TRUCKING COLLISIONS

Trucks are big heavy machines—so if you are involved in a collision with one, it is likely to be pretty serious. But trucking accident cases are also complicated by the various entities involved. Truck drivers may be employees, independent contractors, owner-operators, or even licensees. Each different employment relationship brings a new set of people, issues and insurance companies into the case. If a trucker negligently caused a collision and injured you, who do you go after, and how? That’s where Keane Law LLC comes in. Our attorneys have a particular focus on employment and insurance law, and that depth of knowledge gives us an edge in navigating complicated trucking cases.

Trucking Collision AttorneyYou can try to negotiate with the insurance company on your own. And you may well succeed. Keane Law LLC will never take your case unless we believe your ultimate take-home share of your settlement will be greater if you hire us. With trucking cases, you are especially likely to benefit from the involvement of an attorney given the complexity of the issues and the potential severity of the injuries.

The attorneys of Keane Law LLC have a wealth of knowledge to bring to bear in trucking cases. Call us today and we will be happy to provide a free consultation.

What Causes Trucking Accidents?

There are a variety of factors involving truck drivers that can cause accidents. The most common include, but are not limited to:

  • Cell phone use
  • Speeding
  • Falling asleep at the wheel
  • Fatigue
  • Failure to remain in the proper lane
  • Failure to obey the rules of the road
  • Inattention
  • Wet or Icy road conditions
  • Making an improper turn
  • Operating the truck in a careless or imprudent manner
  • Overcorrecting
  • Passing with insufficient room
  • Alcohol use
  • Drug use

Why Are Trucking Accidents So Deadly?

Trucking accidents are dangerous and frequently deadly. These massive trucks that are commercially used often weigh over 10,000 pounds. Combine the weight with any driving speed, and any collision can be devastating. In the last three years, large trucks were responsible for more than 10,823 deaths and 240,000 injuries according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 18-wheelers in particular can take up to 40% longer to stop than the average vehicle. As a result, accidents involving 18-wheelers are approximately 25% more likely than accidents involving other types of passenger vehicles.

Despite these statistics, insurance companies for the trucking companies tend to blame accidents on the other driver or claim that the accident’s circumstances were beyond the truck driver’s control. Due to the differences in size, with trucks weighing up to 80,000 pounds and cars often weighing less than 4,000 pounds, the truck drivers rarely receive injuries from the collision. The driver of the car involved in the collision is far more likely to be injured or killed.

Trucking Regulations

The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established in 2001. Their primary mission is prevention of injuries and deaths related to commercial motor vehicles. The FMCSA monitors safety systems, enforces the safety regulations, targets high-risk drivers and carriers, and works to increase safety awareness. There are a number of strict regulations placed on truckers as a result. Below are a few examples of these requirements.

Texting and Driving

In October, 2010, federal regulations went into place prohibiting the driver of a commercial truck from texting while behind the wheel. These regulations were enacted after the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration concluded that texting while driving poses as danger to society. One study found that texting drivers take their eyes off the road for about a 4.6 seconds during a six-second period. This translates into drivers travelling more than a football field length if travelling at 55 mph without their eyes on the road.

There was an overwhelming amount of public support for the ban and the American Trucking Association also supported the ban. The rules prohibiting texting while driving apply to:

  • Trucks that weigh 26,000 pounds or more
  • Vehicles designed to transport 16 or more people including the driver
  • Vehicles used to transport certain quantities of hazardous chemicals
  • School bus drivers

Drug Use

Experiencing a truck speeding towards you would be frightening for anyone. An aggressive truck driver may have chosen to drive under the influence of drugs, increasing the risk for a deadly accident. With reaction time slowed and judgment impaired under the influence of drugs, truck drivers pose an even greater threat on the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires commercial truck drivers to undergo drug testing for a number of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, opiates, including opium itself and derivative drugs such as heroin, amphetamines and methamphetamine, and phencyclidine, also known as PCP.

The drug tests are administered prior to employment by the trucking company and when a trained supervisor has a reasonable suspicion of drug use by the driver. A drug test must also be administered after a truck driver is involved in an accident.

Alcohol Limits

Due to the potential for greater injury to drivers as a result of a collision with a truck, truck drivers are held to a higher standard than a typical 21-year-old or older driver. A truck driver may face charges for having a blood-alcohol lever over .04 percent instead of the typical .08 percent. In addition, under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, a semi-truck driver may be subject to disciplinary action if possessing a .02 percent blood alcohol level. If found with a .02 blood alcohol level, the driver will be suspended from driving a 18-wheeler for 24 hours. After every fatal accident, a truck driver is required to submit a blood sample for testing for the presence of alcohol.

Truck Inspections and Repairs

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires drivers trucking companies to systematically inspect, repair and maintain their trucks. There are detailed regulations regarding the inspection and maintenance of a truck’s part which include:

  • Time and frame assemblies
  • Suspension systems
  • Axles
  • Wheels and rims
  • Steering systems
  • Brakes

The regulations also specify that the companies must maintain a record of these inspections. Such records must include:

  • Identifying information for the vehicle (e.g., make, serial number, year, tire size)
  • Inspections that were performed, including the nature and the date
  • Due dates for the next inspections

Records must be kept for at least one year, and the company also must keep records for six months after relinquishing ownership or control of the truck. After a crash involving a semi, it is essential to contact a lawyer quickly. These records indicating repairs, inspections, and maintenance should be acquired as quickly as possible. These records may contain evidence regarding maintenance or failure to maintain the truck properly.

Amount of Hours-of-Service for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers are paid to transport goods to particular destinations in a certain time span. This can sometimes mean long driving hours for the truck driver if he is to accomplish the service in time. Even though federal regulations limit the time the driver of a bus or tractor-trailer is allowed to remain behind the wheel, rules can be broken and a driver ends up working for much longer than is allowed by the law. This can result in fatigue of the driver. Fatigue can result in decreased awareness by the driver or even a lingering blink that can result in the swerve of a truck and a collision.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enforces different hours-of-service regulations on commercial vehicles which transport property than the ones it enforces on trucks that carry passengers.

  • For truck drivers who carry property, the hours-of-service rules include:
  • Imposes an 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
  • Sets a 14-hour on-duty limit, meaning that the trucker may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty after 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
  • Forbids driving after 60 hours on duty over seven consecutive days.
  • Prohibits driving after 70 hours on duty over eight consecutive days.
  • Requires any driver using a sleeper berth to take eight consecutive hours in it, plus a separate two hours in the sleeper berth or off duty, or any combination of the two

For commercial vehicle drivers who transport passengers, the hours-of-service rules:

  • Establishes a 10-hour driving limit after eight consecutive hours off duty
  • Imposes a 15-hour on-duty limit, meaning that the commercial driver may not drive beyond the 15th consecutive hour after eight consecutive off-duty hours.
  • Prohibits driving after 60 hours on duty over seven consecutive days.
  • Forbids driving after 70 hours on duty over eight consecutive days.
  • Requires drivers who use a sleeper berth to take at least eight hours in it with the option of splitting the time into two periods, provided that neither is less than two hours

What Happens After a Trucking Accident?

Trucking companies are often insured by large insurance agencies. These agencies often hire investigators to protect themselves from paying out large compensations. Investigators will work to prove the truck driver’s version of events is true. The investigator will often quickly appear at the site of the crash to collect “evidence” proving the collision was your fault or a third party’s fault. To ensure your rights are protected after a trucking accident, you need an experienced accident attorney who is familiar with these tactics and can successfully counteract them.

An investigator for the insurance agency may try to take advantage of your shock after an accident. Here are some precautions you can take:

  • Do not give a written or oral statement to any representative of the trucking company
  • Do not sign anything
  • If possible, take pictures of the scene (skid marks, off road tire tracks, yaw and scuff marks, etc.)
  • Get the names and contact information of any potential witnesses

You should contact a truck accident attorney as soon as possible to ensure the critical evidence is preserved. Some of the evidence that may need to be preserved will include:

  • Data from the “black box.” Many semis are equipped with systems that record important evidence such as the truck’s speed at the time of the accident, braking information and engine speed.
  • Log books. Truck drivers are required to keep log books detailing the number of miles they drive and the hours they spend off duty.
  • Radio recordings. Recordings of communications between a truck driver and his or her dispatcher may contain important information about the events leading up to an accident.

This evidence will help determine if any regulations were broken.

Why Should You Hire Keane Law LLC for Your Trucking Case?

The attorneys at Keane Law LLC have a depth and breadth of experience in trucking cases, and can help to maximize your recovery. Our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of the victims of injury and fraud.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of a trucking accident, our experienced attorneys can get you the justice you deserve. Call us today for a free consultation.