When Do You Need A Truck Accident Attorney?
How An Attorney Can Build Your Truck Accident Case
The size and power differences between large trucks and automobiles can lead to devastating accidents.
The Truckers Report notes several ways in which trucks may outpower automobiles:
- With a full load, a tractor-trailer may weigh 80,000 pounds, much heavier than the average 5,000-pound car.
- A fully loaded big rig may need 40 percent more time than a car to stop.
- A semi’s engine may be up to six times larger and heavier than a car’s engine. Commercial motor vehicles have powerful engines that may run on 400-600 horsepower, compared to a car’s 100-200 horsepower.
- Most big rigs have engines with turbochargers.
- A semi’s average turning radius is 55 feet while the average U.S. lane is 12 feet wide.
These differences make it clear how passenger vehicle occupants may suffer serious injury or even death in a truck crash. On top of that, trucks are often owned and operated by large companies with substantial legal and financial resources. Based on these factors, you may benefit from consulting a semi truck accident attorney if you or a loved one is a victim of a truck accident.
Truck Crashes May Cause Serious Physical Harm, Emotional Injuries, or Death
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that in 2017, trucks heavier than 10,000 pounds played a role in 450,000 accidents. Roughly 7 percent of all crashes and 12 percent of fatal crashes involved a large truck.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, vehicle occupants accounted for more than 96 percent of occupant fatalities in two-vehicle collisions involving a large truck and passenger vehicle. The overall number of deaths in large truck accidents has jumped over time, with 31 percent more deaths than 10 years ago.
People who survive a collision with a semi may undergo extensive medical treatment that results in high health care bills. You may have a claim against the trucking company or its insurer for reimbursement of these medical bills. You may also pursue other economic damages like lost wages or property damage. Truck accident victims often suffer noneconomic damages as well. These damages may include mental distress, trauma, disfigurement, or loss of companionship.
If you lose a loved one in a truck accident, you may have a claim for wrongful death. You may have lingering medical bills to pay as you grieve the loss of your loved one. You will also have funeral and burial expenses and other possible financial losses.
You will want to maximize your recovery for economic and noneconomic losses. A lawyer can explain types of damages, how courts calculate awards, and the kind of evidence you must gather to establish your right to damages.
Trucking Companies Have Greater Resources Than the Average Person
Many of the country’s largest companies use trucks to transport consumer goods across the U.S. These companies have greater resources than the average individual. They can hire aggressive legal teams to defend against claims, and their insurers will try to negotiate one-sided settlements. With expenses mounting, you may feel pressured to agree to a rushed, inadequate settlement that favors the trucking company.
An experienced truck accident attorney can shield you from these pressures and work to negotiate a fair agreement with the trucking company’s insurer. If the company is unwilling to offer adequate compensation for your losses, your lawyer can help you take the steps necessary to pursue a lawsuit.
Was the Truck Properly Maintained and in Safe Running Condition?
The FMCSA explains that both federal and state agencies inspect commercial trucks for safety. However, these inspections do not guarantee the absence of mechanical issues. Trucks require ongoing maintenance and repair by trained professionals.
Brakes and electrical systems fail, tire treads wear down, and headlamps become inoperable. Truck brakes must be in excellent condition, as a fully loaded truck traveling at highway speeds may take up to two football fields to stop. Tires are subject to tread depth regulations so trucks can stop faster, grip wet or icy roads, and avoid blow-outs. Broken or discolored headlamps may keep a trucker from having a clear view of the road.
The FMCSA noted roughly 3,860,000 vehicle violations in just one recent year. To uncover mechanical problems, your lawyer may demand a truck’s maintenance and repair records. Your attorney may also analyze physical and photographic evidence from the accident scene.
Did a Trucker’s Negligence or Carelessness Cause the Accident?
The FMCSA regulates trucker training and driving practices. This agency found almost 993,000 driver violations in 2018. Violations include speeding, failing to obey traffic signals, making improper lane changes, and using a handheld mobile device while driving. These behaviors are risky for any driver, but they become even more dangerous when they cause a semi driver to lose control. Truckers who text, talk, eat, drink, or use navigation systems may take their eyes from the road long enough to cause a crash.
Driver violations also included non-moving infractions that compromise public safety by allowing unqualified or exhausted drivers on the road. These violations include failure to carry a medical certificate, false reporting of a driver’s duty status, and failure to maintain a mandatory electronic logging device. The FMCSA requires electronic logging devices to track the hours that truckers spend on the road. Some truckers may feel pressure to log hours and meet unrealistic deadlines, and electronic logs help ensure that truckers get adequate rest before a long day or night.
Federal law provides that the gross vehicle weight of commercial trucks traveling on the interstate may not exceed 80,000 pounds. Truck drivers must comply with this weight limit, and they must also secure and balance their cargo loads. Truckers who fail to follow cargo regulations may cause items to fall or shift, triggering an accident.
An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you investigate a trucking company’s hiring and training practices as well as driver actions or inaction that may contribute to a crash.
The stakes are high in a truck collision. When you think about sorting through the details and dealing with the long-lasting repercussions, you may find it valuable to hire an attorney to serve as your guide and advocate.