Truck accidents are much more complex than simply being car accidents with larger vehicles. Because of trucking laws there are many factors that must be investigated in relation to semi truck accidents. Because of the size of the trucks, trucking accidents can be catastrophic, and when fatal truck accidents happen, the fatality occurs more frequently in the other vehicles involved in the truck accidents, rather than to the truck drivers or to any passengers in the trucks.
The US Department of Transportation regulates commercial motor vehicles, including transport trucks. Federal regulations set out hours-of-service rules for truck drivers who drive a truck that weighs more than 10,000 pounds. Under the hours-of-service rules, there is a 14-hour driving limit, under which drivers may not drive more than 14 consecutive hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Drivers are responsible for keeping up-to-date log books that record their hours driving.
If a driver drives beyond these hours and his fatigue is deemed a factor in an accident, the driver, the truck owner/operator and the company that employed the driver may all be liable for the accident.
In addition to hours-of-service rules, there are laws setting out inspection, repair and maintenance of trucks, transportation of hazardous materials, and truck size and weight route designations.
Large trucks are defined as anything over 10,000 lbs but when talking about semi-trucks, semi-trailer trucks, tractor trailers, big rigs, 18-wheelers these trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds (which is the maximum weight allowed). That’s 40 tons! You can imagine how hard it is to slow down an 80,000 pound vehicle and the type of damage this vehicle can cause.
In California there are roughly 5,000 injuries from semi-truck accidents, with around 250 deaths each ear. In the U.S. There were 3,921 people killed and 104,000 injuries from accidents involving over 330,000 large trucks.
While only accounting for 3% of all vehicle collisions, 8% of all fatal vehicle accidents in California involve large trucks. This jump in fatalities can be partially explained by the immense weight of the trucks, as well as the other factors involving the driver (fatigue, drug use, stress etc.).
There are many potential causes of California truck accidents. Some of the most common contributing factors include:
Truck drivers are often required to work long hours. Truckers who fail to obey federal regulations regarding the number of hours they can work without rest are more likely to drive while drowsy. Under federal law, truck drivers are required to maintain logs detailing the number of hours they drove and the number of hours they rested.
Large tractor-trailers are hard to stop on flat roadways at reasonable speeds. Truck drivers who go too fast downhill or who exceed the speed limit run the risk of rear-ending vehicles in front of them or losing control on a turn.
Truck owners must properly maintain their vehicles and drivers must inspect the truck before each long trip. Tire and brake failure are some of the most common causes of devastating truck accidents that can have an impact on other vehicles as well.
The way a trailer is loaded can have a significant impact on how the truck handles. If a trailer is loaded too much to the front, back or side, it may cause the vehicle to veer out of control. Jackknifing accidents are usually caused by an overloaded or improperly loaded big rig.
Truck driving is challenging, often with long distances and short deadlines. In order to battle fatigue some drivers resort to stimulant use. This is a worldwide problem.
You have heard of, experienced, or witnessed road rage during traffic hour before. Now imagine a driver on the road for days and weeks, unending turns, and straight-aways. Add an impossible deadline to that formula and you have all the elements of a dangerous situation.
Unsafe Speeds are the second most common cause of fatal truck accidents where the truck driver was at fault.
It is tough to move and keep moving an 80,000 lb truck. Stopped big rigs are a cause of truck accidents.
One of the reasons why truck accident claims are more complicated than other claims is because of the many potential liable parties. The truck driver can be held accountable for his or her negligence. The trucking company is a potentially liable party in cases where negligent hiring or poor vehicle maintenance was involved. The truck’s owner can also be held responsible for failing to properly maintain the vehicle. Even the truck’s manufacturer can be held accountable if a defective truck part contributed to the crash.
There are a number of ways to value your case. You start by adding up all of your medical bills, hospital fees, ambulance bills, etc. Then you will have a medical professional provide you with an estimate of future treatment needed and costs. Then you look at how much time you had to take off work and your pay from it. If there is any future time off work expected, include that. If the injuries are so severe you’ve actually lost earning power that must also be calculated. These are damages that can be counted or estimated (even if both sides disagree) and are called economic or special damages.
Finally, you have the stuff that cannot be easily counted. Pain, Suffering, Inconvenience, Shame, Embarrassment, Loss of companionship and relationship with a spouse (loss of consortium). This is where professionals such as experienced personal injury and truck accident lawyers come in. Based on an analysis of your case, because every case is different, and compared to other recent claims and verdicts, a range can be created.
Now, as each case is different and each jury is different, a verdict or settlement may come outside of this range. But you always want to be sure you are well informed before making any decisions.
Below are the first five steps our truck accident attorneys suggest you need to take after a collision with your car.