- Causes of Truck Accidents
- Injuries from Truck Accidents
- Negligence in Truck Accidents
- Steps To Take After A Truck Accident
- Weighing The Value Of Your Truck Accident Lawsuit
- Settlements And Verdicts
- Statute Of Limitations For A Truck Accident Lawsuit
- Earnings From A Truck Accident Lawsuit
- In 2009 there were 3,380 fatalities and 74,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks in the US. A total of 296,000 large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) were involved in traffic crashes during 2009.
- Drop in fatalities: In 2009, fatalities in crashes involving large trucks dropped by 20 percent from 2008
- In California there were 4,205 total fatalities due to auto accidents: of those 262 involved large trucks
- One-third (33 percent) of all fatal crashes and one-fifth (20 percent) of all property damage only crashes involving large trucks occurred at night
- Injuries in large truck crashes made up 4 percent of all injuries in motor vehicle crashes in 2005
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Causes of Truck AccidentsTruck accidents occur for many reasons that can be blamed on truck drivers, other drivers, engineers, and more. It is important that trucks and their operators are as safe as possible and do not potentially place others in harm’s way. The effects of truck accidents can be devastating, and avoiding the possibility of damage is the best route to follow. Some drivers, though, do not take enough care to avoid danger. It is generally known that it is dangerous to pass on the right side of trucks, but some drivers do it anyway. They may not be aware that the drivers cannot see them because of blind spots or because their cars are too small. They may follow at too close of a distance or not adhere to certain warnings. Some of the primary causes of truck accidents include:
Driver fatigueDriver fatigue is a very real problem with truck drivers. Many truck drivers are employed by distribution companies that ship merchandise or goods from one place to another. These treks can be interstate and involve long hours on the road, or they can be cross-country and involve days traveling. The issue comes about when truck drivers elect to stay behind the wheel past the regulation mark. They cannot legally drive for more than 10 hours per day, but some elect to do so because they must meet deadlines. This causes drivers to take fewer breaks and to not get nearly enough sleep. When drivers are on the road for a long time, highway hypnosis can occur, wherein there is seemingly no attention paid to the road and time merely flies by. Driving tired can be equally as dangerous, if not more so, as driving drunk. Drivers have lowered reaction time and are more likely to fall asleep while behind the wheel.
Trailer And Hitch ProblemsLarge trucks often have trailers attached to them, which are affixed to the hitches. These hitches can be old, rusted, or improperly installed, which can cause trailers to detach. Trailers may detach when trucks ride over bumpy terrain, suddenly stop or accelerate, take tight turns, and in other situations.
Load issuesTrucks also carry many types of loads. Uncovered trailers may transport dirt, gravel, sand, waste, and more, but a tarp may not cover the top of them, leading to spills. In the worst scenarios, these uncovered or overloaded containers can tip over, spilling thousands of pounds of the contents onto cars. In addition, some trucks carry hazardous loads or equipment and vehicles. These wide loads should be properly navigated and avoided. The parts of tractors, for example, can extend beyond the wheelbase of the truck, leading to unsuspecting drivers crashing into them.
Weight DistributionAt the distribution centers or warehouses, dock workers and other individuals must load the containers with merchandise in such a way that it does not cause the weight to be thrown off. In some cases, the container will have too much weight at the rear, which will cause the entire trailer to violently sway even at the slightest touch or bump. Weight can shift within the trailer when the driver slams on the brakes, which may also increase the likelihood of him losing control.
Drugs And AlcoholTruck drivers who are on long treks may need to take substances to stay awake. Coffee and caffeine only work for so long; some take various no-doze pills or illicit substances to avoid falling asleep and to complete their routes on time. Other drivers drink alcohol at rest stops or while traveling; drunk driving is one of the leading causes of truck accidents, and 3% of truck drivers tested in accidents had illegal blood alcohol concentration levels. Alcohol and drugs causes drivers to be less attentive, have slower reflexes, make poorer decisions, and more.
SpeedingTruck drivers often speed when on the highway, especially when they are not caught in traffic. However, they may speed on city roads as well. A speeding truck is much more dangerous than a speeding vehicle because it is much harder to stop. It takes longer for a truck to slow down because of the excess weight and mass. Speeding can lead to other types of accidents, like rear-end crashes, negligent turns, and more. Truck drivers may also not be able to stop at stop signs and may run red lights because of this. Additionally, there are various laws that dictate the speed limit for trucks. On freeways, many trucks are limited to 55 mph and must drive in the right-most lane. This places them out of the way of fast-moving traffic. Sometimes, truck drivers ignore this law and try to pass others or drive in the left lane.
Driver DistractionTruck drivers are usually on routes, so they follow their GPS or maps for directions. However, sometimes drivers are overly distracted by these things and may not pay attention to the road. They may also be distracted by using their cell phones to take calls, answer emails, and check messages, or they may be focused on changing the radio station. Other truck drivers watch the cars around them instead of the road ahead.
Truck DefectsTrucks can have maintenance issues and defects like every other vehicle. The issue is that a maintenance problem on a truck can be much worse than on a car. Defective brakes on trucks can cause accidents that are devastating, especially if the truck is large and carrying a heavy load. There is also the chance that a tire can blow out. Some trucks have 18 wheels, and all the tires must be properly filled; a shredded or popped tire can cause the truck to sway or lose control altogether.
Environmental conditionsSome truck drivers have to pass through the mountains or hilly areas, which can make it difficult to operate the vehicles. At times, they may have to drive through snowy conditions, ice storms, rain and thunderstorms, heavy fog, and more. These conditions can decrease visibility and cause the truck to have no traction. Additionally, the roads and streets may not be in proper condition. Potholes, sharp turns without warnings, lack of adequate lighting, and other problems can cause the truck driver to crash. The difference is that these conditions may be the responsibility of the city or state; if they do not fix broken roads and troublesome streets, they can be held accountable for ensuing accidents.
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Injuries from Truck AccidentsTruck accidents have a high rate of fatalities and serious injuries. This is essentially due to the fact that trucks carry more power behind them, even at slower speeds than other vehicles. Passenger cars may be involved in accidents at 40 mph, but no injuries can happen. A truck traveling at the same speed can total a passenger vehicle, especially if it’s a T-bone collision or a head-on crash. Examples of injuries that can stem from truck accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Closed head injuries
- Neck damage
- Internal organ injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Spinal cord injuries
- Herniated discs
- Broken bones
- Severed limbs and digits
- Torn muscles and ligaments
- Nerve damage
Negligence in Truck AccidentsMany of the aforementioned causes can be used as the foundation for a lawsuit based on negligence. If you wish to sue a truck driver or truck company for injuries suffered in an accident, you must be able to prove four points of negligence. These points are as follows:
- You were owed a duty of care (all drivers on the road must take care to not harm anyone else, and truck drivers especially have to ensure that they are not risking the lives or safety of anyone else)
- The duty of care was breached in some manner (such as by speeding, failing to provide warning signs, driving with the lights off, and more)
- The breach of duty led to an accident (a head-on collision, a rear-end crash, a sideswipe, or any other kind of incident)
- The accident resulted in actual physical injuries
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Steps To Take After A Truck AccidentA truck accident can be extremely damaging. You may be left in a state of paralysis or be transferred to the hospital immediately upon being treated by paramedics. You could be unable to take legal action and you may be seriously injured; in the worst cases, these injuries are permanent, and you must learn to live with them for the rest of your life. We recommend following these steps if you were in a truck accident: It is vitally important that you get medical help as soon as you can. You may need ambulatory transportation to go to the hospital for surgery or you might be able to be seen by paramedics at the scene of the accident. You should not avoid the doctor or delay your visit. If you do, the damages could worsen. The sooner you seek treatment, the more likely it is that the doctors will find the issues and treat them accordingly. It is also in your best interest legally to go to the doctor as quickly as possible. Often, a gap between the accident and treatment will be a red flag to insurance agents, and they will try to claim that you were hurt in another incident or that you were simply making up damages to get treated. If there is no gap, it will be harder for the insurance company to deny that you needed the treatment you received. You should then take pictures of the incident. You can snap photographs of your injuries, the damage done to your vehicle, the damage done to the truck, the scene of the incident, and more. Anything that can potentially showcase who was at fault will be valuable evidence. You can also request videos from dashboard cameras or surveillance cameras if any were available. This is most likely to occur in parking lots or near businesses with far-reaching security cameras. If there were any eyewitnesses, bystanders, or passengers who saw the accident happen, you can request their statements and testimonies. It is important to have key witnesses who saw the events unfold. Your attorney may include expert witnesses like accident reconstruction experts and truck drivers who can attest to other areas of the case, but those who saw the incident can be invaluable. You should make sure to write down all the relevant contact information, insurance details, and company details of the truck driver. A license plate number, insurance policy number, driver’s license number, address, and more can all ensure that the correct party is sued and that you do not have to hunt for the defendant. The police will very likely show up to the accident scene, especially if it occurred on the freeway. They will have to direct traffic and help clear road obstruction. The officers will ask for the stories of everyone involved and collect information for their report. You can request a copy of this report from the station once it has been finalized and submitted. Lastly, it is in your best interests to seek out legal representation for your case. Many individuals try to move forward with no attorney n their side; this often proves to be a disaster. Insurance agents are crafty and know the best methods to avoiding paying out claims. They will hang up on you, ignore your calls, and claim that you did not need the treatment you received. They will also try to claim that you were the cause of the accident. An attorney can ensure that the insurance agent is quick in his evaluation of the claim and that the claim is adequately handled.
Weighing The Value Of Your Truck Accident LawsuitThe value of your truck accident claim will vary depending on a few factors. The insurance agent responsible for handling your case will look primarily at your injuries to determine an offer. If you were extensively injured, such as by losing a limb, and your life and daily career were affected, your case value would increase. If you were forced to change jobs or go on disability, your value would also increase. The insurance agent will look at the level of negligence involved in the incident and determine how much of the blame can be assigned to you. If you were comparatively negligent, such as by not having your lights on when driving or by speeding yourself, you could have a reduced claim value. It is problematic because many insurance agents will try to pin the majority of the blame on you, thus negating your ability to collect damages. It is an act of bad faith for the insurance agent to take an excessive amount of time to make an offer or to provide you with an extremely small sum. They use these tactics as ways to get you to agree to the first offer available, as you will likely be in need of compensation and will not have the energy or drive to fight it. An expert lawyer, though, can ensure that the insurance agent is acting in good faith and is adhering to the policy limits and regulations. An attorney will negotiate a fair deal while you focus on recovering. You may not have the necessary legal knowledge, expenses, or health to take care of your claim by yourself. If your lawyer can prove that you need a wheelchair and that your future earnings will be diminished because of your injuries, for example, your case value will shoot up, and you will not have to do anything except get treatment.
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Settlements And VerdictsIt is important to understand that not all cases are exactly the same. Two individuals in two different truck accidents could suffer the exact same physical injuries, but because of varying levels of negligence or even job types they may be entitled to vastly disparate amounts of compensation. One victim may also have a skilled lawyer on his side, which could cause his case worth to be much larger than the other one’s. We have included some sample settlements and verdicts below for you to read through. These show that not all cases are the same, and if your accident was similar, it is not wise to assume that you will receive exactly what the victim received – or that you won’t be able to file a lawsuit at all.
Clark v. RossIn Danny Clark v. Market Transport, Ltd., and Oliver Wendyl Ross, lark was hit from behind in the middle of a storm, leading to long-lasting injuries. Clark was on the road in his vehicle when he found himself in the middle of a sudden dust storm that kicked up and greatly decreased visibility. He plowed down while on the road, nearly coming to a stop, to best navigate and avoid crashes. Ross was driving a truck at the time and rear-ended Clark. The accident resulted in Clark suffering numerous injuries; he complained of neck pain, back pain, headaches, and more, and after two visits to the doctor in a month, it was eventually discovered that he had a subdural hematoma. He needed surgery immediately to relieve the bleed. After the treatment, Clark claimed ongoing damage from the brain injury, such as disruption of cognitive capabilities, vertigo, headaches, PTSD, sensory damage, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more. The defense admitted to liability but did not agree that Clark suffered the extent of his damages or that he required the various treatments he received. However, because Ross was traveling too quickly in his truck and was not operating it safely in the conditions, the case was settled before trial. Ross was granted $3.35 million for his damages.
Rey v. SiddiquieIn Michelle Rey v. Fresh and Ready Foods, Siddiquie Shoab Naim, and Vahram Kirakosyan, a woman was hit while stopped at a red light. Siddiquie was in his truck delivering food to a customer when he slammed into the read end of Rey, who was at a traffic light. It was determined that Saim was traveling too fast and would not be able to adequately stop. Rey was afflicted with back problems, namely a herniated disc that underwent various treatment processes and surgeries. She was left with damages that were not likely to go away and she could not work anymore, resulting in a lesser-paying job. The defense did not think that the impact was enough to cause the herniated disc or any other back problems Rey suffered. They said that Rey had previously underwent treatment on her spine and the accident could have merely made a pre-existing injury worse. The defense claimed that there was no way to know what truly caused the herniated disc. The case did not make it to trial; instead, Siddiquie’s insurance company processed a settlement for $750,000.
McEvilly v. GomezIn Robert McEvilly v. DHX-Dependable Hawaiian Express Inc., and Hilario Gomez, a man was struck when a truck was backing up to pick up a pallet of merchandise. McEvilly needed to ship a large amount of merchandise from his store to another continent. He required the services of a delivery truck and called DHX, who dispatched Gomez. When Gomez arrived and had proceeded to pick up the pallet, he hit McEvilly’s lift that was situated next to the pallet. Gomez claimed that he could not see McEvilly due to the fact that he stacked the merchandise on the pallet too high. This obstruction of the view was the primary defense for Gomez. McEvilly fell to the ground from the hit, injuring his neck and back. McEvilly suffered numerous herniated discs and required surgical fusion and plate insertion. However, his medical bills and other requests for compensatino were rejected, as the jury sided with the defense. They decided that Gmoez was not negligent in his actions while driving the truck.
Taulbee v. AldanaIn Stephen Taulbee and Saundra J. Taulbee v. EJ Distribution Corp., Jess P. Noel, Elite Auto Care and Carlos Alberto Aldana, a man crashed into the back of a parked truck while on the highway. Aldana had pulled into the gore dividing area of the freeway because his truck had lost power and would not turn on. He needed further instructions, so he rang his dispatcher. In that time, Taulbee was changing lanes from Route 22 to Interstate 5. He tried to go all the way across the freeway and wound up colliding with the rear end of Aldana’s truck, causing the vehicle to flip. Taulbee suffered various head and brain injuries, and as a result, said that he required constant care. The plaintiff stated that the parking job by Aldana was negligent and he should have used the shoulder or a pull off area. The defense countered that if Taulbee had not made an unsafe lane change, there would have been no accident. Ultimately, the jury did not find Aldana negligent in his parking choice. Taulbee and his wife were not granted the $1,000,000 they requested.
ConclusionWhen a victim contributes to the accident in some way, such as by not being visible or by actively breaking the law himself, he may not be entitled to any compensation at all. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove that the other party was negligent. Because civil cases can only result in monetary damages and not jail time, this burden of proof is not as high as it is in criminal cases. If a company and driver admit liability, there may be a higher chance that the victim will receive maximum coverage and then some.
Statute Of Limitations For A Truck Accident LawsuitIf you wish to file a claim against the responsible party after you have been injured in a truck accident, you must take action within a certain time frame. This is the statute of limitations for your case; in California, it is 2 years from the date of the injury you suffered. Bear in mind that it is the date of the injury, which could come at a later date than the accident. This distinction is extremely important. If you do not sue within those two years, you will be barred from pursuing any compensation at all. It is in your best interests to take legal action quickly or you run the risk of your key evidence being lost or corrupted, memories fading, witnesses becoming unreliable, and more. The statute of limitations can, in some circumstances, be temporarily extended. This is common in instances where the victim is under the age of 18 years old. Since minors cannot sue, they can wait until they turn legal age to file a claim. Therefore, the statute of limitations would be tolled until their birthdays. They would then have to adhere to the two-year limit. Victims may also have their statutes extended if they were left comatose, physically incapacitated, or mentally unwell after the incident. This would show that they are unable to take action, and would not be held legally accountable until they return to functioning health. The defendant must also be present in the state if you wish to sue. It is not uncommon for truck drivers to leave the state for an extended period. The statute will not be active while they are gone and would resume upon their return. Following the statute of limitations and remembering the deadlines can be difficult for many victims, especially those who were seriously hurt. It is a beneficial idea to let an attorney handle your case so that your lawsuit will be filed within an appropriate amount of time and no key dates are missed. Too many cases do not pan out because victims do not take action before the statute of limitations runs out.
Earnings From A Truck Accident LawsuitThe compensation you can receive from a truck accident lawsuit will greatly vary. You can receive maximum coverage wherein all of your damages are taken care of or you could only have a portion of your expenses paid off. Some victims elect to waive specific damages in favor of others. Some of the forms of compensation you can earn include:
- Medical bills from the past and future to cover hospitalization fees, surgery costs, medication, physical therapy and rehabilitation sessions, and more
- Property damage for any items that were damaged or lost in the accident, repair costs to your vehicle, and more
- Lost wages for the time you missed at work because of the accident, your injuries, the treatment, and more, as well as a future loss of income
- Pain and suffering damages for emotional trauma, PTSD, fear, anxiety, psychological injuries, and more