In a recent year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, accidents involving large trucks caused 136 deaths, accounting for roughly 11 percent of all traffic fatalities in the Commonwealth. Similar accidents undoubtedly caused thousands of additional injuries, many of them severe or catastrophic.
Victims of truck accidents caused by someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentionally harmful conduct deserve compensation. If you suffered injuries in a Pennsylvania truck accident, then contact an experienced truck accident attorney for a free case evaluation.
Parties Potentially Liable for Truck Accident Damages
Truck accidents rarely just happen. They generally result from the bad decision or dangerous action of a person, company, or government agency. Experienced truck accident injury lawyers work hard to identify those parties with potential legal liability for the injuries and harm done by a truck accident. Those parties may include:
A Vehicle Driver
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published the Large Truck Crash Causation Study. In it, the agency analyzed 963 crashes that occurred between 2001 and 2003 to examine why truck accidents happened. Approximately 87 percent of those accidents resulted from the decisions of at least one of the drivers involved.
Drivers of any type of vehicle owe each other and the general public a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely and prudently. Failure to follow the rules of the road and to take care not to put others at risk can cause an accident and lead to drivers having legal liability to victims.
A Driver’s Employer
Trucks are commercial vehicles, and truck drivers often work as employees of the trucks’ owners. In most states, employers generally have a legal responsibility to answer for the actions of their employees. Which means, a trucking company or employer of any driver of a commercial vehicle involved in a crash often has legal liability for the harm their employee caused behind the wheel.
Companies that employ commercial drivers may also face liability for their failure to hire drivers with proper qualifications, to train drivers effectively, or to maintain commercial vehicles in safe driving condition.
Vehicle and Vehicle-Part Manufacturers
According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, approximately 10 percent of all large truck accidents result from a vehicle mechanical problem. That’s a scary number. Anything above zero is unnerving, really. Large trucks have an extremely large mass. A fully loaded semi can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and measures between 70 and 80 feet long. When a vehicle of this size suffers a mechanical failure and loses control, a catastrophic accident will often follow.
The FMCSA requires drivers to conduct daily vehicle inspections. However, even a detailed inspection might not discover a defective truck part that may fail and lead to a crash. If a faulty part is wholly or partially the cause of an accident, then the part’s manufacturer may bear some level of liability to accident victims.
Trucks operate on local, state, and interstate roads, all maintained by government road agencies and by contractors hired by those agencies. The government has a basic obligation to citizens to ensure the safe design, construction, and maintenance of roads suitable for truck travel, or to close unsafe roads to truck traffic. A government agency that fails in this basic mission may face legal liability to victims of a crash caused by a dangerous, but preventable, road condition or feature.
The individuals and entities above represent some of the more common parties involved in a large truck accident and its aftermath. They do not constitute a complete list, however. Legal liability for truck accident damages generally arises whenever someone’s unreasonably dangerous decision or action puts someone else in harm’s way, resulting in an injury.
Although the parties above are the usual suspects in a truck crash, virtually any other individual, corporation, or government agency could also face legal liability in a particular set of circumstances. That is why one of the most significant jobs of any experienced truck accident injury lawyer is to identify all parties with potential liability for damages in a crash.
How Lawyers Identify Liable Parties in a Truck Accident
The investigation lawyers conduct to identify parties with legal liability for a truck crash can take any number of twists and turns. Who’s at fault? is not always a straightforward question, and even if it may seem like there is an obvious answer, a detailed examination of the facts and circumstances of a truck crash can yield unexpected discoveries...and heated disputes over who should bear the blame.
Lawyers and their staff tend to focus on several prominent categories of evidence to identify parties with legal liability in a truck accident.
These categories frequently include:
- Physical evidence: In figuring out who caused a truck crash, important physical evidence—that is, objects you can see and touch—could include a vehicle part salvaged from the wreckage that shows signs of a defect, debris collected from the roadway, and the wrecked vehicles themselves.
- Visual evidence (photo and video): Images of a truck accident scene can supply crucial evidence of who caused a crash. Lawyers may try to obtain security/traffic/dashboard camera footage of the crash itself. They may also benefit from having photographs or video taken at the accident scene, particularly images showing the scene before first responders and clean-up crews arrived.
- Witness statements: Large truck accidents usually draw attention from witnesses. Many drivers who see an accident happen will stop and try to help. Lawyers for victims of truck accidents often want to speak with those witnesses, and anyone else involved in or who responded to the accident, to obtain their perspectives on what happened.
- Electronic truck data: Many large trucks on the road today—particularly long-haul trucks that operate on interstate highways—carry on-board data recorders, similar to the black box on an airplane. These recorders track the functioning of the truck’s systems. They also log the amount of time a driver spends behind the wheel before taking a break. Lawyers can often mine this data from the ELD for clues about whose conduct resulted in a truck crash.
- Employment records and driving histories: In a truck crash in which a driver’s poor decisions may have played a role, lawyers for victims will often review driver employment records or driving histories to determine whether the driver showed an inclination for unsafe conduct behind the wheel.
- Forensic analysis: Lawyers often work with forensic scientists and engineers to perform detailed studies of potential causes of an accident. These experts may use all of the categories of evidence above to inform their analysis.
By taking this and other evidence into account, experienced truck accident lawyers form as clear a picture as possible for how the accident happened and who may bear the blame. For more information on how to preserve evidence after a truck accident or how to get what you rightfully deserve after a truck accident give us a call today.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Evidence about a truck accident often discloses its cause(s). Some of the more common causes of large truck accidents include:
Driving Too Fast for Conditions
Speeding is dangerous. Yet it is an all too common problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over one-quarter of all traffic fatalities involve speed as a factor. Speeding increases stopping distance, reduces reaction time, reduces the effectiveness of safety devices, and increases the chance of serious injuries. Large trucks take even longer to stop than smaller vehicles and are much more dangerous in a collision. If you see a speeding truck come up behind you, move over to allow it to pass.
Thankfully, only a very small number of accidents involve a truck driver who drove while under the influence of alcohol. However, fatigue or driving while taking medication can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence.
Many truck drivers have tight schedules to meet and work irregular hours. Often, they have to sleep in their cabs while pulled over at a rest stop. Truck drivers also have relatively poor health as a group, and take medication with significant side effects. All of these factors combine to make drowsiness, in particular, a dangerous risk factor for truckers.
Driving drowsy is as dangerous as driving drunk. It impairs driving ability in exactly the same way, with the same disastrous results. That is why federal regulations aim to monitor truck drivers’ schedules and to limit their hours behind the wheel between rest breaks. Even so, truckers get poor-quality sleep too often and can end up causing accidents by suffering from the effects of drowsiness even when they comply with hours of service regulations.
Big trucks have big blind spots. A blind spot is any area around the truck where the driver cannot see other vehicles without the assistance of mirrors or cameras. For large semis, a truck’s blind spots are 20 feet directly ahead of the vehicle, 30 feet behind the vehicle, and one to two lanes down the entire length of the truck on both sides. As a driver who shares the roads with big trucks, you can reduce your risk of injury by staying out of these blind spots as much as possible.
A previously mentioned, mechanical failure leads to many truck accidents. Some of these accidents happen because of poor maintenance, while others may happen because of a defective part. Mechanical failure isn't as uncommon as you might think something like a tire blowout accident could have easily been because of a defective part or installation.
Compensation for Truck Accident Injuries
Parties deemed legally liable to victims of a truck accident may have an obligation to pay compensation as damages. Every truck accident claim has its own unique features, so there is no standard type or amount of compensation victims may receive from legally liable parties.
However, as a general matter, a victim may take legal action against legally-liable parties seeking compensation to pay for:
- Lost wages: Truck accident injuries frequently cause victims to miss work while recovering. They also often leave victims disabled and unable to return to work in their former capacity. By taking legal action against liable parties, victims can seek payment to replace the wages they lose because of their injuries.
- Medical costs: Even minor injuries can result in big bills. More serious injuries can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is not something most truck accident victims can afford. Through a truck accident lawsuit, truck accident victims can seek to recover all of their medical costs, including co-pays, deductibles, doctor visits, hospital stays, medication, surgeries, and rehabilitation.
- Other costs: Truck accident injuries can cause victims to incur all sorts of other costs, beyond the cost of medical care. One common category of expenses victims may recover through a truck accident lawsuit consists of the cost of hiring services to help out with daily activities, such as childcare, house cleaning, and transportation.
- Pain and suffering: Truck accident injuries can cause substantial physical and emotional distress. This pain can interfere with a victim’s ability to participate in activities, enjoy life, or maintain personal relationships. Pain and suffering damages tend to vary depending upon the severity of the injury the victim suffers.
- Wrongful death: Sadly, some truck accidents result in fatalities. Through a lawsuit known as a wrongful death claim, the victim’s family may recover many of the types of damages listed above, as well as funeral and burial costs.
No lawyer can guarantee that a truck accident victim will recover the types of damages listed above. However, the most reliable way for truck accident victims to obtain full compensation for their injuries and losses is to hire an experienced attorney who knows how to navigate the legal and factual complexities of a large truck accident.
Hire a Lawyer to Hold Liable Parties Accountable
Large truck accidents inflict serious, lasting harm on victims and their families. Individuals, companies, and government agencies that cause truck accidents should face legal liability to those victims and pay for the harm the accident caused.
Do not wait to seek the advice of an experienced truck accident injury lawyer after you suffer injuries in a crash. You may have the right to receive substantial compensation if you act quickly. Contact a personal injury attorney today for a free case evaluation.
The Levin Firm
1500 John F. Kennedy Blvd,
Two Penn Center, Suite 620
Philadelphia, PA 19102