Articles Posted in Trucking Accidents

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At all times, drivers must exercise caution behind the wheel. This principle applies no matter what type of vehicle you are driving, no matter what day of the week, and no matter what time it is. Private citizens must also follow the rules of the road set forth by the city, county, and state within which the vehicle is being operated.  Interstate truck drivers, on the other hand, must also follow federal trucking regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA is the “lead federal government agency responsible for providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs),” and its mission is “to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”

In order to promote safe driving during inclement weather, the FMCSA lists five tips that truck drivers should take into account and follow.

  1. Reduce Your Driving Speed in Adverse Road and/or Weather Conditions
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While some factors that affect the likelihood of accidents are within a driver’s control (like speed, obeying rules and regulations, and mechanical issues), other factors are not.

The number of cars on the road, weather conditions, and drunk drivers are factors that drivers can’t control. At certain times of year, these three factors can all come into play and create a perfect storm. During the holiday season, there are approximately 36% more vehicles on the road, and as a result of holiday parties and gatherings, more drivers are impaired by alcohol as well. Thanksgiving can be a particularly dangerous holiday, but during the Christmas and New Year period, the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that the average number of fatalities involving an alcohol-impaired driver rose 34%.

While drivers must be alert and monitor factors like weather and other drivers, they should also be wary of the particular roads they travel. Even when it isn’t the holidays, some roads and interstates are more dangerous on average than others. For example, US Route 62 is the only US Highway that connects US and Mexico. It has a top 15 fatal crash rate for US highways. Across the Southeast, there are many dangerous roads that require truck drivers to take extra care when navigating. Certain roads in each state are more susceptible to truck accidents than others.

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Spine_3D-Illustration-SmallWe all know commercial trucks, including include 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, and dump trucks, are some of the largest vehicles on the road today. But did you know they can weigh 60,000 – 70,000 pounds more than the average sedan?

Those who are involved in accidents with big rigs and large commercial trucks typically bear the brunt of the impact. Consequently, injuries suffered in a truck accident can be more severe than those suffered in a car accident. Some of the most common injuries suffered in truck accidents involve the neck and back, ranging in severity from whiplash to paralysis. Many truck accident victims who suffer neck and back injuries require extensive medical treatment as part of the recovery process. Sometimes, permanent disability may result.

Anatomy of the Human Spine

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Checkpoint-Ahead-Sign-SmallBig rigs are dangerous enough on the road as is, but when a drunk trucker gets behind the wheel, the potential consequences only increase in severity. In Philadelphia, a pedestrian suffered catastrophic injuries when he was hit on the side of the road by a commercial truck operated by a drunken driver. The plaintiff argued that trucking company J.B. Hunt negligently hired an outside contract driver by not thoroughly checking his background, which included a history of DUI incidents.

The jury heard arguments from both sides and deliberated for three hours before ultimately finding J.B. Hunt 40% responsible for the accident and the driver 60% responsible. In addition, the jury awarded the plaintiff $15.5 million in damages. The verdict accounted for $12.2 million of economic damages and $3.3 million for loss of consortium for the plaintiff’s wife.

This case highlighted several issues that may arise in a trucking accident case:

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Truck-Driver-on-CB-RadioIt is well-known that accidents involving an 18-wheeler, semi-truck, or large commercial truck can produce dire consequences. Big rig trucks are significantly larger (in size and weight) than most private-passenger vehicles driven on the road. When a truck collides with a smaller car, occupants of the smaller car can suffer serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. While this is certainly true for impacts that occur at high speeds, the same can be said for impacts at low speeds, considering the size differential.

Of course, trucking accident victims should call the police to the scene and seek medical treatment for their injuries and pain. But what happens after that? How can a victim get reimbursed for medical bills, time off work, and other losses suffered? For many people, the only way to recover such losses is by asserting a claim against those responsible for the collision. If a commercial truck driver was at fault, a victim may be able to recover under a variety of legal theories.

Driver Negligence

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18-Wheeler-SmallIn a traditional auto accident case, evidence regarding how the collision occurred can come from many sources – statements of the drivers, the police officer’s investigation, witness testimony, analysis of the property damage, nearby surveillance footage, and more. When a commercial truck or 18-wheeler is involved, the number of potential sources of information increases exponentially. Thus, an experienced truck accident lawyer will want to take certain steps to make sure certain evidence remains preserved and is not intentionally destroyed or allowed to disappear in the trucking company’s ordinary course of business. One such step is to send a spoliation of evidence letter to the trucking company and its insurance carrier(s).

Evidence to establish liability in a truck accident case can come from a variety of sources, including:

  • The truck itself: Following an accident, a truck may be taken out of commission, depending on the damage. If the truck was towed, the trucking company may immediately retrieve the vehicle, repair it, and put it back on the road. Photographs of the damaged truck and measurements can come in handy later in the case.
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Semi-Truck_Under-Hood-Large-SmallAccidents involving 18-wheelers can be complicated. These vehicles have become highly specialized in recent years, and drivers are supposed to go through proper training before being allowed to operate them on public roads. One such requirement is obtaining a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). In certain circumstances, special endorsements are required, such as for those who drive trucks with double trailers, triple trailers, tanks, trucks carrying hazardous materials, and passenger vehicles. Elevated standards are in place for commercial truck drivers because accidents involving them can produce catastrophic injuries like paralysis, brain trauma, spinal cord damage, and permanent scarring.

Big trucking companies know how much is at stake following a catastrophic accident. They are known to expend significant resources into defending such claims from the outset. If a victim cannot obtain the proof needed to establish liability, that person may end up uncompensated for medical bills, time off from work, and the cost of future surgeries and medical treatment. Thus, it is critical to conduct a thorough investigation.

Of course, the facts of a truck accident itself should be examined by obtaining the police report and reaching out to independent witnesses. However, it is necessary to dig deeper, and hiring an experienced truck accident attorney can go a long way in ensuring critical information is uncovered and identified. The following information could be revealed through an investigation and prove useful during the case:

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ThinkstockPhotos-469854760-SmallDriving next to a big rig truck makes many apprehensive, as colliding with one can cause devastating results. This happened to a 37-year-old Florida man in 2014, when a tractor-trailer crashed into him and caused a broken right hip and knee. The defendant driver was working at the time of the collision, and the wreck occurred as the trucker pulled out of a private driveway and crashed into the victim. His case recently went to trial.

The trial lasted two weeks, and the victim testified that he was still experiencing pain and expected to require $500,000 in future surgical costs. Further, liability was hotly contested. Both sides vigorously argued that the other was responsible for the accident. Ultimately, the jury assessed 70% fault against the trucker and 30% against the victim. Based on comparative fault rules, the jury’s award of $3 million was reduced to $2.1 million.

This case highlighted certain issues that can arise in truck accident cases:

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Jackknifing can refer to the situation in which an 18-wheeler or tractor-trailer skids, and the trailer swings out onto the side of the cab, forming an “L” or “V” shape mirroring that of a pocketknife. Essentially, the cab moves forward but the trailer swings wide. This is a highly dangerous type of trucking accident, one that can cause significant damage to persons and property involved. It is not uncommon for a jackknife wreck to encompass multiple vehicles, sometimes three or more, especially when the trailer ends up across two or more lanes of traffic.

Jackknife accidents may shut down the road or highway for hours, if not longer. For example, this situation occurred in the Knoxville, Tennessee, area in January 2017, when Interstate 40 was shut down after a tractor-trailer jackknifed. In cases involving severe injuries or fatalities, police officers and investigators from agencies such as the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) will normally respond immediately.

Why would a crash of this magnitude occur? It may be due to one of the following reasons, or a combination of them:

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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