While many trucking accidents occur because of driver error or mistakes, not every truck crash is the fault of the trucker. Numerous factors that are out of the control of the truck driver can cause serious or catastrophic accidents that take the lives of other motorists and occupants inside the truck.
The latest national statistics (2012) maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that over one hundred thousand individuals were injured and nearly 4000 people killed in crashes that involved large trucks with a gross weight greater than 10,000 pounds. Of the total number of individual suffering truck accident -related injuries, nearly three quarters were either motorists or passengers inside other vehicles. The remaining quarter of individuals injured or killed were occupants inside the large commercial vehicle.
The leading factors that cause the majority of truck accidents not associated with driver error include:
Truck Equipment Failure
Equipment and tire failure cause more trucking accidents than any other non-driver factor. This includes equipment failure in the truck’s design or manufacturing process such as defective tires, faulty brakes or a malfunctioning reverse-detection warning device. In many cases, equipment failure or mechanical issues cause accidents including improperly maintained tires and worn out brake pads.
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration) requires all truck driving companies and their drivers to perform an inspection of the vehicle prior to every trip. However, the trucking companies must perform routine inspections and maintenance of the vehicle on a continuous basis. Any lack of required inspections on part of the trucking company can lead to worn-out tires and other mechanical failures that could disable the vehicle or cause a crash. Sadly, many trucking companies simply ignore the FMSCA guidelines, rules and procedures because they are willing to face the legal consequences if the truck is involved in a collision instead of making necessary, but sometimes costly, repairs.
Tight Trucking Company Schedules
Most truck drivers are paid by the load or by the mile if they deliver their cargo on time. However, trucking companies often place heavy demands on the trucker in an effort to make the most profits per delivery. Many truck drivers must maintain unrealistic schedules, causing them to drive too many hours per day or drive on their days off in an effort to reach their destinations on time.
Many truckers are forced to work long hours and days without breaks, causing dangerous fatigue. The trucker’s employer can be held legally responsible for any injury to the truck driver while performing their duties if it can be determined that the trucking company violated federal carrier motor safety rules, regulations and protocols.
Adverse Weather Conditions
Unexpected adverse weather conditions can wreak havoc on the driving public and severely impact the safety of those operating or riding alongside a large commercial vehicle. This is because the stopping distance and steering abilities of semi-trucks, 18 wheelers and large commercial vehicles are greatly compromised during harsh weather conditions. This includes limited visibility during snowstorms, sandstorms and high winds or hazardous roadway conditions caused by accumulated snow, hidden ice or fog.
In many situations, other motorists sharing the road fail to adjust their driving behaviors on dangerous road conditions or in local weather, which often results in serious or catastrophic truck accidents.
Improper Loading of Cargo
To maintain safety on the roadway, the truck’s cargo load must be securely fastened inside the trailer or on top of the flatbed. Any improper loading of cargo can easily cause the trucker to lose control of the vehicle when it is in motion. Improper loading can cause the truck to become imbalanced, which increases its likelihood of rolling over or toppling over under conditions where it would otherwise remain in an upright position. If the improperly loaded cargo is not secured adequately, it is easy for merchandise, goods and equipment to fall off the truck into the pathway of moving traffic.
What to Do after an Accident
Commercial truckers are often overwhelmed after being involved in a collision, especially when injuries or fatalities are involved. However, law enforcement officers investigating the accident scene involving the commercial truck accident will begin processing the crash scene immediately. In many incidences, law enforcement will blame the trucker for the crash, injuries and deaths involved. However, trucking cases are complex and the preservation of evidence is crucial to determine negligence and ensure all federal motor carrier safety regulations were followed.
Hiring an Emergency Response Team
Successful personal injury truck accident attorneys who represent truck drivers involved in serious collisions will hire an emergency response team to gather evidence. This is because certified investigative specialists can collect and preserve crucial evidence to help determine the exact cause of the accident in order to place legal blame. A quick response by the investigative team is essential because insurance carriers covering other policyholders involved in an accident will send their team to gather every piece of evidence to support their case within hours or days following a truck crash.
An investigative team working for the trucker can begin the process of determining which party is at fault by performing certain actions including:
- Interview all witnesses
- Photograph caution signs and speed limit signs at the accident scene
- Measure braking and skid marks
- Obtain full measurements of the road
- Visit the location where every vehicle involved in the collision is stored
- Download the electronic control module (ECM) in the truck that recorded the braking and speed through all the events leading up to the accident
- Inspect the trucker’s logbooks
- Review documents involving any previous violations of the trucking company
- Determine ownership of the commercial vehicle
The information and evidence collected by the emergency response team can be used by truck accident attorneys to conduct a comprehensive corporate background check of the trucker’s employer to determine exactly who can be held legally liable for the collision.
Hiring an Attorney
Most trucking accidents are complicated and proving a case can be challenging, especially if injured victims handle their case without legal representation. Like other personal injury cases, the victim must prove negligence of the other parties at fault. That is why most truckers involved in an accident caused by the negligent actions of others will hire a skilled personal injury truck accident attorney to handle their case.
A successful personal injury attorney can build a case showing how the motorist at fault had a responsibility to exercise reasonable care to avoid any injury and that the person at fault failed to exercise such reasonable care. In addition, a personal injury lawyer working on behalf of the truck driver can show that the failure to exercise reasonable care by the party responsible for the accident caused the truckers injuries, losses and damages.
Hiring an attorney is important because commercial truck crashes tend to result in serious physical injuries, extensive property damage and fatalities. In addition, truck drivers involved in accidents must ensure that their rights are protected and take all necessary steps to hold everyone at fault for the crash legally and financially accountable. These types of personal injury cases are typically handled on contingency, which means no upfront fees are required for immediate legal representation. However, it is essential to hire a seasoned truck accident attorney quickly before the state’s statute of limitations expires concerning the case.
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