It’s easy to imagine how destructive a collision with a big rig can be. Even minor accidents often cause an immense amount of damage to the vehicles and people involved. The sheer size and weight of commercial trucks make truck collisions some of the deadliest types of motor vehicle accidents Obviously, those in the smaller vehicles suffer the most serious injuries.
When you are involved in a truck accident there may be several people and entities that may be held responsible, including the driver, owner, and employer. Truck accident cases are generally more complex than personal injury accidents that are between cars. To establish the truck's responsibility for its negligence, or what in litigation is called “liability”, a number of factors need to be considered and investigated.
The Trucking Company’s Hiring and Training Practices:
Trucking companies have a duty of care to verify that any truck driver they hire meets state and federal licensing standards. Putting an unqualified driver on the road is an act of negligence.
Trucking companies may not rely on just a Commercial Driver’s License to determine whether their employees can operate their trucks or haul the specific cargo they specialize in. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require trucking companies to provide additional training as do most written industry standards. The training must be sufficient to operate the vehicle and carry the cargo the truck was carrying at the time of the crash.
Truckers Asleep at the Wheel:
Some companies and drivers violate federal guidelines that require drivers to take rest breaks and not to work over a certain number of hours. This has been called an epidemic by the Department of Transportation and it is estimated that one in five truck drivers exceeds their 60-hour-a-week regulations.
The tired truck driver becomes a menace on the road. Studies show that sleep deprivation can have just as damaging an effect on driver coordination, judgment and reaction time as intoxication. The danger of sleep-deprived driving is compounded when the fatigued driver is operating a large truck weighing 10,000 to 80,000 pounds. It is the responsibility of truck drivers to protect themselves and others on the road by choosing to operate while fully rested and alert.
A truck driver’s job is to get as far as they can and as quickly as possible, which is why drivers are paid by the mile instead of the hour. Unfortunately, this system can create a tempting incentive for drivers on the road to ignore signs of exhaustion and fatigue, thus putting themselves and other drivers in harm’s way.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Regulation §395.3 requires truck drivers to operate their vehicles for no more than 14 hours before taking a mandatory rest period lasting a minimum of 10 hours. In addition, they may drive for only 11 of those 14 hours. There are other rules governing when and for how long a driver may operate. None of these laws are optional — however, not all truck drivers observe them.
Trucks and drivers are required to keep detailed logs to show the number of hours worked and the number used for rest or sleep.
One of the issues with companies that own and operate trucks is that they, at times, decide to put their profits over your safety. Whether it is with regard to cutting corners, as in the examples discussed above, a company’s hiring and training practices, drivers working excessive hours or with the trucks’ maintenance. When companies look to cut costs, truck maintenance is often a tempting place to cut corners.
Federal law requires trucks be inspected and maintained every 30 days. All parts and accessories must always be in safe and proper operating conditions. They must ensure these vehicles are properly lubricated and free of oil and grease leaks. Commercial trucking companies must maintain service records for all their vehicles.
Large commercial trucks and tractor-trailer rigs require special and attentive maintenance to ensure that they are safe for the road. This includes properly maintaining brakes and tires on the vehicle. Truck tires carry vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds and more many thousands of miles, meaning they undergo extensive wear and tear.
Failure to properly maintain large commercial rigs is one of the leading causes of trucking accidents in the United States.
Trucking accidents may be caused by cargo that’s been poorly secured or improperly loaded which can cause rollovers, jackknifes, chemical spills, and accidents where other drivers swerve to avoid the cargo. There are specific guidelines for almost every kind of load.
Truck Accidents Require a Thorough Evidence Review
An experienced truck accident personal injury attorney will obtain the necessary evidence and hire the proper experts to prove your case. This will include a review of the driver’s logs as well as the maintenance records. The faster you involve an attorney the sooner they are able to work to secure vital evidence. Video camera footage or physical evidence may get erased or lost.
At Jaroslawicz & Jaros, we have successfully represented many truck accident victims who suffered very serious injuries in accidents involving tractor trailers and other types of trucks, including:
- A truck that was making a turn and struck a pedestrian crossing in the crosswalk;
- A truck striking and dragging a vehicle while making a turn;
- A truck striking multiple vehicles due to brake failure;
- A truck striking a pedestrian standing on the sidewalk due to brake failure;
- A truck clipping a vehicle while changing lanes causing it to lose control;
- An oil truck making a delivery causing the sidewalk to be slippery due to spilled oil;
- An oil truck making a delivery and creating a tripping hazard with its hose stretched across the sidewalk without any warnings;
- A soda delivery truck striking a bicyclist in the bicycle lane. The truck denied striking the bicyclist and we were able to prove the point of impact from a photo we obtained that showed the bicyclist’s handprint in the dust in the side of the truck.
- A driver who lost control of his vehicle and struck a tree seriously injured his passenger. He claimed a truck coming in the opposite direction on the curve with limited sight distance caused him to swerve and lose control. By building a detailed model of the roadway and hiring an accident reconstruction expert we were able at trial to prove that the phantom truck never existed and that he was simply speeding and driving recklessly.
While most people will think of truck accidents as involving the actual truck striking a pedestrian or other vehicle, in fact, trucks have injured people in many other ways as well. We have had cases where a load in an open backed van shifted and struck the driver, and we were able to recover from the yard that had placed the improperly secured load into the van, a truck unloading cases of milk that dropped a case on a passing pedestrian, a truck that unloaded a large crate in a warehouse and did not secure it, thus, causing it to fall and strike a person who was simply passing by the area, as well as many other fact patterns.