Your Collision Rights: Finding a Truck Accident Attorney
Exercise And Defend Your Rights By Using An 18 Wheeler and Commercial Truck Accident Attorney to Help you in your Personal Injury or a Wrongful Death Claim
Injury Claims Involving a Semi- Truck and / or Commercial Truck / or related Vehicle Accident.
What you should know.
Tractor Trailer Accident Legal Insights
In this article you will learn about special rules and considerations surrounding a truck accident or an accident with commercial vehicles. This is a list of qualifying topics:
- Delivery Truck Accident
- Dump Truck Accident
- Bus related injuries
- Tow Truck Accident
- Moving Vans Damages
- Flat Bed Truck Accident
- Semi Truck Accident
- 18-Wheeler Truck Accident
- other Commercial Truck accident
You will also learn about special laws governing these types of vehicles, duty of care, Federal and State Regulations, CDL driving rules and violations. Additionally, you will receive step-by-step instructions on what to do if you are involved in an accident or collision with a semi truck, 18-wheeler truck or commercial service truck / vehicle (as listed above).
Last year alone, approximately 300,000 large truck type vehicles and other commercial vehicles were involved in traffic crashes.
This is according to data from the NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. Most of these categorized an accident involving a semi-trailer truck or other commercial vehicles accident and were the direct consequence of driver negligence.
A semi truck generally weighs well in excess of 10,000 pounds. While it is dependent upon speed, a commercial truck might need three times the distance and time a passenger car needs to come to a full stop.
Also, an accident involving a truck has a five-fold higher risk of causing severe injuries or fatalities as compared to an accident that just involves passenger vehicles.
The trucking industry is regulated through a combination of both state and federal regulations. These regulations are in place to ensure that all commercial vehicles, including a semi truck or other commercial truck type vehicles (such as a delivery truck, moving van, bus, dump truck, tow truck, flat bed truck, etc.), operate in a safe manner. Public safety is promoted through regulations covering such specifics as cargo capacity, truck maintenance, truck driver qualifications and required equipment and markings.
A collision with any 18 wheeler tractor trailer truck or other large commercial vehicle is a harrowing and traumatic experience. If an injury results, then it often becomes a permanent life changing experience due to the severity of injuries and the increased risk of death.
Injuries as a result of a semi truck accident are often far more severe than injuries resulting from an accident involving only passenger cars. If you yourself have been injured, then it is critical to know just how to go about preparing your eventual personal injury insurance claim.
In the next section this article will address:
-The obligations and duty of care semi truck drivers have towards other motorists
-The federal and state regulations that truckers most frequently violate
-How these laws can be used as support for your specific personal injury claim
-The establishment of a legal or proximate cause and proving negligence
Duty of Care for Commercial Vehicles: What it means and how it affects you.
If you drive a passenger car, then you have a duty of care to other drivers, as they do to you. That duty of care is broken down into specific responsibilities:
-Looking out for one another properly
-Staying in compliance with relevant traffic laws
-Avoiding an accident by all reasonable means
Court systems demand much higher duty of care standards for drivers of a semi-trailer truck. In order to establish the proper duty or standard of care and then determine if there have been breaches of it, courts rely on the following:
-Federal and state regulations placed on truck drivers and other commercial vehicle drivers, including required rest breaks.
-Traditional pieces of evidence used when arguing and proving negligence
Since a semi truck accident often carries a devastating toll, courts systems routinely enforce federal and state regulations in a strict manner. If a court finds that a truck driver violated a particular federal or state regulation, then the court may find the violation to be “per se,” which means “automatic,” proof or presumption of negligence when the violation resulted in injuries to other parties.
The Federal And State Trucking Regulations Violated The Most Frequently:
In order to build a strong personal injury and damages claim, it is critical to prove that the truck driver was indeed negligent, and that the negligence was the legal or ‘proximate’ cause of injuries you sustained. In cases involving a truck accident, if you can prove the truck driver was in violation of any federal or state regulations, then you have an effective means of proving negligence and winning your case.
Any violation of a federal or state regulation can be a way to prove or win a case. This is so because courts very often find such violations to be clear unequivocal proof of an occurrence of negligence. Added proof establishing additional negligence certainly helps your case. But federal or state regulatory violations may be an “automatic” win.
18 Wheeler Regulations
So, let’s take a closer look at the two semi truck regulations that are violated the most frequently:
1) CDL driving rules and regulations
Drivers of a commercial semi truck are obligated to have a CDL, or a Commercial Driver’s License. In order for a truck driver to obtain a CDL, the U.S. DOT (United States Department of Transportation) mandates that truck drivers pass a battery of tests whose purpose is specifically to test commercial truck drivers. Applicable laws may differ somewhat from state to state, but all must be in compliance with federal DOT regulations and laws including related Codes of Federal Regulations (CFR) 49 CFR 382, 49 CFR 385, 49 CFR 3890, 49 CFR 391, 49 CFR 392, 49 CFR 393, 49 CFR 394, 49 CFR 395, 49 CFR 396, and 49 CFR 397.
How stringent the test is depends upon the weight of the truck, tractor or trailer – larger vehicles mean more stringent testing.
Associated regulations mandate that truck drivers demonstrate full proficiency in several areas:
-Parking, maneuvering, backing up, etc.
-Maintenance of tires, lights, engines, breaks, placards, etc.
-Mastery of the pre-trip inspection regimen
-Procedures and regulations for the containment of hazardous materials
In addition to obtaining the CDL, commercial truck drivers must also pass drug testing and a physical examination to ensure that they are physically capable of operating an 18 wheeler or other commercial vehicle.
2) Regulations regarding log books
Drivers of a semi truck or other type of commercial vehicle are required to maintain logbooks that record information such as:
-The number of daily hours they commit to driving as well as to rest. Generally commercial truck drivers are permitted 11 hours of daily driving followed by at least 10 hours of rest. Driving over 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours over eight days is generally against the law. This is pursuant to the applicable Code of Federal Regulations as summarized in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Interstate Truck
Driver’s Guide to Hours of Service and other sources.
-The calendar date that they picked up their current cargo load
-The weight of the rig (truck, tractor and/or trailer) prior to and after the cargo is loaded
-The cargo destination
-The delivery date
Finding Regulation Violation Evidence
As stated previously, the critical element to winning a claim or law suit after a semi truck or other commercial vehicle accident is proving negligence. There are unfortunately times when semi truck and other professional drivers not only violate the law, but they do so recklessly, knowingly, and willfully. Such flagrant violations are sometimes downright criminal, not just regulatory.
If you are able to support your claims with evidence of criminality, willfulness or recklessness, then you may also be entitled to an award of punitive damages, which are in addition to, and may exceed, any actual damages.
If the injuries you sustain from a truck or other commercial vehicle accident are minor, then you might feel that you are in a position to handle an insurance claim on your own. However, “pro se” or self-representation does carry significant risks and complications given the difficulty you might have in building your case – including getting access to the logbook, drug test screenings, CDL test results, criminal background checks and other evidence related to the semi truck driver involved in the accident.
Additionally, going it on your own (without an attorney) will leave you at a disadvantage to the insurance companies and their professional adjusters and defense attorneys who routinely value a case based upon such factors as whether you are represented by an attorney, how experienced your attorney is in this area of the law and your attorney’s track record in being willing to take cases to trial if needed.
Moreover, if you come to a point where you realize that you need an attorney, you may have permanently weakened or damaged your own case during the time that you tried to proceed on your own – such as by giving a recorded or sworn statement to the insurance company.
Qualified Law Groups
A seasoned personal injury lawyer can protect you and your interests. Moreover, any contingency attorney fee should be more than justified by the increased total recovery in your case.
The right law firm and attorney should have the experience and financial resources to file a lawsuit on your behalf, to hire expert witnesses, to conduct discovery and to serve subpoenas to force the other side and third parties to provide all the necessary information to build your case, and to otherwise do everything needed to see your case through to trial and, if necessary, the appellate process.
Your personal injury attorney can conduct thorough pretrial discovery, which is the process for securing the evidence and documents from the other side of the case, including securing access to the actual logbook or electronic log of the truck driver involved. In that logbook, your attorney might find evidence that the truck driver violated applicable regulations or was exceeding the allowed hours of driving time or that log entries were embellished or even falsified.
Modern electronic logs make it difficult to cover up regulatory violations regarding hours driven and missed rest periods. Your attorney can also collect recorded statements called depositions from the actual truck driver, his employer, his coworkers, witnesses and anyone else who may have information that is relevant to your case.
Other common discovery tools include interrogatories (written questions which must be answer in writing and under oath), admissions (factual statements which must be admitted or denied in writing) and requests for production (written requests for documents and inspection). All of these tools and procedures are invaluable to building a strong case and maximizing your recovery.
In the case of a semi truck accident, there is certain evidence that is critical to proving negligence, such as knowing:
-Was the truck driver’s assigned CDL license suspended or active
-Does the truck driver have a criminal record
-How many tickets and or citations did the truck driver have prior to the accident in question
-How many total records of an accident has the truck driver had
-The financial background of the truck driver, including judgments and outstanding debts
-Was the cargo load within the legal limitations
-Was the truck driver over or under the legal allotment of driving hours
-Was the truck driver on the designated route to the target destination
-Was the truck driver under the influence of medication or narcotics
-Was the truck driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol
More Evidence Demonstrating Negligence:
Depending upon the facts of your case, there are more ways you can build the strength and credibility of your injury claim. Think of them as the more conventional ways of finding evidence of both proximate cause and negligence.
The phrase “proximate cause” basically means that the negligent actions of the semi truck driver were the foreseeable and logical reason that the accident happened.
An alternate way to explain proximate cause is to say that the accident would not have occurred at all except for the negligent actions of the truck driver.
Therefore, the negligence of the truck driver was the direct, proximate cause of the eventual accident and the injuries you suffered. There are certain ways you can bolster your claim that involve gathering potential evidence of both proximate cause and negligence.
If you are ever involved in a collision with any semi truck or other commercial vehicle, be sure that you do the following:
A. Call local law enforcement
The vast majority of collisions involving a semi truck or other large commercial vehicle are going to either block off traffic completely or at least seriously impact the flow of traffic. On top of this, there may be injuries to yourself or passengers. The eventual police report (usually titled short form or long form “Crash Report”) can prove a very critical piece of evidence in your case, as it should include the following information:
-The personal and contact information of the semi truck or other commercial vehicle driver, although you should make sure the police also get contact information for any trucking company or other employer
-The name and contact details of the driver and owner of each vehicle involved in the accident
-The names of the insurance companies that cover the commercial vehicle driver and his employer
-An accident scene diagram
-Names and individual contact information of passengers and other witnesses
-The weather conditions at the time
-Notations of any applicable tickets or citations that the truck driver or others receive
B. Take photos and snap images
If you’re like most people, then you have a smartphone with a camera. Use it to capture images of the scene of the accident. Include photos of both the car and the truck. Make sure you photograph the actual point of impact specifically. Look out for skid marks too. Try to get photographs of the truck driver, witnesses, and all injuries. Also keep an eye out for signs that were damaged or any other collision evidence.
C. Jot down notes
If you have a memo pad or paper, write things down. Alternatively, type what you can into your phone. Make observations of the scene. Note specific admissions the truck driver might state, such as “I did not see you” or “I’m sorry.” You also need to note witnesses that might have heard such admissions from the driver. Transfer any notations into a journal as soon as you can.
D. Get statements and individual contact information from witnesses
The statements and presence of witnesses are among the most valuable information you can have in your case. Police might not get a chance to talk to all of them, or just neglect to do so. For the ones they do talk to, they may not write down much detail. Get all the contact information you can. You might need to get in touch with witnesses after the accident is cleared by road workers. Be certain you mark down specifics they saw, such as seeing the truck driver run a red light or fail to yield to something or someone, like you.
E. Look around for surveillance cameras
Note the location of surveillance cameras that are close to the scene of the accident. Most of the time, you’ll see that they are attached to schools, businesses, or government-owned light poles where they can record intersections and railroad crossings. If you are able to identify and find the video owners, see if you can get a copy. If they are unwilling, let your attorney subpoena the records as part of building your case/lawsuit.
F. Go back to the scene of the accident
If you are healthy enough to do it, go back to the scene the following day. If you are unable to do it, enlist the help of a family member or friend. You should take pictures and make measurements of skid marks and photograph signs or solid objects that might have been moved since the day the accident took place.
If you stick to all the guidelines listed above, then you are going to be in a great position to start negotiating on behalf of your personal injury claim and/or building a lawsuit. You will likely want compensation for any damages and injuries you suffer due to the negligence of the semi truck driver or other commercial vehicle driver. If the injuries happen to be soft tissue, you may be able to negotiate a claim on your own. On the other hand, if your injuries are significant, then you should consult a seasoned personal injury lawyer as promptly as possible.
The following are examples of soft tissue injuries:
-Back strain or whiplash
-Contusions, abrasions, and lacerations like cuts, scrapes, and bruises with no permanent disability or scaring
-Minor burns with no permanent disability or scaring
-Torn or sprained muscles, ligaments, or tendons with no permanent disability or scaring
More severe injuries include, but are not limited to:
-Broken bones or fractures
-Damage to internal organs
-Second to third-degree burns
-Multiple disk hernias
-Brain or nervous system injuries
-Loss of limb(s)
On top of injury compensation, you should receive money for:
-Loss of financial support to survivors in cases involving death
-Consortium loss (the loss of intimacy with and companionship of a spouse)
-Out-of-pocket costs for items such as medical expenses (post and future), including hospitalization, ambulance or air lift transportation, etc.
-Fuel costs and parking fees associated with commuting to and from medical treatment
-Pain, suffering, and/or emotional distress
-Mentorship or companionship loss of loved ones such as children or grandchildren and related pain and suffering
The law firm of Urban Thier & Federer, P.A., has represented many personal injury, truck accident and car accident victims.
The law firm has the experience and resources to see your case through to trial and, if necessary, the appellate courts. We have seen the insurance companies for the at fault driver go to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying out any claims or to attempt to pay out amounts far less than to what a victim might otherwise be legally entitled.
Before you sign anything or have any communication with the insurance companies, at fault driver’s attorney, or anyone else, you should contact any attorney of your choosing and ensure that you protect your rights and your entitlement to full and fair compensation for your injuries or for the death of a loved one.