Dangers of Commercial Trucks
Accident Claim Details & Complications Everyone Should Know
Whether you call them tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, big rigs, or 18-wheelers, commercial trucks of all types pose a crash risk to motorists across the country. Here in West Virginia and Virginia, stretches of highway along the I-81, I-77, I-79, and I-64 have become infamous for the number of serious truck accidents they see year after year. A quick search of news stories from the area will generate a long list of articles about truck accidents, such as a recent fatal multi-truck crash in Wythe County, Virginia.
As a team of local truck accident attorneys who genuinely care about our clients and communities, we at Katz Kantor Stonestreet & Buckner, PLLC feel it is important to share some vital information about truck accidents and related injury claims. As a Princeton, West Virginia law firm that was first established in 1931, we are deeply experienced with truck accident claims and all of the processes that surround them. The attorneys in our firm handle tractor-trailer accident cases throughout West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky. Our representation has secured millions of dollars for clients who had been injured in crashes with commercial motor vehicles, too. Our experience in commercial motor vehicle cases have given us important insight in the semi-trucking industry. We want to share key points of what we have learned and seen throughout the decades in hopes that it helps you avoid a truck accident or better deal with a claim if you are involved in a crash caused by a negligent or careless truck driver.
Gathering Truck Accident Evidence – And Fast
One of the first things you need to know about truck accident cases is that evidence can be difficult to collect, especially if you wait too long to look for it. We cannot stress enough the importance of hiring legal representation soon after your accident to allow your lawyers the best chance of securing vital evidence.
In a truck accident, some of the best forms of evidence to establish liability include:
- Data Collection Systems/Electronic System Information. There may be important information in such systems such as vehicle position history, messaging, tracking device information, cell-phone systems and other similar data capturing systems that contain information on the day of the collision and the days and months preceding the collision.
- Driver logbooks and log audits used to outline the trucker’s driving and break schedule. Information gathered may include Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBR), Automatic On Board Recording Device (AOBRD), Drivers Daily Logs for iPhones (iDDL), and web based records.
- Driver Qualification File, employment file, training material provided to the trucker, if any, and the driver’s personnel file.
- Communications with Driver, which may include Qualcomm, dispatch records and notes, delivery instructions, directions, letters, emails, satellite transmissions, pagers, electronic messages, text messages and telephone records.
- Travel Documentation such as trip reports, trip envelopes, dispatch records, fuel receipts, buel cards, scale tickets, bills of lading, loading tickets, applicable permits, delivery paperwork, cargo transportation bills and other related documents prepared by brokers, shippers, carriers and receivers.
- Vehicle Maintenance, including vehicle inspection, repair records and invoices.
- Photographs and Videos
- Communications and reports rom the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other enforcements agencies
Some trucking companies and their insurers are notorious for “losing” key evidence shortly after an accident because no one ever asked for it. Our attorneys can jump into action to ensure the such vital evidence is preserved and file suit if necessary so subpoenas can be issued or initiate discovery so all possible forms of vital evidence is provided.
To further strengthen a truck accident claim, we often work with accident reconstruction experts. With their insight and unique abilities, accident reconstructionists can piece together all elements of a crash to determine exactly what happened and why. Everything from tire skid marks to how pieces of debris scattered on the road can be used by an accident reconstruction expert, and the work they do is used by our lawyers to benefit your claim. However, in order to ensure vital evidence is preserved, it is extremely important that you hire a lawyer as son as possible so our attorneys can engage accident reconstruction experts to inspect and survey the scene before vital evidence is lost or washed away by the elements.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations
A truck accident claim is different from a typical motor vehicle accident because a commercial truck driver and the company that employs them are subjected to a long list of industry regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The regulation that apply to the commercial motor vehicle varies depending on whether the tractor-trailer, coal truck or other commercial motor vehicle engages in intra-state or inter-state transport. When an accident happens, the liability of the truck driver and their employer can spike if it is can be proven that an FMCSA regulation was ignored or violated at the time of the crash. The same is true if an investigation uncovers that any of the defendants have a history of FMCSA regulation violations.
To name only a few important FMCSA regulations:
- 382.205 – On-duty use: A trucking company may not allow a truck driver to continue operating their commercial vehicle after consuming any amount of alcohol. Even if a truck driver exhibits no clear signs of intoxication, this safety regulation has been violated the moment a trucker drinks alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
- 382.305 – Random testing: A trucking company must submit a percentage of its truckers to random drug testing in accordance with FMCSA regulations. Other sections describe the necessary frequency for drug and alcohol testing before employment, after an accident, and when there is reasonable suspicion to believe the trucker has been using substances while driving.
- 392.3 – Ill or fatigued operator: Truck drivers must stop their vehicle where safe if they feel sick or fatigued, or if the continued operation of their truck would cause them to become fatigued. Furthermore, trucking companies must not permit or encourage truck drivers from driving while exhausted or sick.
- 392.6 – Schedules to conform with speed limits: All truck drivers must comply with speed limits at all times, whether they are posted or assumed to be known, such as highway speed limits.
- 392.7 – Equipment inspection and use: Before driving any commercial truck, the truck driver must ensure that various parts are in satisfactory and working order. Service brakes, tires, horn, headlights, mirrors, windshield wipers, and the steering wheel are only a few of the vehicle parts that must be inspected before the truck can be driven.
- 392.14 – Hazardous conditions and extreme caution: Truck drivers must use “extreme caution” when driving conditions are worsened by rain, snow, fog, dust, or other adverse weather conditions. It is expected that extreme caution will include slowing down the truck’s speed considerably until conditions improve. When weather or roadway conditions are so bad that driving at any rate of speed could put people in danger, the truck driver must stop their vehicle in a safe location and wait for conditions to improve.
- 395.1 – Hours of service rules: Most truck drivers may not work longer than 14 hours in a day and 70 hours in a week. Exceptions can be made for drivers of certain commercial vehicles or who do not drive outside of a 100-air mile radius from their shift’s starting point.
(To review a full list of FMCSA trucking regulations, you can click here to visit the official FMCSA website.)
Size Difference Between Trucks & Passenger Vehicles
Another significant difference between truck accidents and car accidents derives from the massive difference between truck and passenger vehicle sizes. When two passenger vehicles collide, they often have similar weights and masses, which helps the vehicles absorb and redirect the force of an impact away from the driver and passengers. When a car is hit by a commercial truck, though, the disparity of size, weight, and mass can have devastating consequences.
Most commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds without violating any FMCSA regulations. On the other hand, the average passenger vehicle can weigh up to 5,000 pounds, but many models can be much less. With a commercial truck weighing about 16 times that of a passenger vehicle, the impact in even a low-speed collision can crush, crumple, and throw the smaller car, potentially causing catastrophic injuries to those inside.
Many truck accident claims are filed by people who have suffered:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Broken bones
- Permanent disfigurement
Safety Tips When Driving Near a Commercial Truck
Now that it is clearer how problematic a truck accident case can be, we should discuss ways to avoid a truck accident, so you hopefully never need to worry about the complications of handling a claim. In general, driving defensively can help you stay out of trouble, but there are specific tips to remember about commercial truck safety.
Whenever you drive near a big rig, remember:
- Large and numerous blind spots: A tractor-trailer has more and larger blind spots than a passenger vehicle. There is a car-sized blind spot in front of the truck and a larger blind spot immediately behind it. To the left side of the truck, there is another blind spot that can fit one or two cars. However, the biggest blind spot is on the right-hand side; it is shaped like a cone extending outwards from the right window, and it can encompass several lanes as it widens. If you cannot see the truck driver in a mirror, then they cannot see you.
- Increased braking distances: Heavy commercial trucks require large distances to come to a stop at highway speeds. On average, a passenger car needs 300 feet to come to a stop while driving at 65 miles per hour. A truck at the same speed will need 600 feet or more. Try not to linger in front of a commercial truck in case traffic slows down or comes to an unexpected stop.
- Wide turns: Commercial trucks turn widely due to their length and unusual, hinge-like design between the trailer and the tractor that pulls it. It is common for the trailer to drag into adjacent lanes when a truck turns left or right. To be safe, do not take an empty lane next to a truck that is waiting to make a turn because that lane is not technically empty, it is reserved for the wide swing of the trailer.
When in Need, Call Our Team
After a truck accident in West Virginia, Virginia or Kentucky you can count on Katz Kantor Stonestreet & Buckner, PLLC to help you understand your rights as an injured driver and your legal options to pursue compensation. We are standing at the ready to act quickly to gather evidence, we understand the nuances of FMCSA regulations, and we have a long history of dealing with stubborn trucking and insurance companies. Take our experience and talents and make them your own by choosing us to be your truck accident lawyers today.
Speak with local attorneys about your truck accident. Call (304) 713-2014 or email us now to arrange a no-cost consultation.
Continued Reading from Our Team
- Distractions for Truck Drivers: A Big and Growing Issue
- Evidence That is Vital in Your Truck Accident Claim
- How to Preserve Evidence in Your Truck Accident Claim
- Trucking Companies & Liability in West Virginia Truck Accidents
- When a Truck Company Is Liable for an Employee’s Driver Inexperience
- When Liability is Not So Clear in West Virginia Truck Accidents
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