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shutterstock_430656778Busy Tennessee roadways like Interstate 40 and Interstate 24 are filled with cars. Interstate 40 runs nearly the entire State of Tennessee, from Memphis through Knoxville. Among those vehicles that fill our roads and interstates are commercial trucks. While Tennessee is home to many large corporations, thousands of truck drivers from companies based all over the country drive through the Volunteer State on a daily basis. Since these big rig trucks are much larger in weight and size than the average sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks driven by most Tennesseans, when one of these trucks crashes into a smaller car, injuries frequently result.

What are some steps you can take if an 18-wheeler strikes your car?

Stop at the Scene and Call the Police

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USA Today conducted a comprehensive investigation into a subset of the trucking industry in the United States – port truckers employed by trucking companies who transport goods across the country on behalf of many of the largest retailers in the United States, including Target, Home Depot, and Costco. Many of the trucking companies studied were based in California and employed low-income immigrants, some of which speak little to no English. Journalists reviewed testimony in labor dispute cases, contracts, and statements made by over 300 truck drivers. The research revealed that many truckers are overworked and in debt, both of which ultimately affect their driving performance.

One common theme showed that these companies used tactics to force drivers to finance their trucks themselves, even if it meant taking out debt that they could not afford. Knowing that the driver was over-extended in debt, executives from the company exerted that leverage on the employees to work longer shifts. If a trucker quit, the company could keep the truck, meaning the driver lost all of the money he or she had put into owning it. The company would then simply lease the truck to the next driver hired.

In addition to leasing fees, truckers still had to pay for gas and maintenance, among others. After deducting for leasing expenses and other payments, some drivers were barely making a profit at all. One trucker reported his take-home pay at a mere $0.67 per week. If the trucker was fired, the company would continue to charge the driver for payments owed under the contract. Court filings revealed many high-profile corporations were charged with labor violations, including Target, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hasbro, UPS, Goodyear, and Costco.

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An “underride accident” is when a car crashes into the rear or side of a semi-truck or tractor-trailer and ends up underneath. Trucking statistics show that over 200 people are killed in these types of wrecks each year. When a car slides underneath a trailer, sometimes the top of the vehicle is sheared off. If a victim is fortunate enough to survive the crash, that person may sustain serious and permanent injuries.

A product known as AngelWing is designed to protect vehicle occupants in case of a side collision with a large commercial truck. It is currently being tested. When functioning properly, the side guard “engages and deploys the vehicle’s built-in safety features such as airbags, anti-avoidance sensors, crumple zones or seat belts, designed to protect its occupants from possible injury or death.”

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), side guards on trucks would greatly reduce the risks of underride accidents. Currently, side guards are not required by law. Per a report by NBC News, the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, a lobbying group for the trucking industry, strongly opposes a formal requirement for side guards. Their reasons include additional cost, technical challenges, and concerns that the side guard would increase the truck’s weight to more dangerous levels.

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school-bus-1442032School bus accidents can present lots of problems. For starters, buses are much bigger than the cars and SUVs that most people drive on the road. Thus, when a collision occurs, the smaller car can sustain heavy damage. More disastrous is when the school bus is full of children or students. This could lead to a situation where many people are injured as a result of the crash, including severe injuries.

One such crash occurred in California when a school bus driver passed out at the wheel. The bus then veered off the road and smashed head-on into a tree. The lawsuit alleged that the driver suffered from pulmonary hypertension which can cause him to lose consciousness if his blood pressure increases beyond a certain point. The lawsuit further claimed that the school district did not inquire into his medical history before hiring him. Allegedly, three months before the crash, the school district received a call from a fellow employee, who advised that the defendant driver was consistently behaving oddly. The school district required him to submit a drug test, but halted the investigation after the test returned negative. Five lawsuits were filed. One student suffered a broken clavicle while another sustained a traumatic brain injury. The lawsuits were consolidated, and the district settled for $10 million.

This case is a perfect example of why the law allows recovery under the theory of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior is Latin for “let the master answer.” It is a theory of law that holds an employer vicariously liable for the negligent acts of an employee, so long as the employee was operating within the scope of his employment at the time. Applying this legal principle to the case mentioned above, Orange County Unified School District will be held liable for the acts of its driver, so long as Rupple was operating within the scope of his employment.

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A trial date has been set for the driver who fell asleep at the wheel while operating a commercial truck, which killed a 31-year-old man. John Ray Carpenter is facing charges of vehicular homicide, which carries a sentence of anywhere between 3 and 15 years in prison. Carpenter did not deny that he “dozed off” or “blacked out” while driving his multi-ton septic tanker shortly before colliding head-on with Johnson, according to authorities.

The criminal complaint also alleges that the trucker voluntarily admitted to authorities that he is aware that he goes through spells periodically where he believes his eyes are open when they really are not. Further investigation discovered that prior to this wreck, the defendant had a long history of traffic collisions but continued to drive trucks commercially for a living. In fact, he was involved in 13 accidents between the years of 2000 and 2015. Additionally, records show that the driver was involved in a traffic collision just one week prior to the incident at issue in this case, causing thousands of dollars in property damage. The U.S. Department of Transportation declared the driver unfit to operate commercial trucks and has restricted him from doing so.

A civil lawsuit has also been filed against the truck driver in connection with this fatal truck accident. The lawsuit alleges that the driver operated his vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, and that he should not have been allowed to operate a commercial truck due to a serious medical condition, sleep apnea.

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A driver can only be as good as the vehicle that he or she is operating. Even licensed, experienced, and well-rested truck drivers are dependent on their vehicles to effectively carry out their jobs. If something is wrong with their truck, such as a mechanical failure, it can cause problems for even the most experienced drivers. In turn, this puts members of the public in great danger of injury or even death.

Vehicle maintenance in the field of commercial trucking is crucial. These giant trucks and tractor-trailers take a beating when hauling heavy loads across the country. It should come as no surprise then that these vehicles require constant maintenance and upkeep to ensure that they run smoothly.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets forth rules and regulations regarding the upkeep of commercial vehicles in FMCSA Rules and Regulations § 396. Specifically, Regulation §396.3 states that all carriers must have a program in place to “systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles and intermodal equipment subject to its control.” This broad and ambiguous requirement leaves certain decisions of how to maintain a carrier’s fleet entirely on the carrier. It is up to the carrier to ensure that they comply with FMCSA regulations, and often, this lack of specificity can lead to inadequate maintenance.

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The modern world today is driven by technological advancements. Everything from travel, leisure, and business is fueled by the ever increasing use of technology. We can research an important legal topic at lightning speed and conduct business meetings from halfway around the globe. This unavoidable push to the future is even making its way into the commercial trucking industry.

Researchers from Iowa State University are trying to incorporate the use of big data to big rig trucking. In a detailed report presented to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), researchers laid out some of the biggest obstacles trucking companies face, including delays, accidents, and safety. It is estimated that trucking companies lose millions of dollars annually sitting in traffic. This is why many truckers face intense pressure to drive as many hours as physically possible, even if it means knowingly disregarding federal trucking regulations such as hours of service. By employing real-time data collected by state traffic centers and other resources, researchers believe truck drivers could potentially receive information on traffic congestion, accidents, road conditions, and traffic speed.

This up-to-the second information could help truck drivers avoid congested or delayed roads, in turn resulting in faster and more punctual deliveries. Dave Cantor, one of the researchers from Iowa State, believes that this technology is already readily available. “The DOT has a lot of real-time data on the operating conditions of state highways and secondary roads, and it wants to make sure the data is of value to carriers,” Cantor said. The problem then becomes what is the best way to transmit this information to truck drivers?

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medical-05-1455836An investigation into a March 2017 fatal accident revealed the truck driver who caused it was under the influence of several types of pills at the time of the crash. The truck driver, just 20 years old, crashed into a bus carrying senior citizen congregants of a Texas church who were coming back from a three day retreat. 13 people ended up dying as a result of the collision. The victims were between 61 and 87 years old.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, in addition to local police, responded to the accident scene. Investigators found five partially smoked marijuana cigarettes in the truck as well as two full marijuana cigarettes. The trucker admitted to having taken prescription pills which led investigators to believe he was under the influence. He admitted to taking Clonazepam, Ambien, and Lexapro. Other pill bottles were found in the truck as well.

The facts of the accident suggest the driver could have been under the influence. One witness was driving behind the truck and saw it driving erratically. For example, the trucker had crossed the center line several times. The witness was so concerned about the erratic driving that he called the local sheriff’s office to report what he was seeing and ask law enforcement to get the truck off the road before somebody got hit. Following this accident, the witness got out of his car to check on everyone. When he talked to the trucker, the trucker admitted to texting while driving and apologized multiple times.

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crosswalk-1532024The amount of pedestrians injured or killed as the result of a vehicular accident each year is enormous. Even when pedestrians use crosswalks and sidewalks, they are in danger of serious injury or death, often at the hands of careless or distracted drivers. For instance, a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that 4,700 people were killed in pedestrian related traffic accidents in 2013, with another 150,000 suffering some form of injury.

Unfortunately, pedestrian fatalities have continued to rise since then; there were 5,376 pedestrian accident deaths reported in the United States in 2015. Many of the victims happen to be children. The troubling number of pedestrian deaths has lawmakers and safety regulators searching for new and improved ways to prevent these tragic incidents.

Recently, a pedestrian was struck and killed in a hit and run accident in Tampa, Florida. The crash occurred in the early morning hours when a commercial dump truck hit a pedestrian who was walking down the street around 5:40 a.m. After striking the pedestrian, the trucker fled the scene. Witnesses assisted Tampa police in describing the trucker, and police were able to use that information to find and arrest him shortly thereafter.

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Almost eight years after a devastating and life-altering bus accident, an injured victim was awarded a verdict of $28 million as compensation for her permanent injuries. The victim was just 16 years old when her life changed forever. She and two of her friends were traveling in a car in Coleraine, Minnesota when a school bus T-boned their vehicle, dragging the victim and her friends nearly 100 yards before stopping. The bus was operated by Jay Poshak, an employee of the Ely School District at the time of the accident.

The crash rendered the victim quadriplegic and killed the other passenger. Following trial, the Itasca County, Minnesota, jury returned a verdict of over $28 million in favor of the quadriplegic victim. Fault was apportioned between two drivers: the school bus driver was found to be 10% responsible while the rest of the fault was placed on the victim’s driver, who was just a teenager. Following the bus accident, the State Patrol reconstructed the accident and found that both drivers did not pay enough attention to the road.

According to reports, the large jury verdict is rare for the greater Minnesota area, which is a typically conservative location and not known for handing down big verdicts. However, in this case, the award reflects the damages. The victim was only 16 years old when she lost the use of her arms and legs. The $28 million is meant to compensate for past and future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, emotional distress, and loss of potential earnings.