Petersburg Truck Accident Lawyer
Auto collisions make for complicated legal cases, but become exponentially more complex with the involvement of a commercial.
Accidents involving large trucks (including delivery vehicles, box trucks, or tractor trailers) can fall into several classifications, including head-on collisions, under-ride or override accidents, jackknifes, or rollover crashes.
A truck accident can leave you severely injured. In some cases, victims die at the scene of the collision or subsequently in the hospital due to their injuries. If you have been involved in a collision with a commercial truck, seek medical attention for your injury as soon as possible after the accident. Once you have received treatment and you are in a stable condition, begin working with an experienced Petersburg truck accident lawyer to file your personal injury claim.
When evaluating a case, an experienced attorney must consider road conditions, equipment failure, and driver performance.
Interstates are generally the safest roadways, but this is where most commercial vehicle and truck accidents occur. Large trucks account for a small percentage of total registered vehicles, yet per unit of travel, these trucks result in more fatal crashes than passenger vehicles.
According to the most recent 2010 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the number of accidents involving semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, and commercial vehicles is increasing.
- 500,000+ commercial vehicles and large trucks were involved in accidents
- 100,000+ people sustained serious injuries
- 5,000+ fatalities
Common Types of Truck Accidents
A collision with a commercial truck is not like a collision with a passenger vehicle. Although both types of accidents can have the same causes and lead to similar types of injuries, numerous factors separate truck accidents from car accidents.
Trucks weigh significantly more than passenger vehicles, sometimes up to 80,000 pounds. This affects how they stop, turn, and accelerate, and it requires them to be driven differently. Their huge weight also requires other motorists to take special care when sharing the road with them. Because of a truck’s size a power, a collision with one is more likely to cause severe injuries to passengers of other vehicles. Because of their sizes, trucks can cause damage that other passenger vehicles cannot. The most common collisions involving trucks include:
- The high centers of gravity of commercial trucks leave them vulnerable to rollovers. A truck can roll onto its side when taking a corner too fast or when driving in windy conditions. A truck that rolls over cannot only hit other vehicles but also block the entire lane, causing other accidents behind it.
- Tractor-trailers have risks that are different from other types of vehicles because of their articulated structure. Although a commercial truck’s trailer is connected to the tractor, certain actions can cause the trailer to swing out to the side—jackknifing, as it’s called, is an accident specific to tractor-trailers.
- The trailer can swipe other vehicles and block traffic.
- When a passenger vehicle stops suddenly in front of a truck, the truck might ride onto the back of the vehicle because it is much higher than the car. Many trucks have override safety bars, but these might fail to prevent the truck from riding up onto the trunk or even into the backseat, crushing the smaller vehicle.
- A passenger vehicle following a commercial truck might slip underneath if the truck stops suddenly. Passengers in the front seat can suffer devastating injuries in underride accidents.
- Improperly loaded cargo might spill onto the road or fly out of the back of a truck. The cargo can strike other vehicles or cause cars to swerve, leading to accidents.
Each of these accidents can cause life-altering injuries or even fatalities. To recover from your losses, you will need financial compensation from the truck driver or the trucking company.
Leading Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents, like car accidents, can be caused by many different factors. The exact cause of your accident will play a critical role in your personal injury claim.
In 2007, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) analyzed 120,000 crashes and identified the following leading contributing causes in truck accidents:
- Brake problems: 29 percent
- Truck driver speeding: 23 percent
- Truck driver unfamiliarity with the road or failing to maintain control of the truck on difficult terrain: 22 percent
- Road problems or defects: 20 percent
- Truck driver use of over-the-counter drugs: 17 percent
- Truck driver feeling pressure from carrier: 10 percent
- Truck driver making an illegal move or disregarding posted traffic rules, such as the speed limit or a stop sign: 9 percent
Because some accidents have more than one cause, the above numbers add up to more than 100 percent. But as you can see, driver error was responsible for a large percentage of collisions.
Other causes include:
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
- Driving while distracted by a cellphone, tablet, or CB radio
Disturbingly, driver fatigue also continues to contribute to far too many accidents—11 percent. The commercial trucking industry is closely regulated, with hours of service requirements limiting the number of hours a driver can spend behind the wheel. For example, a trucker who transports commercial goods must follow these rules:
- A maximum of 11 hours of driving after 10 consecutive hours off.
- A maximum of 14 hours on duty per day.
- A half-hour rest break after a maximum of eight straight hours of driving.
- A maximum of 60/70 hours in seven/eight consecutive days after taking at least 34 consecutive hours off.
Despite these regulations, many drivers feel pressure to drive more hours than allowed. And too many trucking companies create incentives for truckers to bend the rules and stay behind the wheel of a rig when they are exhausted.
Another driver’s negligence can cause a truck accident as well. When a motorist makes one of the errors listed above, a truck driver may have to swerve or stop suddenly, causing a collision. In a case like this, the negligent motorist may be liable for the victim’s damages instead of the truck driver.
Vehicle malfunction on the part of the truck or another vehicle can also cause a collision. In cases like this, the negligent party may be the malfunctioning vehicle’s manufacturer, distributor, seller, or mechanic.
Sometimes, an accident is the result of a poorly designed or maintained roadway. Trucks have different needs than other types of vehicles, and certain road features that are non-issues for smaller vehicles can be hazardous for large trucks. One example of this is a sharp turn. Additionally, steep downhill roadways can cause a truck to accrue speed at an unsafe rate, potentially causing the truck driver to lose control of her vehicle.
Ways You Can Sustain Injuries in a Truck Accident
A truck accident can leave you injured in multiple ways. These include:
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Crushing injuries
- Spinal cord damage
In many instances, these injuries can become more severe if left untreated. For example, a traumatic brain injury can worsen if not monitored and treated promptly and properly. In other cases, injuries can lead to severe complications, such as temporary or permanent disability, paralysis, or even death.
What to Do After a Truck Accident
Unlike motorists, truck drivers do not carry personal automobile insurance policies. Instead, depending on whether they are owner-operators or employees, truck drivers carry either motor carrier insurance policies or commercial vehicle coverage provided by their employers.
These commercial trucking companies aggressively protect their businesses, so the company will have an investigator at the scene of the accident soon after the collision. As the injured victim, you need to protect your rights to compensation. If your injuries allow it, remember the following:
- Do not admit responsibility to the trucking company investigator or to anyone else. The trucking company will use any statement like “I’m sorry” to show that you admitted fault for the accident, which might prevent you from getting any compensation for your injuries.
- Do not tell the investigator you feel fine. Injuries can take a day or more before they manifest, but the trucking company might use your statement to argue you fabricated injuries that develop later.
- Write down the truck’s license plate number and the name of the driver.
- Jot down what happened in the moments before the collision. For example, if the truck began to skid into your lane, then note that fact. Also, write down what you did in the moments before the collision.
- Write down your impressions of the driver. Were his eyes bloodshot? Did he seem jumpy, as if he was on amphetamines? Did he apologize for the crash?
If you are badly injured, immediately contact emergency services so that you can receive medical treatment. Large commercial trucks can cause devastating injuries, and only prompt intervention can help you make a full recovery.
Seeking Compensation for Your Damages Following a Truck Accident
If you are injured in a truck accident, you can seek compensation for your resulting financial damages. Such damages can compensate you for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Through your personal injury claim, you must demonstrate that:
- The other party—such as the truck driver, trucking company, or manufacturer—owed you a duty of care;
- That party breached the duty of care by acting negligently or recklessly in causing the collision;
- The accident caused you to suffer injury; and
- Your injury caused you to suffer financial damages as defined by Virginia law.
Evidence in a Trucking Accident
To recover compensation for your injuries, you will need to show that someone else caused the accident. Often, you will point to truck driver negligence as the cause of the collision—for example, when the driver crashes because of fatigue. Your case may hinge on your ability to show that the driver did not operate the vehicle in a reasonably safe manner.
You will need to provide evidence to support each of these points in your claim. You can use documents such as medical bills, photographs of the accident scene, and documentation of your time spent off work as evidence. Other helpful evidence can include testimonies from expert witnesses discussing your diagnosis and a digital recreation of the accident.
You can also use evidence of a truck driver’s violation of federal regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) creates and enforces safety regulations for commercial truck drivers in the United States. These regulations include mandatory breaks after a certain amount of driving time to prevent fatigue and regular inspections of the truck. Your lawyer can help you secure these and other pieces of evidence to support your truck accident claim.
Common evidence in truck accident cases include:
- The driver’s log books, which should show when the driver was on the road.
- Delivery receipts that can confirm—or dispute—the evidence in the logbook.
- Cell phone records that show if the driver was talking or texting while the truck was moving.
- Security cameras that record the truck in the moments before or during the collision.
Many trucks are now equipped with black boxes that electronically record information about the truck, such as when it is in motion, its speed, and when the brakes are applied. Electronic information can also show if a driver who violated the hours of service restrictions forged logbooks.
Your case might use some, all, or none of the above evidence. Everything will depend on the circumstances surrounding your crash. By meeting with an experienced truck accident lawyer, you can analyze the evidence you will need to successfully pursue compensation.
In some situations, the trucking company might prove negligent. For example, the company might not have performed background checks on its drivers or not trained them properly. Alternately, the company might not have followed regulations mandating discipline after a driver fails a urine test. In these situations, your case will probably revolve around what evidence you can obtain from the trucking company about its policies and procedures.
Why Should I Work With a Petersburg Truck Accident Lawyer?
Your lawyer is your advocate. Although you can file your claim without a lawyer’s help, hiring a lawyer gives you the benefit of working alongside someone who knows the laws applicable to your case and has experience filing personal injury claims and negotiating to secure compensation packages for victims like you. Part of your lawyer’s job will be to ensure that your claim is filed within the statute of limitations, which, in Virginia, is two years from the date of your accident. Another part of this job is to negotiate with the negligent party’s insurance provider on your behalf to secure an appropriate compensation amount for your damages.
Contact Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys
If you or a loved one is in an accident involving a commercial vehicle or tractor-trailer, you may experience a difficult and overwhelming time. If a serious injury or fatality occurred, handling complicated legal matters just adds to the stress of an already complex and stressful situation. Leave it to the personal injury attorneys at Emroch & Kilduff to provide the support and representation you need to reach a quick resolution and more substantial settlements.
If you were injured by a tractor-trailer or commercial vehicle, you deserve to know your rights—you may have the right to file a personal injury claim to seek compensation for the damages you suffered in a truck accident. To learn more about what you can expect from this process and determine whether you have a personal injury claim, do not hesitate to contact our team of experienced truck accident lawyers at (804) 358-156, or visit one of our offices in Richmond, Petersburg, Tappahannock, or Fredericksburg for a free, confidential legal consultation with a member of our firm.