Virginia Truck Accident Attorney
Auto collisions are complicated enough, but become even more so when a commercial truck is involved. When a larger vehicle is involved there are various ways to categorize the accident. For example, accidents involving large trucks (including delivery vehicles, box trucks, or tractor trailers) can be classified as head-on collisions, under ride or override accidents, jackknife or rollover crashes. Any and all of these categories of truck accidents can result in serious injury, disability or fatality. As with most auto and truck accidents there are considerations like road conditions, equipment failure, and driver performance that must be taken into account.
Interstates are said to be the safest roadways, but 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.
According to the most recent 2010 report from The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 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
- 5000+ fatalities
Virginia Truck Accident FAQ
Unfortunately, accidents happen every day on Virginia roadways. The majority of collisions typically cause relatively minor injuries and minimal property damage. Minor injuries only require short-term treatment, and normally victims can easily move on with their lives. On the other hand, collisions involving large commercial trucks almost always have devastating consequences.
Large trucks are a factor in some of the most horrific accidents on the road. The sheer size and weight of commercial vehicles can lead to extensive damage and severe injuries in a collision. It is not uncommon for victims to sustain fatal injuries from a truck accident. Accident survivors often sustain catastrophic injuries, lifelong impairment, and overwhelming financial losses.
When you have been injured in a truck accident, you will likely be overwhelmed with uncertainty. As you contemplate your next step, take an opportunity to review these frequently asked questions. The information provided is not intended to be legal advice. However, it provides answers to some basic questions commonly asked by accident victims.
What causes a trucker to crash?
Truck accidents often occur because a trucker engages in the same risky behaviors as other drivers. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) has documented some common driver behaviors that lead to accidents. Risky driver behaviors may include drunk driving, drug-impaired driving, distracted driving, speeding, and drowsy driving.
The annual Virginia Traffic Crash Facts Report shows statistics on local accidents that occurred in 2017. When discussing large truck collisions, the report focuses on the causes that contributed to the accidents. The report lists the most frequent truck driver actions and the number of crashes in which they were a factor.
- Improper lane changes contributed to 295 accidents.
- Following too close was a factor in 247 accidents.
- Improper turning was a contributing cause in 81 accidents.
- Failure to yield contributed to 44 accidents.
- Speeding was a factor involved in causing 51accidents.
- Other contributing factors were at play in 567 accidents.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates some of the most serious accidents across all modes of transportation. The agency recognizes that certain human factors commonly cause or contribute to truck accidents nationwide. The Board’s annual Most Wanted list details dangerous driver actions and proposes potential regulations for addressing those issues.
Some proposed regulations aim to:
- Eliminate distractions: While many states have banned the use of certain electronic devices, the NTSB suggests a complete ban on using any device while driving. Studies have shown even using “hands-free” devices contributes to distraction-related accidents.
- Reduce fatigue-related accidents: Fatigue is a prevalent concern among commercial truck drivers who are often pressured to meet deadlines set by their employers. Most trucking companies now require Electronic Logging Devices to track truck driver compliance with drive-time, distance, and down-time regulations.
- End alcohol and drug impairment: Six of the drivers involved in Virginia’s large truck crashes in 2017 were under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol use was listed as unknown in 47 large truck collisions. Drugs also present a major issue that can be more difficult to detect.
- Implement a strategy to reduce speed-related crashes: Speed was identified as a factor in only 51 of the truck crashes in the state. When truckers drive at excessive speeds, the distance required to bring their vehicle to a safe stop is greatly increased. When a driver is distracted, increased stopping distances can lead to a collision.
- Require medical fitness-screen for sleep apnea: The majority of truck drivers represent an older demographic, which commonly experiences difficulties with weight and sleep apnea. Individuals with sleep apnea have disrupted sleep cycles that can lead to fatigue during working hours.
How do you define “large truck”?
A truck is considered large when it has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 10,000 pounds or more. However, many large commercial trucks weigh much more than 10,000 pounds. The weight of a truck varies depending on the type of truck, the trailer, and its load. Under federal and Virginia transportation guidelines, a tractor-trailer combination may weigh up to 80,000 pounds.
The NHTSA explains that 80 percent of the commercial trucks involved in fatal crashes weighed 26,000 pounds or more. The Administration refers to trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds as heavy large trucks. Increased weight can cause more extensive damage in the event of a collision with a passenger vehicle. At approximately 4,000 pounds, the average car is unable to withstand the force of a 26,000 plus pound truck.
Are tractor-trailers the only types of large trucks?
When you think of large trucks, it’s natural to think of a tractor-trailer or a semi-rig rolling down the highway. Anyone who uses the roadways will likely encounter a variety of large trucks every day.
Based on weight and vehicle class, many other types of commercial trucks fit within the large truck or heavy large truck categories including:
- Garbage trucks: Over 26,000
- Delivery trucks: Between 10,001 and 33,000 pounds
- Dump trucks: 33,000 pounds or more
- Utility bucket trucks: Between 16,001 and 19,500 pounds
- Large tow trucks: Between 26,001 and 33,000 pounds
- Cement mixers: 33,001 pounds or more
Despite the type of large truck, each one has weight and power that can cause serious damage. However, the trucks listed above usually travel at lower speeds than the posted speed limits, which may prevent them from causing more extensive damage.
How frequently do truck crashes occur?
While truck accidents don’t happen as frequently as private passenger vehicle crashes, when they do, they almost always cause significantly more damage. Virginia’s annual Traffic Crash Facts report 2,540 large truck crashes.
Following is a breakdown of the resulting crash-related injuries:
- Large truck crash fatalities occurred in 49 accidents.
- Large truck crash injuries were sustained in 842 collisions.
- Large truck property damage only crashes accounted for 1,649 accidents.
- Crash fatalities on an interstate occurred on six occasions.
- Crash fatalities on a non-interstate occurred on five occasions.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s annual Traffic Safety Facts includes the most recent national collision statistics. During just one year, the NHTSA documented 4,761 crash fatalities involving large trucks. The total number of collisions accounted for a 9 percent increase in truck-related fatalities in 2016. The agency also determined that while large trucks make up only 4 percent of the vehicles registered nationally, they log 9 percent of the total vehicle miles. In addition, large trucks contribute to 9 percent of the total crash fatalities across the United States.
Who is legally responsible when a truck crash causes injuries?
When a driver’s actions cause an accident, they are typically one of the parties that will be liable for any resulting damages. In addition to driver behavior, a trucker may be deemed negligent for missed inspections, non-compliance with weight restrictions, and driving more hours than permitted. However, when a commercial truck is involved in an accident, there may be multiple parties responsible.
Common liable parties include:
- Employer/common carrier: An employer may be vicariously liable for a trucker’s actions when he or she was acting within the scope of employment when the accident occurred. An employer may also be liable for negligent entrustment if they hire drivers with poor or criminal driving records. Trucking companies may also share liability when a driver is improperly trained or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Code of Federal Regulation requires companies to conduct random drug screens on drivers and take appropriate disciplinary and/or treatment actions.
- Truck owner: When companies lease their trucks, the owners may share legal or contractual liability for a driver’s actions.
- Maintenance or repair contractors: A contractor may also share responsibility for damages if their omission or mistake contributed to causing an accident.
- Manufacturer: If a vehicle or component defect causes an accident, the manufacturer may share liability.
- Shipper: When a load shift causes or contributes to an accident, the shipper or loading contractor sometimes shares liability.
Do you need an attorney if a trucker injures you in a crash?
If you were injured in a collision involving a commercial truck, you should consider consulting with a personal injury attorney to ensure your legal rights are protected. Because truck accidents often involve multiple responsible parties, the claims process can be complicated.
Experienced personal injury attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to. When appropriate, an attorney may handle communications with trucking companies and their insurance providers on the injured party’s behalf. Our firm offers prospective clients a free consultation and case evaluation without requiring any commitment to representation. To fully understand your legal rights and options, contact us today.
Contact Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys
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. 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’ve been injured by a tractor trailer or commercial vehicle, you deserve to know your rights. Do not hesitate to contact us, or visit one of our offices in Richmond, Petersburg, Tappahannock, or Fredericksburg for a consultation with an experienced truck accident injury attorney.