Trucking has played a major role in supporting American economic expansion and ensuring consistent supply chains for American businesses for decades. Unfortunately, as the number of large trucks on America's roadways increases, so too do the number of truck accidents that occur each year. While motor vehicle accidents, in general, are one of the most common causes of personal injury, accidents between passenger vehicles and trucks, semi tractor trailers, or other commercial vehicles often result in significant property damage and serious injuries and fatalities due to the trucks' size, weight, and large blind spots. In the year 2005, approximately one out of eight fatal accidents involved a crash with a large truck.
Trucking accidents usually involve collisions between a large truck and a passenger car, other large truck, or parked vehicle; however, trucking accidents can also occur in the absence of other vehicles. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to drive responsibly and to understand traffic regulations and safety information. It is also important to consider the safety features of your vehicle and to know what to do in the event of an accident.
What To Do After A Trucking Accident
At the scene of an auto or semi truck accident, you should first be sure that any and all injured parties receive medical attention. Disabled vehicles should be moved from traffic if it is possible to do so without risking further injury. By law, all involved parties must provide their names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and insurance information.
In addition, it may be helpful to do the following:
- Obtain names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of any witnesses
- Obtain the names of all police officers who responded to the accident
- Photograph the locations of the vehicles involved and any visible damage
- Photograph skid marks, debris, or other evidence, if available
- Record the exact location and time of day the accident occurred
- Note the weather and road conditions, traffic signs, and other relevant information
- Contact your insurance company as soon as you are able, from the scene of the accident if possible
For your protection, do not admit fault at any time. When speaking with police, other parties involved in the accident, or bystanders, do not volunteer any information other than what is requested of you and required by law. Do not discuss your state of mind, personal condition, or any matters unrelated to the accident itself. These precautions will help minimize the chances of legal difficulties. If you have been injured, it is important to speak with a knowledgeable truck accident personal injury attorney as soon as possible to investigate the accident and preserve valuable evidence.
Trucking Accident Reconstruction and Investigation
Accident reconstruction and investigation can be particularly important factors in trucking accident lawsuits. When an accident happens, the people involved may be unable to recall the exact events that occurred, or there may be conflicting versions of precisely what took place, and over time important evidence may be lost, damaged, or even intentionally tampered with.
An effective trucking accident investigation and reconstruction can be an invaluable tool in determining crucially important factors such as the paths and speeds of each vehicle leading up to the accident, the angle of impact, and environmental conditions in the area at the time of the accident. To ensure the investigation and reconstruction of your accident is as complete and successful as possible, it is essential that a knowledgeable lawyer be contacted as soon as possible to help.
Elements of Trucking Accident Reconstruction and Investigation
A skilled accident reconstruction team will examine the exact location where the accident occurred, documenting factors such as road and weather conditions at the time of the accident, eyewitness accounts, sight lines, skid marks, debris, and any other evidence that can be found at the scene. Police, fire, and rescue reports will be obtained, along with any logs and records kept by trucking companies and the drivers involved in the accident, which may include either written daily logs or onboard electronic data recorder reports. The condition of the vehicles involved before, during, and after the accident will be investigated, including the conditions of the vehicles' brakes, tires, wheels, and lights.
The team then combines all collected data and creates a second-by-second reconstruction of the accident, a tool that can be essential in lawsuit negotiations and in the courtroom for building a clear, strong, thorough case.
Do I need a trucking accident lawyer?
Following traumatic trucking accidents, many people are confused about how they should proceed and whether they should contact an attorney. In most cases, it is to the benefit of victims of accidents involving large trucks to talk to an experienced trucking accident lawyer as soon as possible in order to ensure their rights are protected. Whether you have suffered an injury or a family member has been injured or killed as a result of a trucking accident, a skilled attorney can help answer any questions you may have, facilitate the recovery process, and help you and your family proceed with your lives.
Why do I need an attorney?
An attorney can advise you of your legal rights and help you determine how to pursue compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. An attorney can also use a number of resources to aggressively investigate your claim and help you build an effective case, including accident investigation and reconstruction. Litigating a truck accident case properly requires intricate knowledge of the hundreds of federal and state regulations governing the ownership, operation, repair, insurance, maintenance, loading, and use of commercial vehicles.
Why do I need an attorney with specialized knowledge of trucking accidents?
Many lawyers incorrectly believe that handling a case involving a tractor trailer accident is the same as handling a case involving an automobile accident, but nothing could be further from the truth. Trucking accidents are very different in many ways from accidents which involve automobiles alone: hundreds of state and federal regulations govern the ownership and leasing, insurance, operation, repair, maintenance, loading, and use of commercial vehicles. In addition, there are regulations to address recurring problems such as hours of service violations, driver training and supervision, drug and alcohol testing, improper loading, and hundreds of other issues. Defense lawyers and insurance companies fiercely litigate tractor trailer accident cases, and they know the laws inside and out. It is imperative that your attorney have exceptional experience and training to protect your rights.
Common Causes of Trucking Accidents
Trucking accidents and injuries from such accidents can have several causes, including one or more of the following:
- Driver inattention – either on the part of the truck driver or the driver of the other vehicle or vehicles involved in the accident
- Speeding - because large trucks cannot stop as quickly as smaller vehicles, speeding can easily lead to a collision with another vehicle
- Following too closely - trucks that follow another vehicle too closely run the risk of a trucking accident
- Mechanical difficulties - such as failed brakes, worn tires, seat belt defects, faulty airbags, and lack of crashworthiness
- Aggressive driving - on the part of the truck driver or drivers of other vehicles
- Inattention to blind spots - drivers of passenger vehicles that do not pay attention to truck driver blind spots run the risk of the truck turning into their vehicles
Trucking Accident Prevention
The majority of trucking accidents can be prevented. A few basic precautions to take in order to help avoid trucking accidents include:
- Stay out of truck drivers' blind spots
- Leave sufficient space between trucks and vehicles in front of or following the truck
- Stay alert while driving by getting adequate rest and avoiding use of alcohol and drugs
- Avoid use of cell phones while driving
- Avoid eating while driving
Trucking Insurance Requirements
Because most large trucks are operated as commercial vehicles, they are subject to a different set of insurance requirements than typical automobiles. Federal regulations currently require that all commercial freight vehicles carry a minimum of $750,000 in liability coverage to compensate for the heightened risk of injury in collisions involving this type of vehicle. Additionally, vehicles which carry certain types of hazardous materials are required to carry liability insurance or a bond in the amount of $5 million for public liability or property damage.
Furthermore, each state has its own set of additional insurance rules and regulations that may surpass the federally-mandated minimums. To find out what your state's specific insurance requirements for large trucks are and learn how they may affect your specific case, we recommend speaking to a qualified trucking accident lawyer in your area.
Types of Injuries from Trucking Accidents
Because accidents involving large trucks can often be devastating to people traveling in passenger vehicles, trucking accidents cause a wide variety of traumatic injuries. Some of the injuries commonly caused by trucking accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Head trauma
- Spinal cord injury
- Internal injuries
- Burn injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Broken bones
- Scars and disfigurement
- Nerve damage
- Neck injuries
- Dislocated or amputated limbs
- Cuts, bruises, and abrasions
Statistics on Trucking Accidents
In the last 30 years, the number of large trucks on the road has risen steadily, along with the number of truck-related accidents. Read some trucking accident statistics which may surprise you.
As the number of motor vehicles on America's roadways increases, a certain number of accidents will inevitably occur; accordingly, involvement in a crash is largely considered part of the normal and expected use of a vehicle, rather than an extraordinary event. Because of this, most states require vehicles to meet certain crashworthiness standards.
The term crashworthiness refers to a vehicle's ability to protect its passengers in the event of a collision; each vehicle is manufactured with certain crashworthiness features designed to help minimize the effects of vehicular accidents on the people within, even during an accident involving a large truck. When these safety features do not function properly or a vehicle is not up to crashworthiness standards, a wrongful death or traumatic injury can result from a trucking accident that otherwise might have been far less damaging.
Several types of tests are performed to assess a vehicle's crashworthiness. These tests typically involve placing crash test dummies in a vehicle and replicating representative crash situations to evaluate the vehicle's ability to protect passengers from damage. Crashworthiness tests frequently performed include:
- Frontal impact crashworthiness test: this test involves driving a vehicle into a solid wall or stationary vehicle to evaluate the effects of a head-on collision.
- Offset crashworthiness test: this test is similar to frontal impact crashworthiness tests; however, the area of impact is offset so that only a portion of the front of the car impacts another vehicle.
- Side impact crashworthiness test: this test evaluates the ability of a vehicle to protect passengers from side impact collisions, such as often occur at intersections.
- Rollover crashworthiness test: this test measures a vehicle’s ability to support itself and protect passengers when turned upside-down or on its side, and is frequently performed on sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
Defective Crashworthiness Features
Vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States are required to have a number of standard crashworthiness features to protect passengers' safety. However, these safety features can be vulnerable to manufacturing and design defects which reduce crashworthiness. Among the automotive defects which may be found to be detrimental to a vehicle's crashworthiness are the following:
- Malfunctioning airbags
- Insufficiently supported roof
- Improperly placed or poorly welded fuel tanks
- Ripped or otherwise damaged seatbelts
- Malfunctioning seatbelt latches or retractors
- Seat backs that crumple upon impact
- Doors that spring open upon impact
Get the Answers You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust
If you or a family member has been the victim of a trucking accident, securing proper representation can help you obtain peace of mind and move forward with your lives. Locate a skilled trucking accident lawyer in your area to represent you and pursue full compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other injury-related expenses.