Large commercial trucks play an important role in interstate commerce, transporting millions of dollars’ worth of products all over the country. However, semi-trucks and other large vehicles also pose a serious risk to others on the road. This is primarily because commercial trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, have much larger fuel tanks than standard vehicles, and often carry dangerous cargo, including hazardous materials. Furthermore, because they are so large, commercial truck accidents usually involve more than one vehicle and can block multiple lanes of traffic.
For these reasons, injuries sustained in truck crashes tend to be particularly severe and can leave victims permanently disabled or disfigured. While injured parties can collect compensation for their losses, filing a claim and dealing with the various insurance companies can be complicated and time-consuming.
If you were injured or lost a loved one as a result of a truck accident, it is important to speak with an experienced Tappahannock truck accident lawyer who can help protect your interests.
Types of Commercial Trucks
There are a variety of large trucks that use public roads and highways every day, but the most common include:
- Flatbed trucks, which have an open trailer and are used for transporting cargo that cannot fit inside a closed trailer, such as logs, lumber, or construction equipment. Unfortunately, because these trucks lack a roof and walls, careless loading procedures and driving are much more likely to result in cargo spills and collisions.
- Logging trucks, which are commercial trucks used to carry logs. While some of these trucks have flatbeds integrated into the truck, others have tractors, and sometimes, more than one trailer is attached to the truck. When these types of trucks jackknife and lose their cargo, they can cause serious injuries to victims.
- Dump trucks, which are another popular type of large truck and are often used to transport loose materials, such as gravel, dirt, sand, tree branches, and trash. Dump trucks are also more likely than other large trucks to be involved in rollovers because they are so top-heavy. Dump truck drivers must undergo special training to avoid backing-up collisions, which are common because of the trucks’ uncommonly large blind spots.
- Tanker trucks, which are used to carry liquids, such as oil and gas. Many of the liquids transported by tanker trucks are hazardous or flammable, which puts these vehicles at a higher risk of exploding if they are involved in an accident. Liquid cargo also tends to shift during transit, and this can lead to a loss of control or a rollover.
- Semi-trucks, which are the most common type of commercial truck and are involved in the most accidents. Semi–trucks have significant blind spots, and because of this, truck drivers have trouble noticing approaching cars. These types of trucks are quite heavy, so a driver’s failure to allow for proper stopping distance can cause a tractor-trailer to jackknife across multiple lanes of traffic. A semi-truck’s high center of gravity also makes it more likely to roll over when turning sharply or getting caught in a crosswind.
Common Accident Causes
Regardless of the type of truck involved, road conditions, equipment failure, and driver performance may contribute to a truck crash. Most accidents are caused by one or more of the following:
- Driver fatigue
- Driving while intoxicated
- Distracted driving
- Mechanical failure
- Cargo spills
While the types of collisions are varied, the most common include:
- Multi-vehicle crashes
- Jackknife accidents
- Rear-end accidents
- Underride accidents, in which a smaller car becomes lodged beneath a large truck
These accidents can result in severe injuries, including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, crushed bones, and whiplash. The worst end in fatalities.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation, regulates the trucking industry. To decrease the number of truck accidents happening across the nation, the FMCSA sets out a wide variety of safety regulations that commercial truck drivers must follow. A commercial truck driver’s violation of these FMCSA regulations can be used as evidence against the truck driver in a personal injury case.
The FMCSA’s regulations include rules on:
- Driving time
- Proper loading and unloading of cargo
- Vehicle weight limits
- Proper maintenance
- Safety inspections
Truck drivers are also barred from operating a commercial vehicle if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 percent or higher; this is lower than the 0.08 percent BAC standard established by all states for drivers of non-commercial vehicles.
Who Is Liable?
When a truck driver fails to comply with federal or state regulations, he or she can be held personally liable for any resulting injuries. Yet truck drivers are not the only parties whose negligence leads to a crash. For instance, if a trucker’s employer failed to provide necessary training or required its drivers to meet unreasonable deadlines, it can also be required to pay a portion of the victim’s damages. Manufacturers can be held liable for injuries resulting from collisions caused by negligent design, and so, too, can mechanics who perform improper maintenance or fail to repair a broken part.
While truck drivers are often at fault in causing crashes, some are caused by another driver’s negligence, which could include:
- Abruptly and improperly changing lanes in front of a commercial vehicle
- Driving in a truck’s blind spot
- Driving between two trucks
- Improperly passing
- Leaving a disabled vehicle on the road
These types of negligent actions can trigger a chain reaction involving multiple vehicles and victims. Fortunately, negligent or reckless drivers who cause crashes involving a truck can be held accountable for their actions and required to foot the bill for the following damages:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future income
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
Collecting compensation from negligent parties is especially important for truck accident victims, given that many are forced to pay expensive medical bills for the rest of their lives.
Truck Accidents by the Numbers
Interstates and major roadways are said to be the safest roadways. According to a recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, however, this is where most commercial vehicle and truck accidents occur. Large trucks account for a very small percent of total registered vehicles, yet per unit of travel, these trucks are involved in more fatal crashes than passenger vehicles.
The number of accidents involving semi truck, tractor trailer and commercial vehicles is on the rise.
- 500,000+ commercial vehicles and large trucks were involved in accidents
- 100,000+ people sustained serious injuries
- 5,000+ fatalities
Tappahannock Truck Accident FAQ
If you suffered a truck accident in Tappahannock, especially one with severe injuries, you may have a lot of questions. What comes next? How should I handle my medical bills?
For specific information pertaining to your truck accident, contact Emroch & Kilduff’s Tappahannock truck accident attorneys. We regularly fight for the rights of injured Tappahannock truck accident victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to. Here’s a few general answers to the questions we hear most often at our Tappahannock law firm.
1. Should I pay my medical bills after a Tappahannock truck accident?
Oftentimes, truck accidents cause extensive damages and substantial injuries, which may lead to equally substantial medical bills. Responsible parties, including the truck driver who caused the accident, bear financial liability to compensate injured victims for their medical bills the accident-related injuries they caused. Funds recovered through a personal injury claim will be distributed directly to the injured party, rather than their treatment providers. Injured victims are ultimately responsible for paying their medical bills, either with funds obtained in a settlement or out-of-pocket if the settlement is insufficient.
Injured parties may be required to pay copays and deductibles for many medical procedures upfront, depending on their treatment provider’s payment policies. Individuals who are unable to afford the upfront costs of medical care should develop arrangements for payment with their treatment providers. When appropriate, an attorney may help victims file a letter of protection, representing their intent to pay once they recover compensation for their injuries.
2. Who bears liability for a Tappahannock truck accident?
Injured victims should consult an attorney to learn more about the specific entities that may bear liability for their accident.
Several entities may share liability for a truck accident, including:
- The truck driver;
- The truck driver’s employer, especially an employer that forces the driver to operate outside federal mandates for commercial drivers;
- A mechanic who recently worked on the truck;
- The party or company that loaded the truck;
- The truck manufacturer or a manufacturer of a failed part on the truck
Identifying all responsible parties is critical when bringing a personal injury claim because depending on who is liable, your ability to seek compensation may be affected.
3. How long does it take to receive a settlement after a Tappahannock truck accident?
Oftentimes, insurance companies will offer injured victims a settlement immediately following a truck accident. The settlement offer will typically provide immediate compensation for injuries, which many victims consider incredibly tempting. The offer, however, may limit the compensation an injured victim is entitled to receive for their injuries. Commercial truck drivers typically carry high levels of liability insurance, which can provide victims with much-needed compensation for their medical expenses after an accident.
If you choose not to accept that settlement offer, which may reflect only a small percentage of the funds you really deserve for your injuries, you will need time to negotiate with the insurance company. If rounds of negotiation are required to reach an agreement, it will take longer to receive a settlement. If negotiation proves to be unsuccessful, you may have to proceed to court to determine the value of your claim. Initiating court processes will further delay the receipt of any settlement or award.
4. When should I file a Tappahannock truck accident claim?
Injured victims should consult an attorney as soon as possible after sustaining an injury in a truck accident. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide advice and support to assist injured victims in deciding how they should proceed. That does not mean, however, that you must file your truck accident claim immediately.
While you certainly want to file your claim before the statute of limitations expires, your attorney may advise waiting until:
- Your attorney has a better understanding of who caused your accident. In some cases, multiple parties may share liability for your accident and your injuries. Your truck accident attorney may need to clearly evaluate the circumstances that contributed to your accident to identify all responsible parties. Filing a claim against all parties that contributed to the accident can maximize an injured victims’ recovery.
- You have progressed further in healing from your injuries. With many types of injuries, including spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries, victims may not accurately predict their prognosis for some time following the accident. Individuals may need time to heal and recover so that they can fully assess how much compensation they deserve. A personal injury claim may include medical expenses as well as your pain and suffering. By waiting until you have had time to evaluate your recovery, you can better assess exactly how the accident will impact all areas of your life.
That said, please call us today so we can get started with an evaluation of your claim.
5. How much compensation should I expect after a Tappahannock truck accident?
The compensation you receive from a truck accident will depend on the financial and physical losses you experience as a result of your accident. Consult an attorney to learn more about the compensation you, specifically, deserve for your injuries. Most victims of truck accidents seek compensation for direct, quantifiable losses, as well as the costs of intangible losses and impacts.
6. Does the trucking company share liability for an accident caused by an employee?
In many cases, the trucking company directly shares liability with a driver, employed by that company, who causes an accident. The trucking company, like the driver of the truck, owes a high duty of care to everyone that shares the road with their drivers. Trucking companies must exercise care in hiring and training their drivers. In addition, they should implement comprehensive policies aimed to protect their drivers and others on the road.
- Maintaining the quality of the vehicles the company uses, including addressing potential mechanical problems and keeping up with regular maintenance.
- Adhering to federal regulations concerning how long and how often truck drivers can drive.
- Employing drivers with high safety standards and quickly identifying drivers who fail to meet those standards.
- Implementing reasonable safety policies regulating the speed at which drivers can travel, driver deadlines, and circumstances under which drivers cannot drive.
A trucking company that fails to provide an appropriate standard of care in hiring drivers or maintaining its fleet may be directly liable for accidents caused by company drivers or truck malfunctions.
Contact an Experienced Tappahannock Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one is in an accident involving a commercial vehicle or tractor trailer, it is 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.
While financial compensation cannot make an injured party whole, it can prove beneficial in helping him or her begin the long process of recovery, which usually requires expensive medical treatments and therapies. 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 truck, tractor trailer or commercial vehicle, you deserve to know your rights. To learn more about your chances of recovery, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with an experienced truck accident attorney by contacting us at Emroch & Kilduff.