Getting into an accident with a semi truck is much different from getting into an accident with another type of vehicle. For one thing, the sheer size of the truck vastly increases your chances for injury. In addition, you will be dealing not just with another driver but with a commercial entity—and sometimes more than one!—as you and your attorney pursue damages. against the insurance companies involved
Companies that use large, commercial vehicles invest heavily in insurance coverage and legal protection. For these reasons, it is critical that you fully understand the implications for different types of semi truck accidents resulting in personal injuries.
In this post we will look at some of the potential causes of a semi truck accident and what to do if you get into an accident with a semi truck.
Potential Causes of Semi Truck Accidents
A variety of factors, individually or in combination, may lead to a semi truck accident with injuries. These are some of the possible causes and important points about each.
1. Mechanical Failure
Trucking companies are required to have their vehicles inspected and serviced regularly to minimize the risk of a mechanical failure. If they skip an inspection or delay maintenance, problems can occur. Something as simple as a burnt out brake light or turn signal light can lead to an accident. Steering failures and transmission failures may occur when maintenance is neglected.
In cases of mechanical failure, fault might be traced to a parts manufacturer, a mechanic, the trucking company, or the driver themselves. An experienced truck accident attorney will work to understand the cause and who should be held accountable.
2. Brake Failure
An especially dire situation arises when brakes fail, especially considering the extreme weight of a semi truck makes it difficult to stop even under ideal conditions. Brakes may also fail because the trucking company overloads the vehicle, exceeding weight limitations. In addition, poor driving practices like speeding wear out brakes more quickly. Occasionally, a driver may even unhook the front brakes and rely only on the back ones (in an attempt to reduce fuel consumption). Again, a good lawyer will seek to pinpoint the true cause.
3. Traffic Flow Interruption
Everyone who drives knows that traffic congestion leads to problems. Whether in the case of predictable rush hour backups or hazards caused by construction or an earlier accident, driving requires vigilance. Truck drivers should be well trained to handle any type of situation that arises on the road. However, they may still make poor decisions due to panic or ignorance. Other factors like driver fatigue, substance abuse, weather or mechanical problems to traffic flow issues may compound traffic flow issues to lead to accidents.
4. Truck Driver Intoxication
Driver intoxication can originate from recreational or medical use of substances. Naturally, truck driving companies and those who use their services establish policies against drug and alcohol use for drivers. Regardless of their employer, all truck drivers must follow regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In fact, a holder of a commercial driver’s license violates federal law by operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .04 percent or more.
The FMCSA administers random drug and alcohol testing. However, an intoxicated driver can slip through the system. A driver may be permitted to take certain medications prescribed by a doctor, but those that would interfere with the ability to drive safely are prohibited. In the case of a semi-truck accident, the driver should be tested as soon as reasonably possible for signs of alcohol or other drugs.
5. Truck Driver Fatigue
Truck driving is not an easy job. Drivers often put in long hours and may sleep on the road. Driving while tired can be just as dangerous as driving drunk, according to the National Sleep Foundation. There are limits on how many hours they are supposed to work per day, however they may violate those limits to make up work in cases of traffic or other delays. In some cases, a trucking company may look the other way when they drivers do not comply with hours of service regulations. A truck accident lawsuit will take into account the driver’s state of fatigue.
Who Should Handle Your Case?
If someone in a personal vehicle causes an accident that harms you or your property, you know who to pursue for damages. Because trucking accidents are so much more complicated, it is important to prepare correctly from the outset. An attorney experienced with semi truck accidents can help you navigate this complex scenario.
Potentially liable parties include the driver, the vehicle owner, the company who leases the commercial vehicle, and the company whose goods are being transported. Those may all be the same person or company, or four entirely different parties. The driver themselves may be an independent contractor or an employee of one of the above parties. Your lawyer will obtain and review the driver’s contract thoroughly to understand the agreement between the driver and the trucking company.
Often in a semi truck accident case, a personal injury lawyer will pursue legal action against the trucking company, not the driver. This course of action can provide the best chance of adequate compensation for your injuries. If your case goes before a jury, jurors are more likely to side with you against a “faceless” trucking company, compared with an individual driver who was under stress to meet a deadline or had to act under pressure in a traffic situation.
What Should You Do if You are in an Accident with a Semi Truck?
Immediately following any collision, call emergency services. Even if no one shows signs of an injury immediately, traumatic injuries or brain injuries can arise minutes, hours, or even days later. If necessary, insist that the police come to the scene. You will want to move all people and vehicles, if possible, to a safe location (such as the shoulder or median) and collect pertinent information from the truck driver. The information you need from a commercial driver exceeds what you might ask for in a collision with someone’s personal vehicle, including:
- The driver’s name
- The identity of the vehicle’s owner
- The name of the trucking company
- Whether the driver is an independent contractor or employee of the company
- The identity of the company using the trucking company’s services
If you are physically well enough and able to do so safely, take photos and video of the scene so you have evidence for court.
Note that, if you get into a semi truck accident with a truck from out of state, different laws may apply. That’s why it’s advantageous to hire a lawyer who is knowledgeable about trucking laws nationwide and who has handled truck crash cases across the country.
Contact an Attorney Experienced with Semi Truck Accidents
If you have been in an accident with a semi truck, contact Matthews Injury Law to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys in Tampa and Sarasota. Our team will guide you through this complex process of dealing with insurance, trucking companies, and courtrooms and increase the likelihood of success in your suit for damages.