Trucking accidents (a.k.a semi-truck accidents, 18-wheeler accidents, tractor-trailer accidents or commercial vehicle accidents) can be the most lucrative of all personal injury cases.
Large trucks – like a Freightliner, a Mack, a HEIL, or a box truck, all things being equal, cause more damage in a crash than an automobile. A Mack truck crashing into you at 5 miles per hour provides similar force as a Civic crashing into you at 50 miles per hour due to the weight difference between the vehicles.
Also, commercial trucks typically maintain large insurance policies. As a result, all personal injuries “claim” to be skilled in handling trucking cases.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Trucking cases can be very complicated and are not for the faint of heart. Trucking companies employ teams of lawyers and experts who will stop at nothing to protect their own. It is not uncommon for trucking companies’ lawyers to plan their defense of attack with their accident reconstructionist and operator within minutes of a crash.
In addition to the more obvious reasons why a truck driver would cause an accident (fatigue, reckless driving, speeding, tailgating, texting and driving) an experienced trucking attorney also needs to be familiar with specific laws and regulations specifically for trucks.
Companies that operate commercial vehicles transporting passengers or hauling cargo in interstate commerce must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and must have a USDOT Number. Also, commercial intrastate hazardous materials carriers who haul types and quantities requiring a safety permit must register for a USDOT Number. As a result, these trucking companies should be held to a higher standard of care as their actions (or inactions) can cause significant damage to the community.
Truck drivers need to be properly trained and permitted to operate these massive vehicles.
Additionally, truck drivers are limited to a how many hours they are allowed to drive before taking a break and how to properly manage their loads. We request the operator’s log books to confirm this information. Spotting a FMCSA violation can support our claim of the operator’s negligence.
Demand the Electronic Data Recorder (Black Box)
In our trucking cases, we demand the at-fault trucking company preserve their truck so we can hire an accident reconstructionist to inspect the truck and evaluate the truck’s “black box” / electronic data recorder (“EDR”). Similar to what is found in an airplane, the black box can provide us with a treasure trove of information such as…
- The exact time the truck made impact with your vehicle
- The speed at which the truck was traveling before the operator pressed the break
- The speed at which the truck made impact with your vehicle
- When the operator placed his foot on the break / distance before the crash
- Whether the cruise control was engaged
- Whether the truck had a governor restricting the top speed
- and more
This can be crucial to counter the arguments of the defense that “something or someone other than their operator’s actions” caused the crash.
Cases of override truck accidents or underride truck accidents require an experienced trucking attorney. An override truck accident occurs when a truck runs over a smaller car, motorcycle, moped, or pedestrian. An underride truck accident occurs when an automobile slides beneath a truck, often from the rear corner.
Typically, but not always, these crashes occur in the early morning or late at night (when visibility is poor) as a result of a truck suddenly stopping due to traffic where the driver does have enough time to react. Both accidents can be catastrophic – decapitation is unfortunately common in these cases. In these accidents, it is important for the accident reconstructionist to determine if the truck met the minimum safety requirements such as: lights, warnings, reflective tape, guardrails, etc.
Our trucking attorneys also have experience with jackknife accidents.
Many commercial trucks are in essence two vehicles: a tractor and a trailer. This is sometimes referred to as an “articulated vehicle”. In a jackknife accident the “trailer” part of the vehicle “folds down” when the “tractor” quickly turns (i.e. sharp turn, sudden brake, tire blows, driver not accounting for wet roads, or impact). The “trailer” swings towards the “tractor” (similar to a folding pocket knife) crashing into anything in its path (i.e. adjacent traffic).
Jackknife accidents almost always involve multiple vehicles. If you have seen a dozen car pile-up on the highway, it is likely as a result of a jackknife accident. Fatalities are common.
Do not place your trucking case in the hands of an inexperienced attorney. Call one of our experienced trucking accident attorneys today for a free consultation. We are also available 24/7 for home or hospital visits.