An Alabama traffic accident involving a commercial truck, such as an 18-wheeler or other large freight carrier, can be much more catastrophic and tragic than an ordinary car accident. A typical fully-loaded large commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, while an average passenger automobile weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. A big truck can be up to 75 feet in length.
Because of this size disparity, and due to the basic laws of physics, any collision between a commercial truck and another vehicle is likely to result in serious, even fatal, injuries. While statistics show that truck drivers are generally much more careful on the road than automobile drivers, and thankfully the incidence of fatal crashes involving trucks and other large vehicles has declined in recent years, large truck crashes still accounted for about 5,000 fatalities each year.
The fatal crash rate for large trucks is 2.6 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. This staggering statistic is more than 50 percent greater than the rate for all vehicles on the roads.
There are many causes of truck accidents. Some, but not all of the reasons include:
The trucking industry is highly regulated by both federal and state law, with ‘standards of care’ outlined in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These regulations include rules related to the training of drivers, scheduling of loads to allow sufficient time for delivery; limits on the duration of driving time; pre-trip inspection of equipment including brakes, lighting, tires, and other safety-related mechanisms; the requirement of using extreme caution when hazardous conditions adversely affect visibility or traction; and prohibitions on driving when conditions become sufficiently dangerous. Despite these regulations, the goal of which is to ensure safety, the practical effect has been to increase the complexity of litigation related to issues of causation and liability.
Because truck accident litigation is so complex, and because the trucking company and its insurance provider will immediately begin an investigation in an effort to limit your recovery, it is essential that you quickly hire an experienced truck accident attorney to preserve evidence and protect your rights following an accident. It is also essential that you get prompt medical attention for your personal injuries.
An experienced truck accident attorney will work to preserve evidence, obtain or safeguard trucking company records, interview witnesses, and substantiate crucial, time-sensitive information. For example, trucking companies may destroy driver logs and other documentation after a legally-defined waiting period. This documentation may be the best source of information for establishing liability, the destruction of which may prove fatal to any claim. Failure to act promptly may result in the termination of your legal options.
Successful truck accident attorneys have more specialized knowledge than traditional auto accident attorneys. Laws governing the trucking industry are complex. Investigating big rig accidents takes a great deal of time and resources and familiarity with the technological issues involved. Your attorney should know how to photograph commercial vehicles, obtain driver’s logs, investigate brake and tire conditions and conduct underride investigations.
A thorough investigation of the trucking company’s hiring, training, and supervision policies also is required. Sometimes our firm finds that the company has hired unqualified commercial operators, or has refused to fire a driver who they know has lost his driver’s license or is a dangerous driver.
Through our depositions over the years, we have found some disturbing practices — vehicles failing routine maintenance checks on brakes and tires, but still traveling the highways; trucking companies failing to conduct regular safety and training meetings for its operators; trucking companies failing to conduct routine driver education courses; drivers falsifying daily trip logs driving more hours per day than allowed; and tractor-trailer companies failing to conduct adequate background checks into the credentials and experience of their drivers.
If you are involved in an accident involving a truck, follow these simple rules. They will assist you in preserving your rights and in obtaining adequate compensation for your injury.
The lawyers at Ferguson & Ferguson have helped victims of trucking accidents obtain large verdicts and settlements throughout the country. Contact us today for a free consultation. You can reach us toll-free at 1-800-752-1998. We’re ready to help when you need us.