Most of us have driven by an accident involving a semi-truck and at least one other vehicle at some point in our lives. Few people, however, realize how often these types of accidents actually occur.
In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that there were more than 450,000 truck accidents in 2017 alone, 344,000 of which resulted in injury. Many of these accidents occurred in Vermont and New Hampshire, where unfortunately, collisions involving commercial vehicles are on the rise.
The injuries sustained in truck accidents tend to be serious, often resulting in disfigurement, disability, and chronic pain, which can be especially frustrating for those whose accidents were the result of someone else’s negligence.
Fortunately, these individuals are not left without legal recourse, but can seek damages from the at-fault party in court, so if you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident, it is important to speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer who can explain your legal options.
Many people, when they hear the term commercial vehicle, automatically think of semi-trucks, or single cab tractor trailers, and while it is true that semi-trucks are perhaps the most common type of commercial vehicle on the road, they are by no means the only ones. There are, in fact, a number of different types of vehicles considered commercial vehicles, including:
- Semi-trucks, which can weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds and so are difficult to stop, while also being prone to rollovers due to their high center of gravity;
- Flatbed trucks, which have open trailers and so are usually utilized for the transportation of unusual cargo, such as lumber or construction equipment;
- Dump trucks, which are used to transport loose materials, such as dirt, sand, gravel, and trash and due to their top heavy nature, are much more likely to roll over than other types of commercial vehicles; and
- Tanker trucks, which are specifically designed to carry and transport liquids, many of which are hazardous or flammable.
The type of accident in which a truck is involved is largely dictated by the specific type of truck in question. Tanker trucks, for example, are often involved in rollover accidents because the liquid contents that they carry can shift during transit, which may cause the trucker to lose control.
The cargo carried by tanker trucks is often flammable, so these types of trucks are also at a higher risk of explosion after colliding with another car. This can then put anyone else on the road or even in the vicinity of the truck in danger of coming into contact with dangerous chemicals.
Flatbed trucks, on the other hand, tend to be involved in fewer collisions than other types of commercial vehicles, but are much more likely to have their cargo come loose in the event of a collision. In fact, if a driver failed to abide by federal loading procedures, the cargo in question could even come loose during transit, which is extremely dangerous for anyone driving behind the truck.
Finally, semi-trucks, which tend to carry the heaviest cargo and are also the most common type of commercial vehicle, are difficult to stop if the correct braking procedures are not used, or if a vehicle’s brakes were improperly maintained. For this reason, semi-trucks are often involved in intersection accidents and rear-end collisions.
Common Truck Accident Causes
Truck accidents, like any type of car accident, can and do occur for a number of different reasons. There are, however, a few specific actions that crop up again and again in truck accident reports, including:
- Driving while distracted or fatigued;
- Driving while under the influence;
- Speeding, swerving, tailgating, or making abrupt lane changes;
- Tire blow-outs caused by a lack of maintenance or a manufacturer’s defect;
- Failure to comply with regulations to safely stop a truck with a tire blow-out; and
- Mechanical failure due to a design or manufacturing defect or a failure to properly maintain the vehicle.
The federal government, in an effort to reduce the number of truck accidents occurring across the nation, have instituted a series of regulations with which trucking companies and their employees must comply. These regulations cover a wide range of matters.
For instance, the FMCSA requires drivers to comply with hours of service limits and to take mandatory breaks, so as to prevent accidents caused by fatigued driving. Similarly, federal regulators require trucking companies to abide by certain limits when it comes to vehicle and cargo weights.
Trucking companies and drivers are also required to follow strict procedures when loading and unloading cargo and to conduct regular safety inspections, make careful repairs, and perform regular maintenance.
Filing a Lawsuit
Although the existence of specific commercial vehicle-related rules may make it seem as though filing this type of claim would be easier than filing suit against the owner of a standard sized passenger vehicle, the reality is that filing truck accident claims is notorious for being a difficult and complex process.
This is largely due to the fact that, unlike collisions between two motorists, truck accidents usually involve the liability of multiple parties. For instance, both drivers and trucking companies that fail to comply with state and federal regulations can be held liable for truck accidents that can be linked to their violations.
However, even if federal guidelines were not violated, an injured party could still recover damages from one or more of the following individuals and entities:
- A truck driver who was negligent, reckless, or failed to comply with federal regulations;
- The truck driver’s employer if it failed to use reasonable care during the hiring process, did not properly train its employees, or did not take steps to enforce federal regulations;
- The company that owned the truck if it did not conduct regular safety inspections on its vehicles, didn’t make necessary repairs, or failed to perform regular maintenance;
- The manufacturer of a defective vehicle part if an error in design, manufacturing, or design was responsible for a malfunction and subsequent accident;
- The manufacturer of the cargo that was being transported at the time of the accident if it failed to properly load or secure the cargo, or did not warn the trucking company of the potential hazards of carrying the cargo; or
- The company responsible for conducting inspections or making repairs on the trucks if their failure to use reasonable care led to an accident.
While any one of these entities or individuals could find themselves facing liability for their involvement in a truck accident, it is not uncommon for more than one party to be held liable for a portion of an injured party’s losses. If, for example, a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel after failing to abide by hours of service rules, he or she could be held liable for any resulting accidents, as could that individual’s employer if it set unrealistic expectations for the driver regarding deadlines.
The Difficulties of Filing a Claim
Because there are so many potentially liable parties in truck accident cases, injured plaintiffs are often required to deal with multiple insurers and large companies, all of which are well funded and retain aggressive and often ruthless legal teams. Fortunately, these hurdles can be overcome if plaintiffs have strong evidence at their disposal, including:
- The police report completed by the officers who responded to the accident;
- The truck driver’s log books, which can reveal hours of service violations;
- Photographs from the scene of the accident;
- Data obtained from a truck’s in-vehicle technologies, such as a GPS, which can show how long and for what distance the driver was operating the truck;
- The results of a drug or alcohol test conducted at the scene of the accident;
- Video recordings of the accident itself from a traffic camera, dashboard camera, or a witness to the accident;
- Eyewitness testimony from someone who saw the accident occur;
- Medical records demonstrating the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries; and
- The results of the truck driver’s commercial motor vehicle test, which are examinations that are often conducted when there is evidence of negligence on the truck driver’s part.
While all of this evidence is important to the success of a plaintiff’s truck accident claim, a truck driver’s log book and records are often the most helpful in demonstrating fault as they contain information related not only to the number of miles and hours driven every day, but also details about certain shipments, including cargo numbers.
Contact an Experienced Vermont Truck Accident Attorney
If you were injured in a collision with a commercial vehicle, you need the advice of an attorney who has experience handling these types of cases and who is familiar with federal and state trucking regulations.
Attorney Sabbeth and his team have a specialized understanding of prosecuting trucking cases at the highest level, having had the unique opportunity to work with some of the best trucking lawyers in America on seven- and eight-figure cases.
To speak with a dedicated truck accident attorney about your own case and the best way to go about pursuing compensation for your losses, please call Sabbeth Law at 802-457-1112 today.
You can also reach us by completing one of our brief online contact forms, or by sending an email to email@example.com.