Thousands of people are injured or killed each year in accidents involving trucks. Traffic accidents involving passenger vehicles and commercial trucks can have serious consequences as a result of the truck’s massive size and weight. A typical fully loaded commercial truck may weigh 60-80 thousand pounds, compared to the average automobile that weighs a mere 3 thousand pounds. The size and weight also affects the truck’s maneuverability, visibility and it’s stopping distance, which is much longer than that of a passenger vehicle. There are millions of registered trucks in the United States that share the road with the much smaller passenger vehicles each day. The more trucks on the road, the higher the risk of a collision.
There are many reasons why a truck accident might occur. Some of the reasons are unique to large commercial trucks while others may be as simple as minor driving errors that may result in a serious or even fatal accident simply because a large commercial truck is involved. Some drivers may receive inadequate training in the operation of a large commercial vehicle, as well as inadequate training as to safety concerns and defensive driving. Driver fatigue is another common reason for truck accidents. Unrealistic delivery schedules set by trucking companies and a system of compensation that encourage long consecutive hours of operation over safety result in speeding, stress and fatigue which often leads to truck accidents. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is another reason for truck accidents. Trucks require proper periodic inspections and regular maintenance. Mechanical failure or a defective part, component or system can result in a truck accident. Improper loading or overloading can cause an accident. If the load is improperly secured, for example, it can shift during transit and cause a rollover. The cargo itself may present a danger, such as chemical or toxic spill.
The Federal and some State governments have imposed trucking regulations that must be followed by the trucking industry. The purpose of the laws is to reduce the risk of truck accidents. The federal regulations apply to interstate travel. The regulations apply to the commercial truck driver, the trucking company and those responsible for the management, maintenance, operation or driving of the commercial truck as well as those responsible for the hiring, supervision, training or dispatching of the drivers. Commercial truck drivers subject to the federal regulations are not supposed to drive more than a certain number of hours straight, are not supposed to drive while sick or tired, must not use illegal drugs, must obey all traffic laws, must load cargo safely, must conduct periodic inspections of the truck, as well as not operate a vehicle that is likely to break down or cause an accident. Truck drivers who drive certain types of commercial trucks, based generally on weight, size and/or type of cargo, are required to obtain a commercial license, must be tested for drugs and alcohol use and must be a qualified driver, such as be at least 21 years old, speak English and not have committed a felony. Although the commercial trucking industry is heavily regulated, the trucking industry does not always comply with the regulations, resulting in numerous truck accidents every year.
For someone involved in an accident with a commercial truck, determining the cause of the accident may be daunting. An experienced lawyer can gather evidence, and determine, for example, whether the trucking regulations or other state laws apply to your truck accident and whether there have been any violations. An experienced lawyer will also work with experts to gather information and determine the cause of your accident. In many cases an expert must conduct a reconstruction of the accident in order to determine the cause of the accident and the responsible parties. Information that may be gathered by an experienced attorney and his/her experts may include, for example, the truck’s maintenance record, the driver’s log book, the truck’s black box and the trucking company’s safety procedures, training and accident history.
An experienced lawyer will be also be able ascertain who the responsible parties are and file claims against such parties. Not only may the commercial truck driver be liable, but also the truck owner, the trucking company, and the trucking contractor. If the accident was caused by a mechanical failure, or a defective part, component or system, the possible parties may also include the manufacturer, the seller, the installer or a mechanic who made repairs.
If you have been injured in a collision with a commercial truck, it is important that you contact an experience attorney with the knowledge and expertise to ensure that your rights are protected and you are properly compensated for all damages caused by the truck accident.
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