Full grocery shelves, retail stores packed for a holiday, and no concern about running to the nearest pharmacy to pick up a prescription for a sick family member—this is a sure sign that a truck recently passed through a distribution area in your state. Without truck drivers delivering everyday items, our lives would be significantly different. However, when truck accidents occur, they can be devastating.
Like every vehicle on the road, trucks are involved in accidents, and if you’ve been injured in a truck accident, it’s important to speak with a truck accident lawyer to understand your legal options. The numbers may surprise you.
Truck Accident Statistics
The nation contains about 282 million passenger vehicles versus approximately 2.8 million large trucks. Yet a recent report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) counts more than 50,000 truck accidents in the United States in one recent year.
The outcomes leave victims devastated. According to data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 42,000 people suffered an injury and an additional 1,008 died in truck accidents.
Reasons for Truck Accidents
Unfortunately, a truck accident may occur for multiple reasons. This may make it difficult for accident victims to know their rights and how to file an insurance claim. Let’s explore some of the common reasons for truck accidents.
Driver Errors And Truck Accidents
Human beings are not infallible. We all make mistakes, and in some cases, these mistakes occur when we are behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Truck driver errors that can result in an accident may include:
- Speeding. Truckers often work under strict time frames, which may encourage them to drive faster than is safe for road conditions or traffic conditions. A speeding truck can wreak havoc on other drivers on the roadway.
- Distracted driving. Truckers often spend days or weeks away from their loved ones. This can mean they are more tempted to use their cell phone to keep in touch with spouses and children, causing them to have their attention taken off the road.
- Driving under the influence. Drugs or alcohol harm a person’s ability to make sound decisions. Getting behind the wheel of a big rig when under the influence can result in accidents.
- Fatigue. Driving a truck for hours can be physically and emotionally exhausting. A tired driver may be just as dangerous as one operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Driver errors are common in truck accidents and may be one reason why truck accidents are more common than many of us think.
Mechanical Problems May Result in Truck Accidents
Since trucks carry heavier loads, travel more miles, and are generally more prone to issues, good maintenance is a requirement for safety. Unfortunately, there are several systems in a truck that can break down, resulting in an accident, including:
- Brake systems. Truckers need properly functioning brakes to ensure their own safety and the safety of those with whom they share the road. Airbrake failure can result in an accident, often resulting in jackknifing accidents.
- Tire failure. Proper inflation, good tread, and proper mounting are important safety factors that can impact a trucker’s ability to remain safe on the roadway. Trucks have more tires than cars, and any tire failure can threaten the trucker and others on the roadway.
- Steering systems. When a truck’s steering fails, the resulting accident can be catastrophic. It is hard to maintain control of a car if the steering fails, and trucks are considerably heavier, making control more difficult.
Safely operating a truck means ensuring the vehicle is properly inspected for various issues before a driver sets off to make deliveries or pickups. Mechanical failures can result in serious truck accidents endangering everyone on the roadway.
Truck Accidents Caused by Reckless Driving in Bad Weather
It is not possible to control mother nature, but you can control how you drive in bad weather. Well-trained truckers have the experience and knowledge to safely operate their vehicles in all types of weather. However, storms are unpredictable, and white-out snowstorms, fog, or other weather-related hazards may cause some accidents.
Truckers should always be able to maintain control of their vehicle and ensure their safety and the safety of others on the roadway. Keeping current on expected weather conditions may help drivers avoid weather-related accidents.
Fatal Improper Loading Accidents
Cargo must be safely loaded into trucks. This means ensuring not only the cargo’s position
but it is properly secured. When cargo shifts position, a driver’s ability to control the truck may be in jeopardy.
A truck’s center of gravity is much higher than other vehicles. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) provides specific guidance on training people who load trucks, especially hazardous materials.
Determining Fault in a Truck Accident
Since there are so many potential causes of truck accidents, it is important to understand who is at fault for the accident. The driver may be solely at fault; however, there could be other reasons why another party may be fully or partially to blame for a truck accident.
Some of the responsible parties may include:
- Trucker’s employer. When drivers are given unrealistic deadlines to make a delivery, or their training is insufficient, an employer may be partially to blame for a truck accident. Some guidelines govern how many hours a truck driver may operate a vehicle. These are designed to ensure everyone’s safety on the road.
- Maintenance company. If a company is responsible for maintaining a fleet of vehicles, they are likely responsible for ensuring that each truck is roadworthy. Failing to maintain a truck properly or failing to thoroughly inspect safety systems can mean the company could be liable in the event of an accident.
- Government entity. Some accidents may result from unforeseen road hazards that were improperly marked. In these cases, if it can be clearly demonstrated that a government entity responsible for road maintenance did or could know about the hazard and failed to post warning signs, they could be held financially liable for damages after trucking accidents.
A truck accident victim needs a lawyer who can determine fault for a truck accident. Before you can file an insurance claim for your losses, you must know who caused the crash so you can file the claim with the proper insurer.
Police Reports and Other Evidence of Fault
Since you must establish fault for a truck accident before you can file an accident claim, you need a lawyer who can carefully analyze the evidence.
Some of the information your lawyer may seek after a truck accident, in addition to police reports, include:
- Black box data from trucks. Most trucks have built-in systems containing data about operational systems. This data can be analyzed to determine if a mechanical failure contributed to the accident.
- Truck driver’s travel logs. When there is an indication a driver may have been speeding or driving drowsy, their travel logs may help determine the time between locations. GPS data may also be used to back up the logs.
- Cell phone data. If anyone is suspected of using their cell phone in the minutes leading up to an accident, cell phone data may be requested to confirm this suspicion.
- Maintenance logs. These logs may help determine when a truck was last inspected and what safety features were worked on. This could be important if a suspected mechanical issue is behind an accident.
These pieces of information may help determine how an accident occurred and who was responsible for the accident. An accident victim often needs a skilled truck accident attorney to access this data.
Seeking Compensation After a Truck Accident
When an accident occurs, and someone suffers an injury, they have the right to seek compensation for the losses due to those injuries. Once liability has been established for a truck accident, preparing and filing a claim can begin.
However, your lawyer may need to consider:
- Victim recovery time. As long as a victim is being treated for injuries sustained in a truck accident, waiting to file a claim may be necessary. This is because until a victim knows when they can return to work, it is impossible to calculate their medical bills and lost wages.
- Statute of limitations. Each state has a time limit on filing a personal injury claim. This ensures that the responsible party does not have the threat of legal action hanging over them indefinitely. A truck accident attorney can explain to a victim how this works and what it means for their case.
Filing a claim too early or filing a claim too late can harm truck accident victims. When claims are filed too early, the victim may negotiate a better settlement. settlement lower than the final costs or losses they may suffer due to a truck accident. If a claim is filed too late, the insurer may not be under any obligation to pay the claim.
Truck accident victims should seek legal advice in the days following an accident in which they suffer an injury. This action is the first step in preserving a victim’s legal rights and options. In many cases, some of the evidence necessary to establish who was at fault for a truck accident could be lost without a request from an attorney to preserve the evidence.
Benefits of Hiring a Truck Accident Lawyer
Accident victims often feel that since they were not at fault for an accident, they can simply file their claim with the responsible party’s insurance company and get reimbursed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
In most cases, an insurer will have an adjuster contact the victim immediately after a claim is filed. Many victims will see this as a positive move, but it may not be as positive as time goes on. Insurance adjusters are trained to protect their employer, the insurance company. Because of this, they will be working hard to minimize the amount of any settlement the victim may be offered.
Some standard methods for reducing a company’s exposure include:
- Claiming no liability. The first step the insurer may take is claiming that someone else was at fault for the accident. They could blame the victim, the trucker’s employer, or another driver who was responsible. Once the insurer denies liability, a victim will likely have a short period to file an appeal.
- Minimizing victims’ losses. An insurance adjuster may claim the victim’s injury resulted from a prior condition and not the truck accident. They may also claim the injury is not as serious as the victim claims.
- Coverage lacking. While not as common, an insurer may also attempt to show that the at-fault driver did not have the proper coverage or that there are exclusions in the insurance contract which exclude certain types of accidents or compensation.
When an accident victim hires an experienced truck accident lawyer to help them with the claims process, these tactics are less likely to be employed by the insurer. Most insurance companies know that if someone has hired an attorney, the attorney will work hard to protect their client’s interests and legal rights. This may also mean the insurer will be more willing to negotiate a better settlement.
Truck accidents are far more common than we would like to think. After a truck accident, protect your rights and contact an experienced personal injury law firm in San Diego for your free case review.