the size, weight, and momentum of semi-tractor trailers.

In an important decision affecting the rights of those injured by semi-tractor trailers to obtain fair compensation, on July 7, 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held in the case of Dakter v. Cavallino that operators of semi-tractor trailers are required “to exercise that degree of care, skill and judgment which a reasonable semi truck driver would exercise in the same or similar circumstances, having due regard for the state of learning, education, experience, and knowledge possessed by semi truck drivers holding commercial driver’s licenses.” This decision is significant, because it recognizes that the operation of semi-tractor trailers is a specialized profession requiring specialized training and experience. Federal law requires operators of commercial motor vehicles to hold a commercial driver’s license, which, in turn, requires specialized knowledge in many areas, including safe operations, maintaining a safe following distance, speed management, extreme driving conditions, hazard perceptions, and emergency maneuvers. In Dakter, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected the trucking company’s argument that in determining whether a truck driver was negligent in causing a crash, a jury should not consider the truck driver’s special knowledge and skill. Instead, the Court held that semi-tractor trailer operators are required to use their specialized knowledge, training and experience when operating a semi-tractor trailer on the highways of this state in order to avoid causing accidents. Accordingly, their conduct is to be “assessed by reference to the conduct of a reasonable person with the special competence required of semi-trailer truck drivers—not by reference to the conduct of a reasonable, ordinary driver.”

If you have been injured in a crash caused by the operator of a semi-tractor trailer, call Cannon & Dunphy S.C. We have the knowledge and expertise to successfully handle your case.

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