Whatever you call them – tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, or otherwise – they are a common sight on New Jersey roads. These massive vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and are essential for households around the country to receive the goods they need.
However, when involved in an accident, tractor-trailers can do a lot of damage. If you or a family member has been injured in a tractor-trailer collision, you know how serious these can be. When faced with this stressful situation, you need the help of a dedicated, compassionate, and experienced legal team.
At Judd Shaw Injury Law, we take seriously our responsibility to fight for the rights of our injured clients across New Jersey. Contact us today through web chat, phone, or our online form to learn more about how we can help you after your tractor-trailer accident.
Tractor-Trailer Facts and Statistics
Tractor-trailers are used extensively across the country, and accidents involving large trucks often result in serious injury or death.
See the following statistics about tractor-trailers and large trucks in New York:
- Fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses increased by 47 percent between 2009 and 2019
- Between 2018 and 2019, large truck involvement in injury crashes increased by 6 percent
- More than 89 percent of New York communities depend on trucks to move their goods
- As of 2021, there were over 107,000 trucking companies located in New York
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets federal regulations for commercial vehicles, including tractor-trailers. This includes rules concerning driving hours, maintenance, cargo securement, and insurance coverage.
The FMCSA limits the hours of service that a driver can legally operate a commercial vehicle. These regulations vary, whether a driver is carrying cargo or passengers. For a semi-truck carrying cargo, the rules include:
- A maximum of 11 hours of driving after 10 hours off-duty
- A mandatory 30-minute break after 8 cumulative hours of driving
- A maximum of 60 or 70 hours on duty in 7 or 8 consecutive days
Tractor-trailers have many parts that need to be regularly maintained and inspected to ensure safety. While maintenance cannot eliminate the possibility of an accident, it greatly increases the chances of underlying issues being identified and resolved before an accident occurs.
As with all commercial vehicles, tractor-trailers must go through a full inspection from a qualified inspector at least once a year. These inspections include parts such as:
- Service and parking brakes
- Lighting devices
- Fuel system
- Coupling devices
- Steering mechanism
- Tires and wheels
- Exhaust system
Tractor-trailers can carry thousands of pounds of cargo, ranging from grocery items to lumber and hazardous materials. It is essential that this cargo is both properly loaded and properly secured on the truck to ensure safe transport.
FMCSA regulations cover both how the cargo must be loaded and how it must be secured. This includes regulations concerning how the weight of the cargo is distributed across the axles – improper loading could lead to mechanical failure due to excessive stress on the vehicle.
Depending on the materials being transported, the use of tie-downs or other securement devices is required, and they must be able to withstand certain minimum forces in proportion to the weight of the cargo.
The required minimum insurance coverage for commercial vehicles, and especially tractor-trailers, is higher than for passenger vehicles. These minimum coverages depend on both the weight and type of cargo being transported as well as the scope of the operation (for example, whether or not the truck leaves the state).
For trucks weighing 10,001 pounds or more, the minimum liability coverage is $750,000. If the truck is carrying hazardous material, such as explosives or gases, the minimum liability coverage is $5,000,000.
Risk Factors in Tractor-Trailer Accidents
Certain risks are present no matter the type of collision. However, when an accident occurs that involves a tractor-trailer, there are two unique risks present: a cargo spill and an underride accident.
When a fully loaded tractor-trailer is involved in an accident, a potentially cargo spill always presents a risk. This is especially true if the truck is carrying hazardous, flammable, or explosive material.
Debris or spilled cargo can strike or get in the way of additional vehicles on the road, causing further damage. The accident could also result in a fire or explosion, further increasing the risk to everyone involved. Additionally, tractor-trailers may be carrying cargo that is poisonous when touched or inhaled.
When a passenger vehicle collides with a large tractor-trailer, there is a risk of an underride accident. Despite certain mandatory security measures such as underride guards that have been put in place to reduce the frequency of these accidents, they still occur every year.
Underride accidents, whether they happen from the rear or the side, are especially dangerous due to the location where the impact is made. Instead of being absorbed by the front of the car, the majority of the force is on the passenger compartment. This increases the likelihood of serious head and neck injuries.
The Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer After an Accident
After an accident, time is of the essence. While there are many important legal steps that must be taken care of, physical and emotional injuries take time to heal. That is where a personal injury lawyer comes in. While you are able to focus on your and your family’s needs, you can be confident that the necessary legal steps are being taken to recover fair compensation for your injuries.
Communicating with the insurance company
Insurance companies know that in the aftermath of an accident, with stress running high, personal injury victims are more likely to accept a low settlement under pressure. They often use this to their advantage, pressuring victims soon after the accident to take responsibility for what occurred, to accept a low settlement, or to say something that can undermine the case.
When you work with a personal injury lawyer, he or she will take over the communication with the insurance company, removing this stress from your plate.
Identifying liable parties
There is often more to a car accident than meets the eye. You may believe that the truck driver was at fault for the accident, and that may be true – but were there any additional factors that contributed to the crash? For example, perhaps the cargo was improperly secured or required maintenance was not performed.
Depending on the circumstances, the driver, trucking company, owner of the cargo, or another party can be held liable or partially liable for the accident. Your truck accident lawyer can thoroughly investigate the details of your case to identify all potentially liable parties and recover full compensation.
Accurately assessing damages
At the very least, you are likely concerned about covering your medical bills. However, there may be additional compensation you can receive in addition to any medical expenses incurred by the accident.
In addition to full compensation for lost wages and medical expenses, you may be able to receive compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
- Wrongful death
Your personal injury lawyer knows what you deserve by law and can fight for you to receive full compensation for your losses.
At Judd Shaw Injury Law, we take pride in the way we take care of our clients – the Judd Shaw Way. See for yourself how we can deliver the “wow” for you and your family and make a true difference in your life. You never have to worry about up-front fees with our No Fee Guarantee®. Contact us at 1-866-909-6894 today to schedule your free consultation.