Accidents involving delivery trucks, semi-trailers, tractor-trailers, tow trucks and other commercial vehicles often result in more severe injuries than collisions involving passenger vehicles. You are likely wondering who is responsible for paying your medical expenses if you’re injured in a trucking accident. Determining liability is complex as the driver, the trucker’s employer, and the truck’s manufacturer may all share responsibility. You should hire a truck accident lawyer if you suffered injuries in a collision with a commercial truck. Here is everything you need to know about truck accidents, including the most common causes of commercial trucking collisions, actions to take after a crash, and the type of compensation you may receive.
Truck Accident Statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines large trucks as any medium or heavy truck weighing more than 10,000 pounds. The NHTSA includes all commercial and non-commercial vehicles besides buses and motor homes in its statistics, but most legal cases involve commercial trucks such as big rigs, 18-wheelers, tanker trucks, and dump trucks. In 2019, more than 5,000 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks. More than 75% of these fatalities were occupants of other vehicles.
It is important to note that truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2019 were less likely than passenger vehicle drivers to have previous driving problems such as tickets, suspensions, or revocations. While many truckers are careful drivers who undergo extensive training, the complexity of operating these large vehicles often contributes to accidents.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Unfortunately, truck accidents are common because of the complexity associated with operating these large vehicles. While trucker error is typically the leading cause of accidents, other reasons include fatigue, substance use, passenger vehicle error, or equipment problems.
1. Trucker Fatigue and Substance Use
Truckers must adhere to strict schedules and often skip vital breaks to complete deliveries on time. While federal and state laws require drivers to rest during long shifts, these rules are not always adequately enforced. Operating a commercial truck while drowsy can lead to many problems, including impaired judgment, reduced control, and decreased reaction times. Some studies even show that drowsy driving is as dangerous as operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Unfortunately, truckers sometimes drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While federal regulations require trucking companies to perform random drug tests, this is not always enough to stop intoxicated driving. Commercial drivers must also adhere to stricter blood alcohol level regulations. Truckers are too drunk if their blood alcohol level is higher than 0.04%. The alcohol limit for passenger vehicle drivers is 0.08%. Truckers caught driving with too much alcohol in their systems often lose their licenses.
2. Truck Driver Errors
Driver error is a significant problem in the commercial trucking industry because simple miscalculations can have catastrophic consequences because of the size of these vehicles. The most common driver errors include speeding, failing to monitor bind spots properly, and driving too fast around curves.
3. Equipment Problems
Commercial trucks are complex machines that require consistent maintenance to perform correctly. Mechanical failure is still a threat, even if mechanics perform the proper safety checks and maintenance. The most common mechanical problems include:
- Neglecting to maintain the brakes properly
- Failing to load or secure delivery cargo properly
- Failing to address steering issues
- Neglecting to maintain and replace tires properly
Further, manufacturing or design errors such as defective tires or malfunctioning warning lights can also collide.
Other causes of commercial truck collisions include inclement weather conditions, traffic light outages, and defective road designs or maintenance.
Federal Trucking Laws
Drivers must follow federal trucking regulations if they are driving on interstate roads or highways. Title 49 of the U.S. Government’s Code of Federal Regulations outlines most laws. The CFR outlines laws for truck owners, carriers, drivers, and maintenance workers. These laws help determine liability in truck accidents.
For example, federal regulations outline the number of drivers’ breaks during regular shifts. Truckers can only work for 14 consecutive hours, and they can only drive for 11 of those hours. All drivers must rest for ten straight hours before beginning a long shift, and they cannot work for more than 60 hours over seven days. Drivers must also maintain detailed logbooks.
The DOT establishes safety rules, while the FMCSA is responsible for preventing injuries by enforcing rules. Many federal agencies enforce these laws, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. These agencies also require truckers or the companies they work for to carry insurance coverage. The amount of coverage depends on the type and weight of cargo transported.
State Trucking Laws
Truckers must follow state rules when driving on intrastate roads. They are subject to the laws of each state and need to follow them, just like passenger vehicle drivers. States have the freedom to set their own rules, but regulations typically establish sleep requirements and speed limits. It is essential for truckers who regularly operate between states to understand the various rules in the places they travel.
Truck Accident Liability
One of the most challenging aspects of any truck accident case is establishing liability. You may file a civil suit against the at-fault driver in traditional passenger vehicle accidents and file an insurance claim. However, many parties can share responsibility in trucking accidents, including:
- Trucker drivers
- Truck owners
- Cargo owners
- Cargo loaders
- Truck maintenance companies
- Trucker maintenance workers
However, not every accident involves all of these parties. Some drivers are independent operators and lease their vehicles from a third-party entity instead of employer trucks.
1. Truck Driver Liability
Most truckers are experienced, licensed individuals who do their best to follow state and federal trucking regulations. However, circumstances that a trucker cannot control may lead to a collision. These situations include inclement weather, road hazards, heavy traffic, and faulty road signs. However, there are instances when driver error or negligence causes a crash. Drivers must follow sleep rules and share responsibility for a collision if they drive for too long without taking a break.
You may have a valid claim if the trucker in your case was careless or did not follow the applicable federal or states laws. You also want to consider the liability of other parties, including the driver’s employer or the cargo shipper.
2. Driver Employer Liability
Truck employers may share responsibility if one of their workers causes an accident. Under a federal legal theory, an employer can share liability if the trucker was working for the organization’s benefit at the time of the accident. In other words, companies are responsible for the actions of legal employees who cause an accident while on duty.
However, employers often try to skirt liability by claiming drivers are independent contractors or that they were off duty at the time of the crash.
3. Cargo Loader and Shipper Liability
Truckers often transport cargo on behalf of third-party entities. If a worker of an outside agency improperly secured the cargo, that entity can share responsibility for the accident. For instance, a heavy load requires good straps and tie-down equipment to ensure items do not become loose during transport. Falling objects can cause serious accidents, and the cargo loader would likely share responsibility in such an instance.
4. Truck and Parts Manufacturer Liability
The breakdown could be due to poor maintenance, design, or manufacturing processes if a truck part fails. The manufacturer or distributor might share liability in design or production flaws, while repair workers and companies can have liability if the truck was improperly maintained.
5. State Government Liability
The local state government can also share liability if a road design flaw or maintenance issue contributed to a truck accident. For instance, if broken pavement or an improperly placed hazard sign is the cause of the collision, the local county board could share responsibility. Cases placing blame on government agencies are tough to prove. You must seek the advice of an attorney before attempting to prove liability in such a case.
What To Do After a Commercial Truck Accident
Colliding with a large truck is a traumatic experience. If you do not suffer immediate injuries, anger or shock may prevent you from acting rationally after the accident. However, you must compose yourself and seek the proper medical treatment if needed. If you do not need to see a doctor, here is what you should do before leaving the crash site:
- Talk to other passengers and to the trucker to assess any injuries.
- Notify the police and the proper emergency authorities of the crash circumstances.
- Collect the trucker’s information, including employer data, personal details, and vehicle information. Ask if the driver owns the truck, is an employee of a trucking company, or uses a leased vehicle.
- Take photos of the scene, including truck signage, car damage, passenger injuries, and the surrounding environment.
- Note certain aspects of the scene, including the location, time of day, road conditions, and weather elements.
- Collect contact information for any witnesses at the scene.
Keep in mind that seeking medical attention is the most crucial step. It is often best to go to the hospital, even if you do not have visible injuries. Some injuries do not present symptoms for several days, and you may not feel any pain because of the adrenaline associated with the crash.
1. Speak To a Lawyer
It is within your rights to retain legal counsel after a truck accident. Lawyers understand trucking laws and can help you establish liability. A legal team will also assist you in building a case and completing the steps outlined below.
2. Gather Evidence
Truck accidents are complex because of the potential number of parties involved. It is often necessary to gather evidence to prove liability. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence such as medical records, police reports, crash scene photos, and witness statements.
You will need more detailed evidence if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit. You will need to gather information from government agencies, law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, and the trucker’s employer. Your legal team can help you understand what evidence to collect and how to present it to the courts.
3. Gather Data from Government Entitles
Federal and state laws require truckers, employers, and vehicle inspectors to maintain detailed inspection reports, logbooks, and maintenance records. While this information is sometimes in the official crash report, you may need to solicit this data yourself. Your lawyer can help you determine which agencies to contact and how to organize and analyze this data to support your claim correctly.
Trucking Accident Personal Injury Compensation
If you’re injured in a commercial trucking accident, you may receive the following compensation:
- Economic compensation: Most insurance companies and courts award monetary damages to pay for hospital stays, surgical procedures, doctor’s visits, and rehabilitation expenses. This compensation can also cover lost wages, diminished earning capacity, and property damage.
- Noneconomic compensation. Severe injury victims may receive noneconomic compensation to cover pain and suffering or emotional stress.
- Punitive damages. This type of compensation is only awarded in a handful of cases but is meant to punish the negligent actions of a trucker, employer, or maintenance company. Punitive damages are often hard to prove and many lawyers do not even gather evidence for such damages. It is often up to the judge to decide whether or not to award these damages.
The amount of money you may receive depends on the cause of the accident, the extent of your injuries, and the cost of your medical care. The quality of your case and the amount of evidence you present can also impact the amount of compensation you receive.
Truck Accident Lawyer Near Me
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident in New Jersey, you may be wondering how a truck accident lawyer near you can help. Truck accident lawyers can help you recover damages for your injuries, lost wages, and other expenses related to the accident. They can help you file a claim against the trucking company or driver responsible for the accident.
Truck accidents can be devastating. The injuries are often severe and overwhelming. You may be facing a long road to recovery alongside mounting medical bills. Meanwhile, the process of dealing with the insurance company can be daunting. You may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. The last thing you need is the added stress of dealing with insurance companies and trying to get the compensation you deserve.
A truck accident lawyer who practices locally will be familiar with the laws that pertain to your case. He or she should have experience dealing with local insurance companies and trucking companies which will equip him or her to negotiate with these companies to get you the best possible settlement.
If going to trial is necessary to get a fair settlement, it may not be any additional stress on your part. Your truck accident lawyer can represent you in court and fight for the compensation you deserve.
You deserve a trustworthy and dedicated lawyer who can and will protect your rights. The attorney you choose should fit your individual needs and understand the special circumstances surrounding your case. A good lawyer will be someone who can help you get the best outcome possible.
If you have been in a trucking accident and need legal help, call Judd Shaw Injury Law today. We work on our clients’ behalf and won’t stop until we get results. Above all, we are there for you when you need us most.
Our lawyers serving New Jersey will take care of everything on the legal side of things, so you don’t have to worry. We will patiently examine the best possible options for you before making a recommendation. From there, you can focus on yourself and your recovery, just as you should.
How to Find a Good Truck Accident Lawyer?
Read more: How to Find a Good Truck Accident Lawyer?
You will be happy to know that you can actually find a good lawyer who specializes in truck accidents much easier than you think.
How can you find a good truck accident lawyer? Consider the following:
- Schedule a consultation to ensure the lawyer is a good match for you
- Find out how successful he or she has been with cases similar to yours
- Make sure to find an attorney who specializes in truck accidents
You should select someone who is trustworthy and recommended. Examine online reviews and websites. Reviews can tell you how the lawyer has been received by past clients.
Be sure to ask your prospective lawyers about their past experience with difficult negotiations and whether they specialize in truck accidents. This is important because cases involving trucks are handled differently from cases involving only passenger cars.
Consider the law firm’s past successes with similar cases and even their ties to expert witnesses. Lawyers who have many contacts are typically more experienced and can pull any strings required to strengthen their cases.
When there are several parties involved in an accident, you need an attorney to assess what happened and help you file a claim. If the lawyers are transparent, quick to answer questions, interested in your case, and listen closely, then that law firm is very well the right one for you.
Moreover, a good lawyer should be genuinely concerned, determined to fight for your rights and show compassion and understanding during your consultation. You should feel confident and at ease with your personal injury lawyer.
This sense of comfort is important, as you should be open and honest with your attorney. To fully demonstrate how you’ve been affected by the accident, you may have to divulge personal information or slightly embarrassing information about yourself.
Do I Need a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Read more: Do I Need a Truck Accident Lawyer?
If you have been involved in an accident with a truck, you may be wondering whether you need a lawyer. Don’t try to navigate the legal process on your own. When it comes to recovering from a truck accident, you will find that having an experienced accident lawyer on your side will be invaluable.
When you are injured in a collision, perhaps the last thing you want to do is hire a lawyer, but this can be a life-changing step. Oftentimes, people may be left in a situation where they are unable to fully recover and get their lives back on track after such an incident. So where can you turn?
Talk to an attorney with a law firm that has extensive experience with your type of accident. Why? In the case of truck accidents in particular, these differ greatly from your average car accident. A knowledgeable lawyer, though, will know how to handle your claim and can give you the guidance you need to get the justice you deserve.
Consider hiring a truck accident lawyer for the following reasons:
- These types of accidents often result in more severe injuries than other auto collisions, so you need the help of an experienced lawyer who can help you understand your specific legal rights and options. He or she can also ensure that you are treated fairly and appropriately compensated for your injuries.
- The legal system is complex, but your lawyer knows what evidence to collect and how to present it in court.
- You also have to consider the liability of the driver and other parties, including the driver’s employer and cargo shipper. Your attorney can help you determine who is liable.
- The amount of money you receive in a settlement depends on the type of accident and your injuries.
Your time is limited to file a claim. The sooner you take action after such a terrible event, the more likely you will be able to take advantage of your legal right to receive compensation.
Are Truck Drivers At Fault for Accidents?
Read more: Are Truck Drivers At Fault for Accidents?
Many truck drivers are skilled on the road. Truck drivers need to be properly trained and licensed, and they are required to follow all relevant safety regulations. They should also be subject to regular drug and alcohol testing.
The trucks themselves also need to be in good working order, with proper maintenance and repairs. The loads they carry should be properly secured, and cargo should not exceed the weight limit.
All of the above measures will help to reduce the risk of an accident. However, even when all of these precautions are taken, accidents can still happen. When they do, it is important to hold the proper parties responsible.
Since there are so many factors that can contribute to a truck accident, it’s not always clear who is at fault for any given collision. Truck drivers are often blamed for accidents, but there are others who may be responsible: the trucking company, the owner of the truck, or even the truck manufacturer.
Where there is no definitive answer as to who is at fault for your truck accident, you may be unsure what the next step should be. However, there are a few factors that can help to determine who may be at fault:
- If the truck driver was speeding, driving while drowsy, or driving recklessly, then he or she is more likely to be at fault
- If the driver was improperly trained or inexperienced, he or she may be more likely to be found at fault
- If the driver’s truck was improperly maintained or had defective parts, the trucking company may be at fault
It is important to investigate all aspects of each collision to determine who may be at fault. An experienced truck accident lawyer can investigate the accident and determine who may be held liable.
Are Truck Accident Cases Worth the Hassle?
Read more: Are Truck Accident Cases Worth the Hassle?
After your truck accident, you may be wondering whether a truck accident case is worth the hassle. There are many critical factors to consider when deciding whether or not to pursue a truck accident case. The severity of your injuries, property damage, and their long-term effect on your quality of life should all be weighed in.
Truck accident cases can be very complex, and dealing with the insurance companies can be very overwhelming. The insurance companies may try to pressure you into a one-sided settlement, limiting the amount of money you recover.
Since each accident is unique, a specific amount of money can’t be guaranteed to you. However, working with an experienced truck accident lawyer will greatly increase the compensation you walk away with after your accident. Your attorney can help you recover your expenses and receive payment for damages and suffering. That reward is well worth the hassle in the long run.
The following are types of damages you could be eligible to recover after being involved in a truck accident:
- Loss of income: After your accident, you and your family may suffer lost wages and mounting expenses
- Medical expenses: Although injuries may not appear immediately, they may appear with time; proper compensation will ensure you don’t suffer needlessly after your accident but can get your immediate medical expenses and long-term care covered
- Psychological injuries and therapy: Accidents can be terrifying and may leave you with hidden emotional scars and treatment could cost you significant time and money
- Property damage: Loss of a vehicle or other property can be costly; getting the compensation you’re entitled to can ease that burden
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, come speak to a qualified attorney with our law firm. The right legal option for you can help increase the amount of compensation you recover.
What Damages Can I Get From a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
If you’ve been in a truck accident, you may wonder what kind of damages you can get from a lawsuit. The answer depends on the facts of your particular case, but there are some general types of damages commonly awarded in truck accident lawsuits.
Compensatory damages are intended to reimburse the victim for his or her losses. This can include medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering, whereas punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party and deter future similar conduct.
Regarding the size of a settlement, each case is unique. Some factors that can affect the settlement of a truck accident case include the severity of the injuries, the damages incurred, the at-fault party’s insurance coverage, and more.
Some common types of damages that may be available to you include:
- Medical expenses: You can recover the cost of all medical treatment related to your injuries, including hospitalization, surgeries, rehabilitative care, and prescription medications
- Lost wages: If your injuries have prevented you from working, you can recover compensation for the wages you’ve lost
- Pain and suffering: This is a type of non-economic damage that may be available to you if your case meets certain criteria; it is meant to compensate you for the physical and emotional pain and suffering caused by your injuries
- Punitive damages: These are damages that are meant to punish the wrongdoer for particularly reckless or dangerous behavior; these are not available in every case but may be an option if the facts of your case warrant it
Since truck accidents are handled differently from car accidents, your case may be very complex. If you’ve been in a truck accident, it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your situation and help you understand the compensation you may be entitled to receive.
LAWYERS HELPING NEW JERSEY TRUCK ACCIDENT VICTIMS
At Judd Shaw Injury Law™, we are guided by a set of core values that defines every action we take on behalf of our clients, every day. We call it the Judd Shaw Way. This set of promises to you ensures that you receive the highest possible level of service throughout every step of the legal process. If you or someone you love was injured in an accident with a truck, contact our New Jersey truck accident lawyers today. We want to help.