Truck accidents have catastrophic consequences with victims suffering major injuries or fatalities. A smaller passenger vehicle that is involved in a collision with a large truck is simply outmatched in both, size and weight. This generally means that the momentum and force of impact is much greater on the smaller vehicle, often resulting in injuries to its occupants. A truck accident case tends to be much more complex than a car accident case because you may have to deal not just with the truck driver, but also the trucking firm, the corporation that owns the truck, the fleet maintenance firm, insurance companies, defense counsel, etc. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, you need an experienced New York truck accident lawyer on your side, right away – one who who is familiar with the changing laws and will go the extra mile to help you obtain maximum compensation for your injuries, damages and losses.
Truck Accident Statistics
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,852 people died in large truck accidents in 2015. While about 16 percent of these deaths involved truck occupants, 69 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles. Also, 15 percent of the reported fatalities involved pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. The number of people who died in large truck accidents was 22 percent higher in 2015 than in 2009.
Of all truck accident-related fatalities in 2015, about 75 percent of the deaths were in crashes involving tractor-trailers and 25 percent were in crashes involving single-unit trucks. Further, 12 percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and 23 percent of passenger vehicle occupant injuries in multiple-vehicle crashes occurred in collisions with large trucks during 2015.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
The damages caused by a truck accident can be devastating. There are a number of reasons why truck accidents occur including, but not limited to:
- Driver error: According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), driver error is 10 times more likely to cause a large truck accident than any other factor. Truck driver error includes acts of negligence on the part of the driver including driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving while fatigued or drowsy, inattention, reckless driving, speeding, and distracted driving.
- Truck equipment failure: This is the second most common cause of truck accidents. Equipment failure may include mechanical issues such as improperly maintained brakes or tires. The FMCSA requires truck drivers and companies to perform a pre-trip inspection as well as carry out regular inspections and maintenance of their trucks throughout the year. The lack of proper truck maintenance leads to tragic crashes that may have been prevented.
- Overloading or improper loading: When a truck’s load is not properly distributed, this may cause the truck to tip over or jackknife. A jackknifed tractor-trailer may pose a significant hazard to other vehicles on the highway. Improper loading may also lead to a load falling off the truck and posing a collision hazard to other vehicles. Overloading a truck or trailer may make it unstable and cause it to overturn and/or jackknife.
- Weather conditions: Another common cause of truck accidents is adverse weather conditions. Since trucks are large and heavy, they take longer to slow down or come to a complete stop. Commercial truck drivers may fail to account for the vehicle’s limitations during adverse weather conditions. They may fail to slow down or leave sufficient space between the vehicle that is ahead. Such types of negligent and/or reckless acts lead to devastating truck accidents each year.
- Negligent hiring: One of the reasons truck accidents occur is because employers do not take the time or effort to hire experienced drivers with a clean record. Trucking companies have a responsibility to perform background checks on their drivers and ensure that they have a valid commercial driving license.
These federal regulations refer to the amount of time truck drivers can be on the road before they take rest breaks. These laws are in place to combat the problem of driver fatigue, which has led to devastating truck accidents nationwide. Under these regulations, a commercial truck driver can only drive 11 hours in one day after 10 consecutive hours off duty, of which eight must have been spent sleeping.
The rule states that a commercial truck driver must take at least a 30-minute break for every eight hours of continuous driving. He or she can be on duty for only 14 hours in any given 24-hour period and cannot drive more than 60 hours in one week or 70 hours in an eight-day period. All truck drivers are required to track their driving and resting record with a daily logbook or an Electronic On-Board Recorder. The log book or recorder tracks the date, time, and location of all duty status changes, the name of the driver, the total miles driven for each leg recorded and the truck number.
When a trucking company violates the Hours-of-Service rules, it may face penalties for each violation. If you have been injured in a truck accident involving a driver who has violated these federal laws, it should be considered negligence on the part of the driver and his or her employer. The at-fault truck driver as well as the trucking company can be held financially liable for any injuries and losses that occur in a driver fatigue-related accident where there has been a violation of hours-of-service regulations.
Steps to Take after a Truck Accident
If you have been injured in a New York truck accident, there are a number of steps you can take to protect your legal rights. First, gather as much evidence as possible. If your injuries prevent you from doing this, then someone on your behalf such as a truck accident lawyer can work to get crucial evidence from the scene. In addition to the other party’s license and insurance information, you should attempt to get other details such as the name of the trucking company, Department of Transportation (DOT) number on the truck and trailer and names on the truck that might identify the companies for whom the truck was hauling cargo.
Identifying the owner and operator of the truck and securing the names and contact information for anyone who might have witnessed the accident can help strengthen your case. Further, it may be helpful to determine if nearby businesses or individuals have surveillance camera footage of the accident. Take as many photographs of the truck accident scene as possible and from as many different angles and perspectives as possible. Pictures of damage to the vehicles and skid marks on the street, preserving any torn or stained clothing and other evidence may prove useful during the litigation process.
If you have been injured, it is important to seek medical attention, treatment and care. This gives you the best shot at recovering from your injuries. At the same time it also helps establish the injuries you sustained and the types of treatments you received after the truck accident. Please ensure that you follow your doctor’s instructions for future treatment and care.
Do not give any statements, whether oral or written, without first consulting an experienced truck accident lawyer. Your lawyer will ensure that your statements are accurate, clearly interpreted and helpful to your case. Immediately contact an experienced New York personal injury lawyer, who will stay abreast of the official investigation and help ensure that your legal rights and best interests are protected.
Importance of Preserving Evidence
When it comes to truck accidents, evaluating various types of evidence becomes necessary to show that the driver and the trucking company were at fault and say for instance, not in compliance with safety regulations. Evidence may also help determine the truck driver’s actions in the seconds, minutes, hours and days before the crash occurred. It is important that you get a knowledgeable truck accident attorney on your side as soon as possible so he or she may begin to collect, preserve and examine the evidence relating to your accident.
Here are some of the types of evidence that may be crucial to your truck accident case:
- The driver’s qualifications and training files; his hours-of-service documentation showing how long he or she had been driving and when he or she took a break; driver inspection records; and post-collision alcohol and drug screening.
- Evidence relating to the truck including downloads of onboard systems; maintenance history documentation; data from onboard communication systems and GPS tracking systems; and truck inspection documentation.
Documentation relating to truck loads including, but not limited to, trip envelopes, delivery documents, weight tickets, etc.
Some of these documents are required to be maintained under federal laws, but only for specific time periods. For example, driver logbooks may be destroyed after six months. When you get a truck accident lawyer on your side as soon as possible, he or she can then contact the trucking company and ensure that these crucial pieces of evidence are preserved.
<strong>Injures and Damages</strong>
Truck accidents can result in catastrophic injuries – injuries that are long-term and sometimes, lifelong. Some of the common truck accident injuries include:
- Head injuries: Trauma to the head can result in an injury to the brain, which may be life altering. Symptoms of a brain injury include memory issues, confusion, nausea and blurred vision. Brain injuries have the potential to result in permanent disabilities.
- Neck and back injuries: This may range anywhere from minor neck pain to much more serious injuries such as dislocated discs in the spine. These injuries often affect victims by preventing them from returning to work or pursuing daily activities.
- Broken bones: A victim involved in a truck accident is typically hit with a tremendous impact, which means they may experience bone fractures. Broken bone injuries may also take a long time to heal and may require extensive therapy and extended treatment and care.
- Internal injuries: Blunt force trauma in a truck accident can cause serious damage to internal organs such as the spleen, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas. These injuries may be difficult to treat and are often, fatal.
Injured victims of truck accidents may be entitled to damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost income and benefits, hospitalization, rehabilitation, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc. The value or worth of your lawsuit will often depend on the extent of your injuries and damages as well as the liability of the at-fault party(s).
Truck Accident Wrongful Death
Large truck accidents are 10 times more likely to result in a fatality compared to accidents involving other vehicles. When a death occurs because of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, family members of the deceased can file what is known as a wrongful death claim seeking damages. Families in such cases can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, lost future income, medical and funeral costs and loss of guidance, care and companionship, etc.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident or if you have lost a loved one in an auto accident caused by a reckless driver or due to someone else’s negligence, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. For over 49 years, our skilled accident attorneys have established a proven track record of helping injured victims get fair compensation for their losses.
Our law firm recently recovered $5,600,000 for a man who was hit by a van, and $2,550,000 for another victim of a truck accident, and $3,000,000 for a pedestrian who was hit by a car, the full $1,000,000 insurance policy for a pedestrian who was hit by a truck and $4,625,000 for a driver who was in a car and was hit by a van.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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