Truck and Tractor Trailer Accidents
Accidents involving trucks and tractor trailers are not like other motor vehicle accidents. A commercial 18-wheeler with a full load of cargo can weigh up to 80,000 pounds (and they rarely weigh less than 26,000 pounds even when empty). All that weight makes it more difficult for trucks to maneuver, avoid road hazards, and brake. When traveling at 60 miles per hour, the average 18-wheeler needs 350 feet to come to a complete stop, twice the distance that a mid-size car needs.
More weight also means that when accidents do occur, the impact is more powerful. Even the largest SUVs on the road only weigh up to 6,000 pounds, so when a tractor-trailer is involved in an accident the damage is often far more severe than in other roadway incidents. Furthermore, commercial trucks and trailers may contain hazardous cargo that is flammable, explosive, toxic, or sharp — which is why nearly three times as many people die in truck accidents than in airplane, boating, and train accidents combined.
Truck and tractor trailer accidents are also more complex from a legal standpoint than car accidents because they frequently involve many parties, including:
- Truck drivers
- Trucking companies
- Insurance companies
- Trucking company employees and contractors
- Vehicle manufacturers and vehicle parts manufacturers
- Government departments
- Truck maintenance companies
- Other motorists
- Pedestrians and cyclists
Sometimes a truck or tractor trailer accident is no one’s fault, but injuries can also result from negligent behavior by a driver or the company they work for. Negligence is a failure to exercise the appropriate level of care for a circumstance. There are numerous state and federal laws which regulate how trucking companies operate, particularly in regard to how they screen, train, and monitor their drivers. The goal of these regulations is to reduce accidents and fatalities on America’s roadways.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), is responsible for regulating interstate trucking. It enforces rules for a range of trucking activities, including:
- Driver hiring and supervision
- Controlled substance and alcohol use
- Proper loading and tie-down of cargo
- Licensing and certification
- Hours of service limits
- Maintenance and inspection schedules
Yet, in the rush to make speedy and on-time deliveries, some operators negligently forgo following all of these rules. When drivers aren’t trained properly, or the companies they work for pressure them to drive at unsafe speeds or spend too many hours behind the wheel without a break, the chance of an avoidable accident increases unacceptably.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Under the current FMCSA rules, truck drivers have various time limits, depending on whether they are carrying passengers or property, before they are required to take a break. Property-carrying drivers can drive a maximum of 14 hours after 10 consecutive hours of rest. However, in the rush to finish a delivery, drivers sometimes forgo their required breaks and drive while extremely tired. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving; even mild sleep deprivation can impair a driver’s ability to navigate the roads safely.
Driving while looking at a mobile device, intoxicated, faster than the speed limit, and many other reckless behaviors like tailgating, brake checking, or failing to signal can all constitute a major danger on roadways.
Trucks suffer a great deal of wear and tear from long hours on the road. Consequently, they require regular maintenance, servicing, and inspections to ensure they are in safe working order. Mechanical issues which pose a hazard to the driver and other motorist, like tire blowouts and electrical failures, are bound to occur when problems go unmonitored and are not repaired as needed. It is negligent of a trucking company to ignore safety protocols.
Driver Screening and Training Lapses
It’s the responsibility of trucking companies to ensure that the men and women driving their vehicles are safe and certified to handle commercial trucks and tractor trailers. That means they must prescreen all employees and contractors by performing background checks to see that they don’t have a history of vehicular violations and that their licenses and certifications are all valid. Failure to screen and then properly train truck drivers can lead to unsafe driving practices.
Preserving All Evidence
The scene of a truck or tractor trailer accident can be chaotic, but it’s vitally important that all evidence of the event is preserved, including the black box, an electronic device which records data about the truck’s activity such as the speed it was traveling and how long before the accident the driver applied the brakes.
Other evidence that an experienced truck and tractor trailer lawyer will seek to preserve include:
- Dashcam footage
- Photos of the accident scene (particularly of skid marks, road condition, and wreckage)
- Testimony from eyewitnesses
- Official records of weather conditions
- Truck logbooks, maintenance records, and driver histories
Get the Help You Need to Navigate Your Truck or Tractor Trailer Accident Claim
The complex web of state and federal laws regulating truck and tractor trailer accidents can make pursuing appropriate compensation for a vehicular injury very challenging, but a dedicated accident lawyer can help claimants recover medically and financially with compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
You may have a case even if you were partly responsible, and Pond Lehocky Giordano helps you every step of the way. We can help you recover financial compensation for your injuries and the property damage you incurred, collect evidence that proves your case (including medical records from your healthcare providers), negotiate with insurance adjusters and opposing attorneys, and communicate with police officers and witnesses.
We offer a completely free consultation to discuss your case and will work tirelessly to protect your rights and assets.