Commercial trucks alongside conventional vehicles on our nation’s roads can be a deadly combination. Each year, more than 20,000 people are injured in accidents involving trucks, semis, buses, 18-wheelers, and tractor-trailers.
If you or a loved one have been injured or you have lost a loved one in a trucking accident, a prompt investigation should be done to protect your rights. The consequences of trucking accidents can be severe, and the Ron Aslam Law Office understands what it takes to make sure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
Laws Governing Trucking Accidents
The trucking industry is governed by Federal laws and regulations. These laws create certain standards that drivers, trucking companies, and truck owners must meet and often determine who is responsible in a trucking accident. A majority of the federal regulations that deal with the trucking industry are found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The agencies that govern truck driving in the United States include the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Each state also has its own department of transportation that establishes an additional set of trucking regulations.
Common Types of Trucking Accidents
Commercial trucks pose a much greater danger on the road than a passenger car. Not only is it important that truck drivers exercise keen awareness when operating these large vehicles, but other drivers should also be extra cautious in their presence. A minor error with a large truck, even at a reasonable speed, can be deadly.
There are times when a trucking accident isn’t the truck driver’s fault at all. Unfortunately, when the driver of a passenger vehicle acts recklessly and in ignorance of a large truck’s capabilities, the results can be catastrophic. Stopping abruptly in front of a large truck, misjudging a truck’s speed, or improperly merging into traffic can result in a serious accident.
Many trucking accidents, however, involve some sort of driver or trucking company error. This is why it’s so important to conduct a thorough investigation after any accident. The most common types of trucking accidents include:
- Drug use – Whether prescription or illegal, the use of drugs among truck drivers is the most common factor involved in truck-related accidents. Many truck drivers use drugs to stay awake or combat boredom, but they can also affect reaction times and could cause drowsiness.
- Driver fatigue – Driving while tired is a factor in many trucking accidents since most drivers are either paid by the mile or are on a tight delivery schedule. Drowsy driving is often compared to impaired driving and can be just as deadly.
- Speeding – Since truck drivers need to be on the road to make money, the temptation to speed is often too great. Speeding in large trucks is also quite dangerous because they require much more distance to stop than a normal
- Driver Error -Other driver errors that might cause accidents include such things as failing to yield, driving unsafe during bad weather, and just plain inexperience with equipment.
- Distracted Driving – Truck drivers who are on the road consistently are tempted to multitask by doing other things while driving. This includes talking on the phone, texting, eating, and looking at navigation. Distracted driving can lead to rear-end collisions and other serious accidents.
- Mechanical Breakdown – Equipment problems are a common cause of trucking accidents. These might be manufacturing problems with the truck or design error. In most cases, however, accidents happen because of a failure to properly maintain equipment such as tires and brakes. Failure to maintain brakes can cause a truck to jackknife and not replacing tires can lead to blowouts.
Types of Injuries From Trucking Accidents
Due to their speed and size, a semi-truck collision can cause far greater injury than any other type of accident. The most common injuries seen from trucking accidents include:
- Head and neck trauma
- Brain damage
- Internal injuries
- Hearing or sight loss
- Facial injuries
Serious injuries from trucking accidents can result in the need for lifetime medical care that reaches in excess of several million dollars. Other damages include property damage, loss of income, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of companionship.
Who is Responsible in a Trucking Accident?
When there is a trucking accident, the legally responsible isn’t as clear as it might be with a conventional auto accident. In commercial truck accidents, the parties that could be held responsible for a victim’s injuries include:
- the truck driver – In many truck accidents, liability comes down to the driver. Truck drivers drive thousands of miles every single week, laying the foundation for inevitable accidents. Even the most careful drivers are prone to fatigue and loss of concentration, both of which play a big role in many collisions. If drivers fail to adjust their driving speed and habits for weather conditions, they may lose control of their vehicle and cause a serious crash.
Another factor at play is the use of drugs and alcohol. While this often occurs because of substances taken recreationally, it may also happen when drivers are encouraged to drive more than they are able to do safely. To stay on the road, they may use substances that help them stay awake and focused longer. Drivers may also be liable if they skip a pre-trip inspection and a faulty part turns out to be the cause of the accident. If the faulty component would have been identified in a pre-trip inspection, the driver may be responsible for the damage caused.
- the truck driver’s employer – Trucking companies also take a fair share of the blame when it comes to truck accidents. This industry is extremely competitive, and companies are always looking for ways to finish trips a little faster or get a little more out of their drivers. Unfortunately, this means some companies turn to illegal or unethical tactics.
They may ignore state or federal law and force drivers to skip breaks or drive longer than they are legally permitted. They may also rush through pre-trip inspections or skip them entirely. Companies have been known to delay vehicle inspections if they can’t afford to have a truck out of commission while repairs are being done. All of these factors create an environment where the roads are a little less safe for everyone.
- the truck’s owner – In some cases, the owner of the tractor or trailer is neither the driver nor the employer. Sometimes, the tractor and trailer are each owned by different people. If the owner does not keep up with required maintenance, they could be held liable for damage caused in an accident.
- the company or person that is leasing the truck from the owner
- the loader or shipper of the cargo (in cases where cargo issues caused a crash) – Cargo loaders are responsible for safely filling a truck before it leaves. Complacency happens in almost every job, and cargo loaders are not immune to it. They may skip standard safety checks or load trucks in a way that is convenient for them, rather than doing so in a way that is safe for the driver and others on the road. They may also load in an unsafe way to save time or avoid punishment. A truck that is unsafely loaded can create imbalances that make the truck harder to control, leading to crashes.
- the manufacturer of the truck or of any defective parts – The truck manufacturer or the manufacturer of different truck components could be the responsible party in a crash. Product defects happen all the time, and when they affect a commercial truck, the consequences can be fatal. Whether a part is manufactured poorly or put together poorly in the truck, you may find that blame lies with one of the manufacturers.
Obviously, with so many liable parties to consider, investigating a truck accident can be extremely challenging. This is one of the reasons you need an attorney. They will be able to determine liability and figure out which insurance company they can go after to fight for your compensation.
When a trucking accident occurs, there is often a race to place blame amongst several parties. As one party tries to get another’s insurance company to compensate for damages, victims are left angry and confused.
How Trucking Companies Try to Avoid Liability
Trucking companies used to evade responsibility for truck accidents by leasing trucks and hiring drivers as independent contractors. If the truck were involved in an accident, the trucking company would argue that the truck wasn’t their equipment and the driver wasn’t their employee.
Fortunately, the rules have been changed. Federal law now states that the responsibility for trucking accidents falls on the trucking company that owns the permit and has its name or placard displayed on the truck. Using leased trucks or hiring drivers as independent contractors is no longer a protection.
How a Trucking Accident Lawyer Can Help
Trucking company accidents remain complex and intimidating. If you’re involved in an accident with a large truck, you need an experienced lawyer involved immediately to ensure that evidence is preserved and that the scene is promptly investigated by the right experts. Trucks involved in accidents must have an inspection by a certified truck inspector, and there is often data from high-tech devices that needs to be secured.
The Louisville, Kentucky metropolitan area is a busy urban zone that can be the site of some devastating car and truck collisions. The Ron Aslam Law Office handles car accident and trucking accident cases throughout Kentucky. If you were seriously injured or a loved one killed in a trucking accident, contact our experienced trucking accident legal team to discuss your case and allow us to explain your options.