Trucks and other large commercial vehicles form a significant part of the traffic on highways and freeways throughout the United States. According to an estimate, the rate of deadly truck accident occurring in the United States has risen by 20% within the past two decades. Due to the sheer size and momentum of these trucks, any accident involving them can leave the victims with debilitating physical injury and even death.
If you were involved in such a deadly truck accident, with the assistance of an experienced truck accident lawyer you might be entitled to financial compensation if you are successful in proving that you are not liable for the deadly truck accident. Although the compensation is not the solution to the confusion, frustration, emotional trauma, and grief in the wake of the accident, it may help in covering your medical and financial expenses to relieve you of the stress to some extent.
Truck Accident Facts & Figures
According to a 2002 estimate by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), trucking accidents in the United States led to nearly 5,000 deaths and more than 100,000 physical injuries. Although large commercial trucks make up only 3 percent of the total vehicular accidents, the injuries they cause their victims can be significantly worse than the accidents involving smaller vehicles. The risk of death in truck crashes is also higher as compared to other vehicular accidents.
Laws Regarding Truck Accidents
Various agencies, including the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the State Department of Transportation, regulate the trucking industry. These agencies are responsible for formulating the laws that govern trucking services, and the liability is established according to these laws in case of insurance claims and lawsuits.
Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents may be caused by several factors, including but not limited to the following:
- Distracted Driving: Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents in the US and throughout the world. Texting, calling, using your smartphone, eating, or drinking, can lead to the diversion of the driver’s attention from the road, leading to catastrophic traffic accidents.
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI): DWIs are another leading cause of truck accidents in the United States. Even though truck drivers are subject to stricter rules and regulations regarding DWIs, as compared to other drivers, driving under the influence of alcohol remains a major cause of trucking accidents in the country.
- Driver Fatigue: Truck drivers have long working shifts that involve driving for long periods. The lack of sleep accounts for driver fatigue which is responsible for a large number of trucking accidents. According to an estimate, driving eight continuous hours without a break doubles the risk of a vehicular crash.
- Lack of Maintenance: Trucks require regular service and maintenance, the lack of which can lead to critical failures in operation that may lead to fatal accidents.
Determining Liability in Truck Accidents
Determining liability in trucking accidents can often be a challenging task due to the large number of parties involved. The identification of all the parties responsible for the accident is necessary to obtain fair financial compensation.
Depending on the circumstances and specifics of your accident, the following parties may be partly or completely responsible for the accident:
- The truck driver
- The truck owner
- The trucking company that leased the truck
- The truck manufacturer
- The truck cargo loader (in case of accidents that result from inappropriate loading)
The driver might be responsible for the accident if it was caused due to distracted or drunk driving. The driver might also be held liable for the accident if it was caused due to his/her fatigue (i.e. sleeping behind the wheel), overspeeding, overtaking, or other violations of the traffic laws.
The trucking companies that own or lease the vehicles may also be liable for the accident. If the said company was negligent in its hiring practices or failed to train its drivers appropriately, they may be held responsible for the damages caused by the accident. Alternatively, if the company failed to perform timely inspection and maintenance of its vehicles or pressured the drivers to meet tight delivery deadlines, they may share the blame for the accident and the resulting damages.
If the accident is caused due to a critical malfunction in the machinery of the truck, the truck manufacturing company might be held liable for damages. Such malfunctions or equipment failures may cause the driver to be unable to respond in time, therefore, causing the accident.
Truck Cargo Loaders
If the accident was caused due to improper loading of the truck, the company or personnel responsible for cargo loading might be held liable for the accident. Rollover accidents result when cargo is improperly loaded onto trucks.
Other parties that might be responsible for the accidents include any auto-mechanic who fails to perform adequate maintenance or service leading to equipment failure. Warehouse operators or shipping brokers may also be held liable if their negligence or misconduct contributed to the accident.
Although trucking accidents can be highly distressing, the best way to pursue a legal course of action is to hire a personal injury lawyer who specializes in such accidents. Hiring an experienced lawyer from a reputed law firm is important to safeguard your rights in the wake of such an accident and ensure that you receive the best possible compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial damages.