We see trucks on the road all the time. The trucking industry is vital to the economy, jobs, and transporting goods. Trucks move about 70 percent of all freight, amounting to billions of dollars worth of cargo each year. In addition to consumer goods, they transport equipment, medical supplies, and other essential products.
However, accidents involving commercial trucks, such as semis, 18-wheelers, and tractor-trailers, often cause severe or fatal injuries. According to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,951 people died in large truck accidents. Approximately one out of every eight traffic fatalities involves a trucking collision. These accidents occur everywhere, but Texas consistently ranks first in the nation with the most trucks involved in fatal crashes.
And they happen at every time of the day and every day of the week. Many large shipping companies have recently begun a seven-day workweek, meaning more big trucks on the road during the weekend. You may not want to wait till morning or the workweek to call a good truck accident attorney—a lot of evidence can disappear by then. You will want a 24-hour truck accident lawyer. After providing a little background, we’ll tell you why.
How do truck accidents differ from other motor vehicle accidents?
Between 2009 and 2021, truck accidents increased by 52 percent. Each traffic accident is unique, but those involving large commercial trucks are often the most complex for several reasons.
One primary difference between a truck and car accident is that truck accidents usually produce more catastrophic injuries. Large commercial trucks with fully loaded trailers can weigh 80,000 pounds, and the average car weighs about 4,000 pounds.
Large trucks can crush smaller cars, and they can cause significant crashes involving multiple vehicles and tedious traffic delays.
Operating a truck is far more complicated than driving an average passenger vehicle. Skilled and well-trained drivers are vital to safe operation, and they also ensure that all truck components are in good condition. Tire defects are the primary reason for a truck crash and are responsible for 30 percent of trucking accidents.
Trucks are subject to different regulations than cars
Both state and federal governments heavily regulate the trucking industry.
State and federal governments heavily regulate the trucking industry. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation require specific driver qualifications, logbooks, regular inspections for the trucks, and specific truck maintenance.
Driving a large commercial vehicle requires special training and a different class of driver’s license.
- How often trucking companies and drivers need to inspect their vehicles and cargo loads
- A lower blood alcohol content limit (0.04 vs. 0.08)/drug and alcohol testing after accidents
- Handheld cell phone ban
Approximately 500,000 truck-related accidents happen each year in the United States. Therefore, violations of these and other regulations can increase the risk of an accident due to negligence.
While truck drivers must adhere to these regulations to keep themselves and others safe, the truck driving profession is a very demanding job, requiring drivers to meet tight deadlines for shipment arrivals. Often, truck drivers must drive through the night and into the morning or during the weekends to meet their quotas.
Indeed, 37 percent of all deaths caused by large truck accidents occurred outside typical business hours, and 17 percent of fatal truck accents occurred on weekends. Truck accidents can be devastating to all parties. Contacting a 24-hour lawyer in truck accidents occurring outside regular business hours is essential.
Common types of truck accidents
Common types of truck accidents include:
- Head-on and rear-end collisions. These are particularly dangerous for occupants of smaller vehicles.
- Jackknife accidents.
- Rollover accidents.
- Underride accidents.
- Blind spot accidents.
Common causes of truck accidents
Truck drivers often make mistakes, despite having increased responsibility and a higher level of training in safe driving. For example, they may follow another vehicle too closely, change lanes carelessly or without signaling, fail to check all blind spots properly, or they may drive aggressively. Causes of truck accidents may include:
Truckers are not permitted to drive more than 16 hours in any 24 hours. However, truck drivers often spend long hours behind the wheel and cover long distances. They are constantly under pressure to deliver goods in a short period, and so they get little sleep or rest. Fatigue is one of the most common causes of truck accidents. Stress and fatigue may affect a driver’s skills, and judgment and drivers may even fall asleep while driving.
Truckers must keep an electronic log indicating that they adhere to federal law related to Hours of Service regulation. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) suggest how long a driver can be behind the wheel and automatically record a driver’s adherence to these scheduled breaks and driving limits.
This will provide important information when building a truck accident claim. However, the longer a defendant waits to obtain this information after the crash, the less accurate the information is likely to be. A 24-hour lawyer may obtain this information for you as soon as possible—before it disappears—following the wreck.
#2. Drug and Alcohol Use
Drug and alcohol use while driving is dangerous. Yet illicit or prescription drug use is not uncommon among long-haul truckers. They may bring substances with them in the truck or take drugs or alcohol when stopping to rest, and the result can be impaired driving and subsequent accidents.
In the case of suspected drug and alcohol use, it is essential to obtain alcohol and drug testing as close to the time of the accident as possible. The police may conduct these tests at the accident scene; they may not. If not, proving drug use after the fact can grow impossible. You may need a 24-hour lawyer to insist that police perform these tests and obtain the results as part of your legal claim.
Drivers must follow speed limits for their safety and the safety of others on the road. Unfortunately, truck companies often require that truckers reach their destination on schedule. Many factors affect a trucker’s ability to meet that schedule, such as poor weather conditions, traffic, and other unexpected events.
Drivers sometimes drive over the speed limit to deliver their cargo on time. Trucks need more room to stop than cars do. A large truck traveling 55 miles per hour needs nearly 50 percent greater stopping distance than a car. A truck traveling at high speed will need even more room to stop. Braking at high speeds can cause the truck to jackknife. Sudden maneuvers like veering to another portion of the road are difficult and dangerous at higher speeds. In addition, being overtaken by a huge, speeding truck may force drivers in smaller cars to veer off the road.
#4. Distracted Driving
Safe driving requires the driver’s full attention. Unfortunately, driving while distracted contributes to many severe or fatal accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving caused 3,142 deaths in one recent year. In the long hours of driving, truckers may become distracted by, for example, eating and drinking, retrieving a dropped item, personal grooming, and even intrusive thoughts. In addition, texting while driving contributes to many accidents.
In response to the problem, the FMCSA issued rules banning truck drivers from the following cellphone activities while driving:
- Texting or reading texts
- Reaching for a cellphone or holding a cellphone when making or receiving a call
- Dialing a cellphone if it requires using more than one button
- Using any messaging service, including emails and instant messaging.
- Accessing a webpage
A trucker who violates these rules may incur steep fines or revocation of their commercial license.
#5. Improper Vehicle Maintenance
Trucks go through a great deal of wear and tear. Therefore, regular and meticulous maintenance is essential. Seemingly minor repairs that go neglected or important equipment such as worn and damaged brake pads can have a significant accident. Therefore, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires drivers to perform inspections before and after a trip and submit reports regarding vehicle maintenance.
#6. Equipment Failure
Companies that design and manufacture truck parts and other equipment may be responsible for equipment failures resulting from the production of dangerous and defective components.
#7. Bad Weather
Trucks are on the roads in all kinds of weather. Even a trained and experienced truck driver may find it hard to travel safely in conditions such as ice, snow, rain, and fog. Slippery roads or poor visibility can be dangerous because of the truck’s weight. Truckers need training to handle braking techniques that prevent skidding, jackknifing, and hydroplaning.
It is imperative to document road conditions at the time of the accident. Attempts to recall or reinvestigate weather and road conditions after the fact will not provide the same evidentiary support as evidence taken at the time of the accident. Photos and witness statements are vital to building a solid case. A 24-hour lawyer, who is available around the clock, can best gather this information.
#8. Improper or Inadequate Training
Operating a big truck is not like driving a car. A driver needs proper and thorough training on handling and driving trucks safely, including defensive driving. However, even a trained driver may be inexperienced or unfamiliar with the route. In addition, maneuvering a large, heavy vehicle on rough or congested roads can be challenging.
#9. Cargo Issues
Cargo issues can cause truck accidents. Sometimes the cargo itself is mislabeled or dangerous, such as explosives, gases, flammable liquids or solids, or other types of toxic materials. In addition, the federal government regulates the height, length, width, and weight limits of truckloads. Crews must load cargo correctly loaded before transportation. If incorrectly loaded, cargo can cause incorrect distribution and shift during transport. In some cases, the cargo falls into the road and causes catastrophic accidents. Overloading can contribute to accidents like rollovers and jackknife accidents.
#10. Road Problems
Road construction can be confusing and challenging for any driver, especially for someone driving a big truck. Drivers may attempt to evade barricades and diverted traffic. Construction typically slows down traffic, and employers pressure truck drivers to make up for the lost time.
Poor road design and maintenance may also play a role in truck safety. In that case, the entity or municipality responsible for the roads may be liable for a truck accident lawsuit.
Types of truck accident injuries
When a passenger vehicle collides with a truck, people in the car are more severely injured. Out of all fatal car accidents, about 74 percent involved a truck. The most severe trunk accident injuries include:
Traumatic brain injuries. The sudden impact of a truck crash often jars or shakes the head, which causes the brain to hit the skull. These injuries are often catastrophic and require lifelong care. Even when the effects are temporary, as with a concussion, symptoms such as headaches and problems with memory or coordination may persist.
Internal injuries. These injuries can go undetected immediately after the crash. If they are not found and treated quickly, they may require surgery or sometimes be fatal. Truck accident victims may suffer internal bleeding or damage to internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, bladder, spleen, or pancreas.
Burns. Trucks have larger fuel tanks than passenger vehicles. In addition, they may be loaded with explosive or flammable cargo, increasing the likelihood of burn injuries from the crash. In addition to severe pain, burn victims may suffer scarring or disfigurement.
Crush injuries. Crushing injuries occur when opposing surfaces compress a portion of a person’s body with great force, such as when an accident pins the victim inside a vehicle. Crush injuries may cause damage to internal organs, compressed nerves, fractures, or rhabdomyolysis. In this dangerous condition, damaged muscle tissue releases proteins and electrolytes into the blood, affecting the heart and kidneys.
Neck injuries. The forceful jolting of a truck accident often causes neck injuries such as whiplash.
Symptoms of whiplash may include:
- Pain or stiffness in the neck or shoulders
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Headaches stemming from the base of the neck
- Numbness or tingling in the arms
Back or spinal injuries. In a truck crash, these injuries can happen because:
- The spine contorts, forcing the neck and head sideways
- Rapid and extreme acceleration and deceleration damage the delicate disks in the neck and spine
- Fragments of bone break and lodge into the spine
- Compression fractures break the vertebrae and allow the spine to compress
- The force of impact bruises or tears the spinal cord
The long-term implications of back and spinal injuries can be tragic, resulting in partial or complete paralysis.
Broken bones and fractures. The trauma of a truck accident can break many bones, such as legs, arms, wrists, and even facial bones. Some broken bones require surgery and physical therapy. Fractures in bones such as the ribcage that protect vital organs are especially severe.
Sprains and strains. Truck accident victims often suffer painful sprains, ligament tears, dislocated joints, and tendon damage.
Emotional distress. A truck accident is a traumatic and unforgettable experience, so many victims suffer emotional distress following an accident. Emotional distress covers a wide range of trauma, such as anxiety, depression, fear, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
An emotional injury is just as valid and terrible as a physical injury. For some victims, the symptoms gradually fade. Unfortunately, many truck accident victims struggle with undiagnosed or untreated emotional distress. They may fear driving or suffer from repeated intrusive thoughts, edginess, irritability, nightmares, or other trauma-related triggers.
Truck accident investigation
Typically, there will be multiple investigations following a truck accident. The law enforcement officers who respond to the accident will file an accident report. However, there might also be an investigation by the trucking company and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), investigators, or accident reconstruction experts hired by insurance companies and lawyers.
There are strict deadlines for filing a lawsuit. Therefore, if you or someone you love was injured in a truck accident, consult an experienced 24-hour truck accident attorney.
Meanwhile, you probably feel shocked, overwhelmed and have many urgent questions and worries. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.
Who may cause a truck accident?
Every truck crash has unique circumstances that may contribute to an accident. It is essential to find all individuals or entities that caused your crash. When two cars collide, the liability may be reasonably simple to determine. However, multiple liable parties may contribute to an accident involving a large truck.
Some truck drivers own their trucks and are self-employed. In that case, the driver/owner may be responsible for the injuries.
However, many truck drivers work for a trucking company or a business that operates a fleet of trucks. Even if the driver is responsible, the trucking company is generally responsible under the doctrine of vicarious liability, which holds employers accountable for their employees’ actions, provided the employee acted within the scope of his employment. The trucking company may also be liable for negligent hiring or failure to supervise or train drivers, negligent cargo handling, or encouraging dangerous driving, such as speeding.
Other potentially liable parties may include:
- The truck manufacturer and its parts if malfunctions contributed to the crash.
- The owner of the cargo.
- Those responsible for truck maintenance and repair.
- A local government or contractors that improperly designed or maintained the road.
What laws govern truck accidents?
Truck accident cases are very complicated. Compensation for an injury, as well as consequences, may come from a variety of sources. At first, most people think of personal injury law. However, a truck accident case may also involve employment law, workers’ compensation, in some cases, criminal law.
Many rules and regulations govern the trucking industry, so more than one source of law may apply, such as local traffic laws. In addition, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulate the trucking industry. There are also state laws that apply to trucks operating within the state.
Negligence causes many truck accidents. Negligence is “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.”
Why are truck accident lawsuits more complicated than other motor vehicle accidents?
Trucking companies and truckers must follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. In a truck accident lawsuit, the injured party often proves that a trucker or trucking company breached a duty of care.
This frequently involves a violation of the FMCSA rules and regulations, such as:
- Hours of service violations. The FMSCA limits the number of hours truckers can drive each day and each week before taking a mandatory break. Without adequate rest breaks, truckers may become seriously fatigued, creating an accident risk.
- Cargo securement violations. The FMSCA enforces strict weight limits on the amount of cargo a truck can carry. These rules also regulate how cargo is loaded and secured. Improperly loaded cargo can cause truck rollovers and tire blowouts. Cargo that falls from a truck may cause a collision risk or injure other motorists, motorcyclists, bicycle riders, and pedestrians. Toxic or flammable cargo can lead to fires or explosions.
- Handheld device violations. Cell phone use is banned while truckers are behind the wheel unless they can use the device hands-free.
- Maintenance violations. Trucking companies, owners/operators, and truckers must inspect and maintain trucks to keep them safe. However, truckers and trucking companies frequently fail to adhere to these regulations. For example, they may fail to perform a legally required complete annual inspection, fail to conduct walk-around inspections, and fail to follow the company’s maintenance policies. Inspections may reveal defective windshield wipers, worn, flat, or leaking tires, faulty brake or steering mechanisms, unsecured fire extinguishers, and more. In a recent year, twenty percent of commercial trucks violated FMCSA regulations.
Depending on the severity of the crash, road cleanup and vehicle transportation from the crash site can destroy substantial evidence indicating any number of the previously discussed violations. This information is vital to your case. Remember to obtain a 24-hour lawyer as quickly as possible after the crash; they will immediately build your case by gathering evidence of potential violations by the truck driver.
What is the process for filing a lawsuit after a truck accident?
In a truck accident lawsuit, the injured person is the plaintiff, and the other party is the defendant. Your attorney can prepare and file the appropriate forms with the court before the statute of limitations expires.
Next, the attorney serves the documents on the defendant. Then the case enters the discovery phase, in which both sides gather information about the evidence to be presented. There will be many pretrial motions to settle preliminary issues.
Finally, the attorney presents and argues the case at trial, if necessary.
To prevail in a court case, your attorney must prove to the judge and jury that:
- The person or entity at fault owed you a legal duty.
- They breached that duty.
- The accident and injuries resulted from the breach of duty.
- You have suffered injuries and damages from the accident.
How do you prove a truck accident?
In most cases, the trucking company has most of the evidence needed to prove your case, including:
- The truck from the accident
- Data from the truck’s electronic data recorder
- The truck’s maintenance records
- Logs recording hours of service
- The driver’s drug and alcohol test results
- The driver’s personnel file
Sometimes the records turn out to be fraudulent or reflect a general disregard for safety regulations. It is vital to act quickly because federal laws allow trucking companies to destroy evidence after a certain period, typically six months. Your attorney may prepare a spoliation letter to prevent the loss of valuable evidence. This letter requests the preservation of all relevant evidence. The letter goes to the trucking company and other parties connected to the accident, such as a maintenance and repair company or a shipping company.
How long does it take to settle a truck accident case?
Statistics show that approximately 95 percent of personal injury lawsuits will settle before trial. Settling means that the parties reach an agreement before the conclusion of a trial. There are pros and cons to settling a case. Settling out of court is typically much faster and avoids the stress of a trial.
The downside to settling is that you may be agreeing to take less than you deserve. The injured party may receive several settlement offers in the course of the case, but the question is whether that is the right way to resolve this particular case. Your attorney can help you assess any settlement offers and make a good decision.
What damages can I seek in a truck accident lawsuit?
Each case is different, but generally, financial compensation depends on several factors.
These factors include:
- The degree of fault involved.
- The nature and extent of the injuries resulting from the crash. As the severity of the injuries in a trucking accident increases, so do the damages.
- Mental or physical suffering resulting from the collision.
- Financial losses stemming from the crash.
- The person’s ability to continue in their job or career.
- Long-term effects of the injury.
- The extent of the property damage obtained from the crash.
The law requires much greater insurance coverage for commercial vehicles, with higher liability minimums, depending on the vehicle and cargo type. However, the goal of insurance companies is to pay as little as possible on your claim. Generally, trucking companies have a whole team of attorneys and insurance representatives who immediately fight the claim, so obtaining total and fair compensation is a challenge.
Victims of truck accidents can pursue compensation for all of their losses: emotional, financial, professional, and physical.
This compensation may include:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Property damage
When someone dies due to a truck accident, surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit. They may seek damages for funeral and burial expenses, projected future income, loss of benefits, loss of companionship, and more.
Some states, such as Texas, award punitive damages in cases where the defendant acted with actual malice or gross negligence. For example, the court may award punitive damages if the truck driver who caused the accident was driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What should I do after a truck accident?
Shock and confusion are common in the aftermath of a truck accident. It usually takes a while to adjust to the reality of the situation. Meanwhile, you may not know what to do.
Consider these suggestions:
- Stop your car. If possible, get to a safe place. Never leave the scene of an accident.
- Report the accident.
- Obtain medical treatment. During traumatic events like car accidents, an adrenaline rush can mask your pain for some time, so you might think your injuries are minor or non-existent. However, some severe injuries do not show symptoms for hours or days. Medical treatment also provides valuable documentation of your injuries if you file a claim.
- Exchange contact information with the other parties.
- Collect contact information for witnesses, as they may be difficult to locate later.
- Take pictures and videos. If possible, take photos of the vehicles, your injuries, and the scene of the accident. Do not forget skid marks and any traffic signs or signals. Also, note any video cameras in the area to record the accident.
- Answer questions from the police. If you are unsure about something, say you do not know. Be cautious about discussing the accident with insurance representatives or other parties until you have consulted an attorney. Avoid apologizing or accepting blame for the accident.
- Avoid posting pictures or comments regarding the accident on social media, which the defense will use against you in a lawsuit.
What is the definition of a commercial truck?
You have probably heard the term “commercial trucks,” but what are they? Delivery vehicles, cement trucks, 18-wheelers, freight trucks, and other large vehicles used for business, such as transporting goods, are commercial trucks. To operate one of these vehicles, a driver must have a commercial driver’s license.
The FMCSA uses the term commercial motor vehicles to describe a class of commercial vehicles based on the following criteria:
- Motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 pounds or more
- Designed to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver
- Those transporting specific quantities of hazardous materials
How can a 24-hour truck accident lawyer help me?
Dealing with the pain, trauma, and losses arising from a trucking accident is not easy. Truck accident injury cases are very complex and can occur at any time of day. As truck accident become more prevalent in general but specifically outside of business hours, the need for a 24-hour lawyer increases significantly. Here are some of the ways a 24-hour truck accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal system, advocate for you in negotiations and court appearances and seek compensation.
Perhaps you feel like you are drowning in paperwork, emails, and phone calls related to the accident. Meanwhile, you may be in pain and coping with other problems caused by the accident. An experienced truck accident attorney can relieve you of these constant hassles. They will know what to do and how to do it. They can explain the legal options and offer advice appropriate for your specific situation.
It is almost certain that one or more insurance companies will become involved. At first, they may try to ignore your claim or slow it down. However, your attorney would know how to communicate with insurance companies and protect your rights and interests.
#3. Determining fault
It is critical to identify all parties who may have contributed to an accident. Your legal team knows what proof of fault to look for and where to find it. They can obtain, preserve, organize, and analyze electronic logging device data, maintenance records, and toxicology reports. This type of information serves as the foundation of your case.
#4. Representing you in negotiations and trial
Zealous representation in the conference room and courtroom affects the outcome and the amount of compensation received.
What is a statute of limitations?
A statute of limitations is a period during which you can file a lawsuit. You must file within this deadline, or you cannot sue.
Louisiana’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims is one year. The statute of limitations on a trucking accident in Texas is two years from the crash. Consult an attorney as soon as possible.
Your attorney can explain your legal options and guide you through the process. Contact a 24-hour truck accident attorney today for further information or a free case evaluation.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.