The Bigger The Vehicle, The More Serious The Accident
You’ve had the experience. You are driving down the highway and suddenly you feel a strong vibration and loud noise. You look in your rearview mirror to see a tractor-trailer truck barreling towards you. Your palms begin to sweat and you pray that the driver can see you down below.
Given their sheer size, tractor-trailer trucks, 18-wheelers, and other commercial vehicles can cause severe physical injuries and death to occupants of much smaller vehicles. When injured by the driver of such a vehicle, you need to know your rights.
An accident with a large truck, such as an 18-wheeler, farm equipment and others, can be devastating to the driver of the other vehicle. Even the largest SUVs are small in comparison to these types of vehicles on the road, which is why they are required to have special licenses, and their drivers must have special training.
Common Causes Of Accidents
Despite all the laws and standards that are put in place to improve the safety of large trucks on the road, accidents still occur. When they do, the injuries can be very serious and even result in fatalities in many instances. These types of accidents can be caused by things like:
- Tired truck drivers
- Negligent hiring
- Lack of training
- Improperly maintained equipment
- Faulty equipment
- Distracted driving
- Weather conditions
- Driver errors
Determining the cause of an accident is critical for any type of personal injury or wrongful death case.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a commercial truck?
A commercial truck is used for business purposes or the transport of goods and can include 18 wheeler trucks, tanker trucks, delivery trucks, and freight trucks.
Can trucks cause more serious injury?
Commercial tractor-trailers can weigh in excess of 80,000 pounds. To put things in perspective an average passenger car weighs 3,000 pounds.
How do truck accidents happen?
A lot of factors can come into play in contributing to causing motor vehicle accidents with tractor trailer trucks. However, the most common are:
- lack of training
- oversize and overloaded trucks
- bad brakes
- poor visibility
- not respecting other drivers in smaller vehicles
- not obeying the rules of the road
- failure to yield
- aggressive driving
- drugs and alcohol
- reckless drivers with a past history of bad driving
If I am injured in a trucking accident, is it wise to negotiate the claim on my own?
Unless you are a trained lawyer who has handled these types of cases before, it is not wise to handle such negotiation on your own. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has various rules and regulations which govern the operation of trucks. Furthermore, the insurance carrier for the trucking company likely has handled hundreds, if not thousands, of similar claims and you must keep in mind that the insurance company works for the trucking company, not you. For this reason, they will do everything in their power to minimize your injuries and deny your claim if possible.
What are some of the regulations that the Federal government has imposed on truck drivers?
A truck driver is not allowed to operate a commercial truck if he engages in certain prohibited conduct, such as:
- driving with a blood alcohol concentration with 0.02 or greater
- possessing alcohol while driving, unless part of a shipment or medication such as cough syrup
- consuming alcohol while driving
- reporting for work while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or any other influence that negatively affects his ability to operate a truck safely
- refusing to undertake any DOT mandated alcohol or drug test
Other regulations include:
Hours of Service Rules. In 2003 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration instituted several rules which place restrictions on the number of hours a truck driver can operate his vehicle. These rules have been updated to dictate that a commercial truck driver may drive a maximum of 14 hours after 10 consecutive hours off. Furthermore, the truck driver may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
Preservation of Records.
Truck drivers and trucking companies are required to keep a large amount of documentation and records pertaining to property and equipment, personnel and payroll, insurance and claims, as well as shipping and transportation information. The transportation information includes: shipping logs, passenger room lists, import and export records, loading and unloading records, and a descriptive inventory of items shipped, among other things. Keep in mind that federal regulations only require that these materials be kept for a certain period of time. Therefore, it is very important to pursue any case against a trucking company as soon as possible.
In general, a person cannot operate a commercial truck unless he or she:
- is at least 21 years old
- can read and speak the English language
- can, by reason of experience, training, or both, safely operate the type of commercial motor vehicle he drives
- is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle
- has a currently valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s license; has prepared and furnished the motor carrier that employs him with a list of any past violations
- has successfully completed a driver’s road test and has been issued a certificate of driver’s road test
Are trucks required to have insurance?
Yes. Federal law requires commercial vehicles to carry at least $750,000 in insurance for bodily injury and property damage.
Who can I sue for injuries resulting from a truck accident?
Potential parties that can be sued include, but are not limited to, the truck driver and the company for which he is working at the time of the accident, the owner of the trailer, or the shipper.
If you would like to learn more about rules and regulations affecting truck drivers, please visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov and for Missouri accidents, Missouri Department of Public Safety at https://www.dps.mo.gov.
When should I call a lawyer?
Your first priority should always be receiving appropriate medical treatment. After this, it’s never too soon to contact an attorney. You must keep in mind that your case has a statute of limitations, or a time period within which you must file suit in court or be forever barred from any recovery. Even if you are well within the limitations period, timely legal advice can be critical.
Our Firm Can Help
If you or a loved one has been in any type of accident with an 18-wheeler, commercial truck or other oversized vehicles on the road, you need legal help right away. Contact us at 636-946-6886 to discuss your options and schedule a free consultation. We can meet with you in our office, in your home, or at the hospital.