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TRUCKING ACCIDENT QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Alabama Truck Accident Questions and Answers

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What are some of the dangers associated with large trucks on the roadways?

  • No-Zones – Large trucks have no-zones, or blind spots, that are located around the front, back, and sides of the truck. When a car is in the No-Zone, the truck driver is usually unable to see it. At these times, a large truck could turn into a passing car and a serious accident could result.
     
  • Squeeze Play – Tractor-trailer trucks need to swing wide to the left in order to negotiate a right turn. When truck drivers make wide right turns; they are often unable to see smaller vehicles directly behind or beside them. When a car cuts between the truck and a curb, the car can be caught in a squeeze, and a serious accident can occur.
     
  • Stopping Distance – Big rig trucks need a greater stopping distance than other vehicles. If there is not enough stopping distance between a car and a large truck, the car risks being involved in a rear-end collision.
     
  • “Off-track” – Occurs when a truck turns at high speed and swings into an adjacent lane unexpectedly. 

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What are some of the causes of tractor-trailer collisions on America’s highways and secondary roads?

There are many different reasons for accidents involving large trucks, including negligence on the part of the truck driver or the other vehicles involved. Others include:

  • Aggressive drivers
  • Unrealistic schedules
  • Failure to inspect tires, brakes and lights
  • Tailgating
  • Long work-shifts
  • Driver fatigue
  • Cell phone use
  • Failure to install blind spot mirrors
  • Jackknifing
  • Speeding and ignoring reduced truck speed limit

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Why is a traffic accident involving a commercial truck more likely to cause injury than one involving a passenger car?

Trucking accidents are different from auto accidents in many ways, one of the most serious being the extent of damages and injuries when a truck and an automobile collide. A typical fully loaded large commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, while an average passenger automobile weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. Due to this size disparity, and the basic laws of physics, any collision between a commercial truck and another vehicle is likely to result in serious, even fatal, injuries.

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Are there any state or federal regulations governing truck drivers?

There are many regulations, both state and federal, that trucking companies are required to follow. Some of those laws include the following:

  • Trucking companies are required to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations concerning equipment and hours of service.
  • Truck drivers are required to maintain a driver’s log.
  • Federal regulations require commercial trucks to carry certain levels of insurance coverage, depending on the nature of the materials hauled. These regulations protect victims of large truck crashes from truck owners who may not have the financial resources to pay damages out-of-pocket.
  • The Commercial Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program requires that individual states and other political jurisdictions unify to develop and implement programs that will ultimately improve motor carrier, CMV, and driver safety and establish a safer and more efficient transportation system.
  • Commercial driver’s license standards are federal regulations in place to reduce or prevent truck accidents and resulting injuries and/or deaths by requiring drivers of certain vehicles to obtain a single commercial motor vehicle driver’s license.
  • Alabama state and/or federal laws, depending on whether the truck was involved in intrastate or interstate transport, may govern truck accidents.

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What are the regulations regarding prohibited conduct for truck drivers?

A driver will not be allowed to operate a commercial motor vehicle if he/she engages in prohibited conduct. Prohibited conduct includes:

  • Reporting for duty with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 or greater,
  • Possessing alcohol unless it is part of a shipment, including medications like cough syrup or cold medicine that contain alcohol,
  • Consuming alcohol while performing safety-sensitive functions,
  • Consuming alcohol within 8 hours preceding an accident,
  • Reporting for duty while using any drug that affects the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, or
  • Refusing to submit to any DOT mandated alcohol or drug test.

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What role does alcohol and drug use play in tractor trailer wrecks?

A study of truck driver fatalities was conducted in eight states over the course of a year by the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Comprehensive drug screenings were performed on blood specimens taken from 168 fatally injured drivers. One or more drugs was detected in 67% of these fatally injured drivers and 33% of these drivers had detectable blood concentrations of psychoactive drugs or alcohol.

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Are there trucking regulations governing the number of hours a truck driver can operate in a 24 hour period?

Driver fatigue and drowsiness are conditions that result in reckless behavior such as failure to keep in the proper lane and running off the road.  Tired truckers are of such concern that in April of 2003 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) instituted new hours of service regulations to curb truckers’ problems with fatigue.  While these laws have helped reduce the number of accidents, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board still blames driver fatigue as a probable factor in 20-40% of truck crashes.

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How do I handle trucking companies or their insurance carriers after a truck accident?

You should immediately consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer. Truck companies have their own investigators and attorneys working hard to dismiss liability. One of the worst decisions individuals can make is to negotiate directly with trucking companies, insurance adjusters, or the trucking company lawyers. Most trucking companies are highly skilled at truck accident investigation and claims. Anything you say or sign may be held against you further down the road.

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What is the statute of limitation in Alabama for filing a personal injury claim because of a tractor-trailer accident?

Whenever a person is injured in any type of accident, it is in their best interest to file a claim as soon as possible. When a claim is filed quickly, evidence is more easily gathered to prove the case. However, Alabama law puts a time limit or statute of limitations on when you can file a claim. A personal injury action must be filed within two years of the date when the injury occurred. In Alabama , personal injury actions include medical malpractice and products liability claims as well personal injury.

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Why should a lawyer be hired as soon as possible?

Major trucking companies will immediately have lawyers hired and working for them. The scene must be secure. Photographs and statements must be taken as soon after the accident as possible. Many important pieces of evidence helpful to you can be lost, misplaced or be purposely destroyed.

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Who can be sued in an accident involving commercial trucks?

The person and/or company responsible and at fault for causing the accident can be sued. This includes the truck driver and the trucking company, the owner of the trailer, the shipper, as well as any other driver, person or entity who in anyway contributed to the accident, such as the manufacturer of one of the vehicles involved in the accident, the manufacturer of a tire that contributed to the accident or the owner of any public or private property whose negligence contributed to the accident.

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What kind of a lawyer should I hire?

You should choose a law firm that has handled many trucking injury cases. These cases require a specialist in the Federal Motor carrier Safety Rules and Regulations. They also require lawyers familiar with fleet maintenance procedures. Ferguson & Ferguson has experienced lawyers to handle the investigation and litigation of your claim. We have successfully settled and litigated truck accident/injury suits throughout Alabama.

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Is the investigation of a truck accident important?

It is critical. A thorough investigation must be performed to establish the fault of another. An investigation will include the examination of the scene and vehicles involved, and obtaining statements from witnesses. Be sure that you do not move your vehicle after the accident. It will be a major part of the investigation.

Trucking companies will perform their own investigation immediately after the accident. It is important that you retain a lawyer who immediately investigates the case to evaluate liability and any potential at-fault defendants.

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Are expert witnesses necessary to prove fault in a truck accident case?

Often, unless there is no question that one party was completely at fault, a plaintiff in any serious injury or death case involving a truck should retain an expert with expertise in the design, manufacturing, and operation of trucks and the rules of the trucking industry.

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Where will my case be filed?

This will be determined by where the accident happened and the addresses of all parties.

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How much does your firm charge to handle a tractor-trailer truck accident personal injury claim?

Ferguson & Ferguson charges clients of personal injury claims on a contingency basis. What that means is the attorney is only paid if he or she wins money damages for you, the client. The fee agreement is usually a percentage of the amount recovered. This makes it possible for anyone to hire only the best lawyer. It gives everyone access to the justice system and representation that is equal to that of the best insurance companies. In addition, you can contact the lawyers at Ferguson & Ferguson for a free consultation by calling toll-free at 1-800-752-1998.

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What is a large truck?

Large trucks weigh more than 10,000 pounds and can be either single-unit vehicles or combination vehicles consisting of a single-unit truck or tractor pulling one or more trailers. In most states, the maximum permitted length for a single trailer is 53 feet. Tractors pulling two 28-foot trailers are known as twins or western doubles. Trucks even bigger than western doubles are allowed to travel on some of the nation’s roads. These trucks, called longer combination vehicles, either have three trailers or have at least two trailers, one of which is 29 feet or longer, or the tractor and two trailers have a combined weight exceeding 80,000 pounds.

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Do large trucks have high crash rates?

Large trucks are involved in more fatal crashes per unit of travel than passenger vehicles — compared with 1.8 crashes per 100 million miles traveled in 2002. The disparities between large trucks and passenger vehicles vary by specific vehicle type, with passenger cars having the lowest fatal involvement rate and tractor-trailers having the highest rate. The higher fatal involvement rate for large trucks occurs although a much higher proportion of their miles is traveled on interstate highways, which are the safest roads. Their higher fatal involvement rate is attributable to the size disparity between large trucks and passenger vehicles. Tractor-trailers have a lower rate of nonfatal crashes resulting in injuries or property damage only, compared with passenger cars.

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Who dies in crashes involving large trucks?

About 5,000 people die each year in crashes involving large trucks and about 85 percent of them aren’t truck occupants. In fatal two-vehicle crashes involving passenger vehicles and large trucks, 98 percent of the deaths occur to the people in the passenger vehicles. Large trucks accounted for 3 percent of registered vehicles and 8 percent of vehicle miles traveled in 2002 but were involved in 11 percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and in 21 percent of multiple-vehicle passenger vehicle occupant deaths.

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Are multiple-trailer trucks more likely to crash than single-trailer trucks?

Multiple-trailer trucks have more handling problems than single-trailer trucks. In general, the additional connection points contribute to greater instability, which can lead to jackknifing, overturning, and lane encroachments. But the relationship between multiple-trailer trucks and crash risk isn’t firmly established. A study in Washington state found doubles (tractors pulling two trailers) were two to three times as likely as other rigs to be in crashes, but a study in Indiana found doubles didn’t show increased crash risk except on roads with snow, ice, or slush. Doubles often are operated by drivers with good safety records working for large companies with active safety programs.

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Who oversees large truck safety in the United States?

Two agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the states oversee large truck safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets standards for new truck equipment and has some jurisdiction over equipment standards for trucks currently on the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees the safety of commercial vehicles in interstate commerce, and this agency’s regulations cover equipment, licensing, hours of service, and vehicle inspections and maintenance. The rules pertaining to licensure, vehicle maintenance and hours of service
are primarily enforced by the states. States regulate intrastate trucks.

There are many regulations, both state and federal, that trucking companies are required to follow. Some of those laws include the following:

  • Trucking companies are required to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations concerning equipment and hours of service.

     

  • Truck drivers are required to maintain a driver’s log.
     
  • Federal regulations require commercial trucks to carry certain levels of insurance coverage, depending on the nature of the materials hauled. These regulations protect victims of large truck crashes from truck owners who may not have the financial resources to pay damages out-of-pocket.
     
  • The Commercial Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program requires that individual States, and other political jurisdictions unify to develop and implement programs that will ultimately improve motor carrier, CMV, and driver safety and establish a safer and more efficient transportation system.

     

  • Commercial driver’s license standards are federal regulations in place to reduce or prevent truck accidents and resulting injuries and/or deaths by requiring drivers of certain vehicles to obtain a single commercial motor vehicle driver’s license.

Both Alabama State and/or federal law, depending on whether the truck was involved in intrastate or interstate transport may govern truck accidents.

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Do truck drivers need special licenses?

Commercial drivers’ licenses have been required since 1992 for commercial vehicle operations. Each driver holding a commercial drivers license is entered into a national database. This requirement is intended to ensure that truckers do not use multiple state licenses to conceal the overall total of their traffic violations. Both interstate and intrastate commercial drivers must obtain such licenses if they operate trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings of 26,001 or more pounds, if they transport 16 or more passengers, or if they transport hazardous materials.

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Are there age restrictions on who is permitted to operate large trucks?

If large trucks cross state lines or if they carry hazardous materials, their drivers must be at least age 21. States permit drivers ages 18-20 to operate large trucks only within the state.

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Are young truck drivers at higher risk of crashing?

Yes. Studies conducted in the United States , New Zealand , and Australia indicate that truck drivers younger than 21 and in their 20s have a high rate of involvement in both fatal and nonfatal crashes.

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Is driver fatigue a factor in truck crashes?

Yes. Driver fatigue is associated with truck crashes. Research shows truck crash risk increases with driver hours behind the wheel. Crash risk is also higher between midnight and 6 a.m. The long hours truck drivers work cause sleep deprivation, circadian desynchronization, and fatigue. The Institute has found that truck drivers reporting hours-of-service violations were more likely to report having fallen asleep behind the wheel during the month before the interview. The proportion of large truck crashes for which fatigue is a contributing factor is uncertain.

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Are there trucking regulations governing the number of hours a truck driver can operate in a 24 hour period?

What are the hours-of-service rules (work hour limits) and who violates them?

Under federal hours-of-service regulations that took effect January 2004, interstate commercial truck drivers won’t be allowed to drive more than 11 hours or drive after 14 hours on duty until they have had a 10-hour break. Drivers cannot drive after accruing 60 work hours during a 7-day period or 70 work hours during an 8-day period, but a “restart” provision will allow truckers to drive 77 hours in 7 days or 88 hours in 8 days. Studies suggest that work rules are commonly violated.

Hours of Service.   Driver fatigue and drowsiness are conditions that result in reckless behavior such as failure to keep in the proper lane and running off the road.  Tired truckers are of such concern that in April of 2003, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) instituted new hours of service regulations to curb truckers’ problems with fatigue.  While these laws have helped reduce the number of accidents, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board still blames driver fatigue as a probable factor in 20-40% of truck crashes.

Since 1939, Federal law has placed restrictions on the hours of service that a trucker may operate his truck. Recent changes have been made to these rules for the first time in over 60 years. The new rules are designed to reduce the effect of cumulative fatigue and prevent many of the accidents and fatalities to which fatigue is a contributing factor for big rig drivers.

Truck driver fatigue can have devastating consequences to others on the road. In 2003, there were over 4,600 fatal wrecks involving large commercial trucks.

Related Information:
More on Truck Driver Fatigue

Effects of Sleep Schedules on Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Performance

Federal Trucking Regulations: Hours of Service

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How can violations of the hours-of-service rules be reduced?

Current regulations allow drivers to use written logbooks of their hours, which truck drivers call “comic books” because they are so easily falsified. Onboard computers reduce the opportunities for violating the rules because they automatically record when a truck is driven and its speed. Europe has required mechanical tachographs, which are nonelectronic devices designed to record vehicle travel hours, for about 30 years. Mechanical tachographs can be more easily falsified than onboard computers, so by August 2004, new trucks and intercity buses registered in the European Union must be equipped with electronic recording devices. The Institute and five other organizations petitioned the Department of Transportation to require the installation and use of tamper-resistant electronic onboard computers on commercial vehicles whose drivers now are required to maintain written logbooks. The National Transportation Safety Board also has repeatedly recommended that such recorders be mandated. In 2000, FMCSA published a proposal to require these devices but dropped the proposal from the final work-hour rules that take effect January 2004.

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Is the use of alcohol and other drugs among truckers a big problem?

Alcohol is much less of a problem among truck drivers than among passenger vehicle drivers. Only 6 percent of all tractor-trailer drivers who were killed in crashes during 2002 had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 percent or more, compared with 32 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. A 1995 roadside study in four states found that almost 5 percent of truck drivers tested positive for illicit drug use but only 0.2 percent tested positive for alcohol. This study did not test for use of legal over-the-counter stimulants, which were present in 12 percent of truck drivers in an earlier Institute study. In 1999 almost 3 percent of drivers of large trucks tested positive for illicit drugs after a non-fatal crash. Federal regulations require carriers to test all commercial drivers for drugs before employment, after crashes, and on a random basis. Alcohol tests are required only after crashes and on a random basis. New alcohol test rules were issued in 1994 that place drivers out of service if they are found with any alcohol in their systems.

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Are radar detectors legal in large trucks?

Radar detector use is banned in commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce. The Institute and other organizations petitioned for such a regulation in 1988 and again in 1990 because the only use for radar detectors is to evade speed limit enforcement. FHWA issued the ban on detectors, effective in 1994, but did not specify a mechanism for enforcement.

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Are large trucks prone to rolling over?

Yes. The high center of gravity of large trucks increases their risk of rolling over, particularly on curving ramps. A little more than half of deaths among occupants of large trucks occur in crashes in which their vehicle rolled over, compared with about 60 percent of SUV occupant deaths and 45 percent of pickup occupant deaths (both SUVs and pickups also have high centers of gravity). In contrast, about 25 percent of passenger car occupant deaths occurred in vehicles that rolled over.

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Is defective equipment a factor in truck crashes?

Yes. Institute researchers who examined crashes of large trucks in Washington state found that tractor-trailers with defective equipment were twice as likely to be in crashes as trucks without defects. Brake defects were most common. They were found in 56 percent of the tractor-trailers involved in crashes. Steering equipment defects were found in 21 percent of crash-involved trucks. The proportion of large truck crashes in which defective equipment is a contributing factor is uncertain. Underride guards prevent many of the deaths and injuries that occur in rear impact crashes.

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How effective are truck brakes?

Compared with passenger vehicles, stopping distances for trucks are much longer. On wet and slippery roads there are greater disparities between the braking capabilities of large trucks and cars. Brake problems will be aggravated by poor maintenance practices. Out-of-adjustment brakes are the most common reason for authorities to order trucks out of service. New large trucks must have automatic brake adjusters, visible brake adjustment indicators, and antilock brakes. Antilock brakes, which keep wheels from locking, improve driver control of trucks during emergency stops and reduce the likelihood of jackknife in tractor-trailers.

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When were large trucks required to have antilock brakes?

NHTSA issued a rule in 1995 requiring antilock brakes on newly manufactured medium and heavy vehicles. They were on new tractors as of March 1997 and on new trailers, single-unit trucks, and buses as of March 1998. Antilocks are required on all new trucks, buses, and trailers in Japan and the European Union.

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What are truck underride crashes?

In an underride crash, a passenger vehicle goes partially or wholly under a truck or trailer, increasing the likelihood of death or serious injury to the passenger vehicle occupants. A 1997 Institute study of fatal crashes between large trucks and cars estimated that front, rear, or side underride occurred in half of these crashes. A federal rule to upgrade the rear impact guard standard for new trailers only took effect in January 1998. The new guard will prevent many of the deaths and injuries that occur in rear impact crashes.

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Can trucks be made more visible to other drivers at night?

During the day, trucks are easy to see, but it’s a different story at night. Research indicates that if drivers of other vehicles can recognize medium and heavy trucks more easily, these drivers can gauge the trucks’ speed and distance more accurately and react sooner when necessary. Federal studies have reported that enhancing the conspicuity of trailers reduced the incidence of crashes in which trailers were hit from the side or rear at night on unlighted roads. A federal rule requires improved conspicuity — adding reflective sheeting or reflectors — for trailers manufactured after December 1993 and truck tractors (bobtails) manufactured after July 1, 1997 . Starting June 1, 2001 , the Department of Transportation required the enhanced markings for all trailers on the road, not just new ones.

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Are Mexican and Canadian trucks allowed to operate in the United States?

Canadian trucks are allowed to deliver loads from Canada and pick up loads with a Canadian destination, but generally cannot pick up U.S. loads with a U.S. destination. At this time, Mexican trucks are restricted to border cities, but the U.S. government has announced its intentions to permit Mexican motor carriers the same access to the United States as Canadian motor carriers, provided they meet certain safety and insurance requirements. Because of legal challenges, these plans currently are on hold. At least initially, few Mexican motor carriers have applied for such operating authority.

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Do Mexican trucks pose a safety risk on U.S. highways?

Data on the crash experience of Mexican trucks are insufficient to determine if they have a higher crash risk than U.S. trucks. Past safety inspection data indicate that out-of-service rates for Mexican trucks were lower within California , a state with a stringent inspection program, than in the three other border states with less frequent inspections. However, within the past few years, more safety inspectors have been hired and border inspection facilities have been improved. Information from IIHS.

If I may have been partially at fault for the accident, can I still win the lawsuit? It depends on the degree of your fault. Under the legal doctrine known as “comparative negligence”, the amount of another party’s liability for the accident is determined by comparing his or her carelessness with your own. That party’s portion of liability determines the percentage of the resulting damages he or she must pay. In most states, you can’t recover anything if your own carelessness was 50% or more responsible for the accident. In Alabama , you can not recover if you are at fault at all.

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What are some of the causes of tractor-trailer collisions on America’s highways and secondary roads?

There are many different reasons for accidents involving large trucks include negligence on the part of the truck driver or the other vehicles involved. Others include:

  • Inadequate or lack of training on the part of the truck driver;
  • Overloaded trucks;
  • Oversized Trucks;
  • Poorly maintained brakes on the trucks;
  • Driving in conditions of poor visibility due to smoke fog, snow or rain;
  • Fatigued, sleepy or tired driver driving too long and too many hours without rest;
  • Speeding over the limit or driving at speeds or beyond the road and weather conditions;
  • Running off the road;
  • Failure to yield the right of way;
  • Road rage and other aggressive driving behavior by a truck driver;
  • Truck drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol while driving;
  • Driving the truck in bad weather conditions;
  • Dangerous or reckless truck driver with a long record of wrecks and accidents;
  • Unsafe safety systems, reflectors, lights and other warning devices; and
  • Failure of truck to have installed an underride protection underguard;
  • Unrealistic schedules and expectations of trucking companies that encourage truck drivers to hurry and violate laws despite the safety risks involved;
  • Truck drivers on the road with a history of accidents and/or traffic violations that are still being allowed to drive commercial vehicles;
  • Cell Phone use;
  • Failure to install blind spot mirrors;
  • Truck driver’s failure to adjust to bad driving conditions (rain, snow, fog, etc.);
  • Poor condition of the truck, truck tires or brakes, ineffective repair work; failure to install and maintain safety equipment;
  • Improper load weight or an improperly balanced load;
  • Improperly maintained roads; malfunctioning traffic control signals; improper design, construction, signage, lighting or other highway defects; poorly placed trees, bushes and utility poles and
  • Commercial vehicle licensing standards that differ from state to state.

A 18-wheeler truck traveling at 70 miles per hour has twice as much energy as one at 50 mph. In addition, automobiles are designed under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to encounter like size vehicles, not 80,000 pound trucks. Added hazards include the absence of rear and side bumpers and high front bumpers that punch into automobile passenger compartments. Together these factors account for the high percentage of serious injuries and deaths in these crashes.

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Why is a traffic accident involving a commercial truck more likely to cause injury than one involving a passenger car?

Trucking accidents are different from auto accidents in many ways, one of the most serious being the extent of damages and injuries when a truck and an automobile collide. A typical fully loaded large commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, while an average passenger automobile weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. Due to this size disparity, and the basic laws of physics, any collision between a commercial truck and another vehicle is likely to result in serious, even fatal, injuries.

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What are the regulations regarding prohibited conduct for truck drivers?

A driver will not be allowed to operate a commercial motor vehicle if he/she engages in prohibited conduct. Prohibited conduct includes:

  • Reporting for duty with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 or greater,
     
  • Possessing alcohol unless it is part of a shipment, including medications like cough syrup or cold medicine that contain alcohol,
     
  • Consuming alcohol while performing safety-sensitive functions,
     
  • Consuming alcohol within 8 hours preceding an accident,
     
  • Reporting for duty while using any drug that affects the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, or
     
  • Refusing to submit to any DOT mandated alcohol or drug test.

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What role does alcohol and drug use play in tractor trailer wrecks?

Intoxicated Drivers.   Over a period of one year, a study of truck driver fatalities was conducted by The National Transportation Safety Board and The National Institute on Drug Abuse in eight states. Comprehensive drug screenings were performed on blood specimens taken from 168 fatally injured drivers. One or more drugs was detected in 67% of these fatally injured drivers and 33% of these drivers had detectable blood concentrations of psychoactive drugs or alcohol.

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How do I handle trucking companies or their insurance carriers after a truck accident?

You should immediately consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer. Truck companies have their own investigators and attorneys working hard to dismiss liability. One of the worst decisions individuals can make is to negotiate directly with trucking companies, insurance adjusters, or the trucking company lawyers. Most trucking companies are highly skilled at truck accident investigation and claims. Anything you say or sign may be held against you further down the road.

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Why should a lawyer be hired as soon as possible? Should I Hire A Lawyer?

The victims of trucking accidents almost always need to hire an experienced trucking accident attorney and they need to do so quickly. The reason for this is that once a wreck happens, truck drivers are instructed to immediately call their companies and report the accident. Most major trucking companies will then dispatch their “on-call” lawyers and investigators to the actual accident scene so that they can “investigate” the accident. A trucking company official admitted in a recent deposition that this “investigation” was actually done “to protect the company’s interests,” which was a not-so-subtly way of saying that the company would “investigate” the case to find anything possible to help it escape financial responsibility for the wreck. You need to protect yourself from these industry tactics like this by making sure someone protects your interests and thoroughly investigates the case to uncover all of the evidence. This investigation includes securing the accident scene. Photographs and statements must be taken as soon after the accident as possible. In addition, a lawyer can take action to make sure that important evidence within the trucking company’s control is not mysteriously “lost or misplaced” or purposely destroyed.

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I was involved in a traffic accident where a big-rig “jackknifed”. Can I automatically recover against the truck driver?

Not necessarily. The fact that a truck jackknifes is not in itself proof of operator negligence, because many accident situations present difficulties in which there is no practical way to avoid jackknifing without risking some other catastrophe. For example, operation of a truck that has jackknifed may be held to be non-negligent where the jackknifing was due to unforeseeable slipperiness of the road, or to an abrupt turn undertaken to avoid a motorist or stalled truck.

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If a truck involved in an accident was transporting a hazardous materials (hazmat), and injuries sustained directly resulted from the hazardous materials, can we sue the shipper of the chemicals as well as the truck driver?

In limited circumstances, the shipper of such hazardous materials can be held legally responsible if injuries resulted from the type of cargo on the truck, especially if the shipper failed to advise the driver or the trucking company of the hazardous nature of material contained in the freight.

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I’ve heard that it’s dangerous to drive in a truck’s “No-Zone”. What does that mean?

The “No-Zone” refers to the areas behind and beside a commercial truck, where the truck driver has limited or zero visibility: the left rear quarter, the right rear quarter, and directly behind the truck at a short distance.

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Can I sue the truck driver’s trucking company for my injuries from the accident?

It depends on whether an employment relationship is established between the truck driver and the trucking company. If such a relationship is shown, the company can be held legally liable for the driver’s negligence under a legal theory known as “respondeat superior”. Establishing the liability of a company can become problematic when a truck driver is an independent contractor of the company. In such a situation, the key issue becomes the amount of supervising exercised by the company.

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Who can be sued in a truck accident case?

Any person or entity who was at fault for causing the accident can be sued. This includes the truck driver and the trucking company, the owner of the trailer, the shipper, as well as any other driver, person or entity who in anyway contributed to the accident, such as the manufacturer of one of the vehicles involved in the accident, the manufacturer of a tire that contributed to the accident or the owner of any public or private property whose negligence contributed to the accident.

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Are expert witnesses necessary to prove fault in a truck accident case?

Usually. Unless there is no question that one party was completely at fault, a plaintiff in any serious injury or death case involving a truck should usually retain an expert. Further, that expert should have special expertise in the design, manufacture and operation of trucks and the rules of the trucking industry.

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What should I do If I’ve been In A trucking accident?

The first thing you should do is render aid to anyone at the scene that needs it, including yourself. Once your well-being and that of your fellow accident victims have been evaluated and stabilized, you should attempt to collect important information from those involved in the accident. Make sure you or someone else calls the police. It is best to have the police investigate your accident. That way you are protected against the other parties to the accident giving you false information or changing their story later. Make sure to tell the police about any injuries that you have so there is documentation.

If you are physically able, get any witness information you can such as name, address and telephone number and what they saw. If you have a camera or camcorder, you should consider using them to document the scene, the position of the vehicles after the impact and the damage to all vehicles involved. Exchange information with the other parties such as year, make and model of all vehicles involved, name, address, telephone number and Drivers License number of all parties involved, and each party’s insurance carrier and policy number.

Helpful Hint: Be nice and helpful. Your demeanor and interaction with others will be introduced into evidence if your case goes to trial.

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I Was Hit By A Truck Several Months Ago, Is It Too Late For Me To Hire A Lawyer?

No. Contact lawyers who are knowledgeable and experienced in trucking cases and they can still make sure a thorough investigation is done and that important documents are obtained and preserved. However, you must do this as soon as possible since your claim must be filed within certain time limits or it will be terminated. There are various time limits for certain personal injury actions, and only an experienced trucking accidents attorney can explain the limitations applicable to your specific case. Unless other factors are present, a negligence action in North Carolina generally must be filed within three years of your injury. However, in cases involving wrongful death, suit must generally be filed within two years of the date death.

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The Trucking Company & Its Insurance Company Want To Talk To Me, What Should I Tell Them?

NOTHING! Do not speak to either the trucking company or their insurance company until you obtained legal advice. Once you have been involved in an accident, the trucking company and its insurance carrier are your adversaries. As the legal saying goes, “Anything you say can – and will – be used against you.” In contacting you, the trucking company and its insurance carrier’s secret motivation is to obtain statements and facts from you that will be harmful to your case. They will then try to use this information later on to pay you less compensation or maybe no compensation at all. Do not speak to anyone about your case except your attorney.

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What Is My Case Worth?

The value of a case depends on a variety of factors and cannot be determined without analyzing information regarding the injury, medical bills, loss of income, and permanency of the injury. There is no rule of thumb, and each set of facts results in a different amount of damages.

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What Kind Of Compensation May I Receive For My Injuries?

An injured person may receive compensation, or damages, for:

  1. Medical expenses
  2. Future medical expenses
  3. Expenses to care for the injured person
  4. Lost income
  5. Loss of income in the future
  6. Pain
  7. Suffering
  8. Mental anguish
  9. Loss of enjoyment of life
  10. Loss of consortium, or spousal relations

In Alabama, the damages recoverable for cases involving wrongful death are:

  1. Punitive damages for wrongfully causing the death of the decedent through maliciousness, willful or wanton injury, or gross negligence;

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Will I Have To Go To Court?

Not necessarily. Many trucking accident cases are concluded without even filing a lawsuit. Most lawsuits are settled without an actual trial. A settlement avoids the cost and delay of a trial and may result in a greater net recovery. However, if the case cannot be settled on satisfactory terms, it may be necessary to try it in court.

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What Will This Cost Me?

Ferguson & Ferguson will consult anyone injured in an accident for free. If we agree to represent you, we will not require you to pay us any money up front, such as a retainer. Rather, we get paid based on a contingency fee. A contingent fee means that you pay a percentage of your settlement to your attorney. Our firm will also advance all of the costs and expenses associated with your case. We do not charge any interest on these advances, and the sums that are advanced will be deducted from the verdict or settlement after the fee has been determined.

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How Long Will My Case Go On?

Cases vary in length from weeks, months, even to years in some instances. Each case is unique, and how long your case will take depends on numerous factors. For example, if you received a serious injury, you do not want to settle your claim until you have received sufficient medical care so that either your physician has released you or your future medical expenses related to the accident can be determined with reasonable certainty. Therefore, the amount of time you need to heal may determine the length of time necessary to conclude your claim. The amount of time before you recover also depends on whether a lawsuit must be filed.

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What Are The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR)?

These regulations were developed by the government in order to help reduce or prevent truck and bus accidents, fatalities and injuries. The FMCSR remain the sole safety standards that professional truck drivers and motor carriers must follow in the operation of commercial motor vehicles, and any deviation from these standards exposes the motor carrier and driver to liability.

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Does Trucking Company Need To Investigate Its Drivers?

Yes. Under the regulations, an employer is required to investigate each of its drivers. Within 30 days of hiring a driver, the employer must review of the driver’s employment record by contacting each of the driver’s employers for the previous 3 years. The investigation may consist of personal interviews, telephone interviews, letters, or other methods of obtaining information. The employer is required to make a written record of each interview. This record must include the previous employer’s name and address, the date of the interview, and the previous employer’s comments regarding the driver. In addition, within 30 days of hiring a driver, the employer must contact each State in which the driver has held a driver’s license during the previous three years, and obtain a copy of the applicant’s driving record.

After a driver is hired, the employer must review the driver annually to make sure that the driver remains qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle and that he still meets the minimum requirements for being able to safely drive the vehicle. As part of this annual review, the employer must require all of its drivers to furnish a certified list of all motor vehicle violations that the driver has been convicted of during the year. Moreover, in order to make sure the driver has provided full and complete information, the employer has a duty to obtain an updated copy of the driver’s driving record.

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What’s The Maximum Amount of “Driving Time” For Truck Drivers?

Driver fatigue is the leading cause of trucking accidents, and in an attempt to reduce the number of these accidents, the FMCSR contain hours-of-service regulations that specifically dictate the maximum number of hours that a driver can spend going about his business. In setting out these rules, the regulations differentiate between “driving time” and “on duty time.” “Driving time” refers to the actual amount of time a driver spends “at the driving controls of a commercial motor vehicle in operation.” “On duty time” is much broader, and it includes the time from when a driver “begins work or is required to be ready to work and it continues until the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work.”

For the first time in 60 years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration just revised the hours-of-service regulations in hopes of providing drivers with better opportunities to obtain sleep. The revised regulations, which become effective January 4, 2004, are based upon a 24-hour cycle and a 7-day cycle, and they adjust depending on the type of vehicle being driven. In general, the regulations provide that for property-carrying commercial vehicles, such as tractor-trailer trucks, drivers cannot drive more than 11 cumulative hours per day, and they can only be “on duty” for 14 hours per day. In between shifts, the driver must generally be off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.

Moreover, a driver cannot accumulate more than 60 hours of on-duty time during 7 consecutive days or 70 hours during 8 consecutive days. It is important to keep in mind that this restriction applies to on-duty time, not driving time. In order to restart the 7/8-consecutive-day requirement, the driver must take 34 or more consecutive hours of off-duty time.

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How Much Insurance Coverage Must A Tractor-Trailer Truck Have?

Every state have different minimum liability coverages per-person and per-accident, the FMCSR require substantially more coverage for commercial motor vehicles. Under the regulations, the minimum amount of coverage required for tractor-trailer vehicles is $750,000. There are different amounts for carrying dangerous chemicals and cargo.

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What is a commercial truck?

A commercial truck is a vehicle used in the course of business and/or for the transport of commercial goods, including eighteen-wheeler tractor trailers, tanker trucks, delivery trucks, and other large freight trucks.

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Why is a traffic accident involving a truck more likely to cause serious injury that one involving automobiles only?

Because trucks are bigger. A commercial tractor-trailer can weigh over 80,000 pounds, while an average passenger car weighs around 3,000 pounds. This often in serious or fatal injuries for the occupants of the car.

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How do I deal with trucking companies or their insurance carriers after a truck accident?

One thing you have to know is that you are not negotiating on level ground when dealing with a trucking company after an accident. Most trucking companies are highly skilled at auto truck accident investigation and claims practice. These adjusters represent the truck company, not you. Do not give them any type statements or sign any releases for medical records or employment records. Often the medical release allows the adjuster to talk to the doctors without you or anyone being present.

Truck companies have accident investigators that are on call and dispatched to the scene of the crash as soon as the trucking company learns there has been an accident. Further while the families of the accident victims are tending to medical and hospital care and funeral arraignments, the trucking company is investigating the accident and setting up their defense. This is why the victims big truck accidents need to also have a team of investigators on their side, fighting for their rights.

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Is my case any different if I am injured, or a family member is killed, by a truck as opposed to any other vehicle driver?

Yes. Although the same laws of negligence will apply, there are special Vehicle Code sections which apply only to commercial truck drivers and trucking companies and there are special licensing and training requirements of truck drivers which generally make truck accidents harder to defend and easier to win for plaintiffs.

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Who can sue in a truck accident injury or death case?

Anyone who is injured or has had a loved one killed in a truck accident can sue as long as some other person or entity is at fault for the accident. This includes adults and children (who can sue through guardians or parents); and even truck drivers if another person or entity was at fault for the accident.

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