In the United States, more than 150,000 drivers are either injured or killed each year in accidents involving trucks. Specifically, trucks are two times more likely to be involved in traffic accidents than other vehicles. If a big truck hits you, then you are over five times more likely to be killed than the truck driver.
Within Louisiana, truck accidents are surprisingly common. In 2020, approximately 2,200 crashes occurred with large trucks, and 100 of those incidents were fatal. Overall, about 3% of all vehicles that were in crashes were either large trucks or large busses. It’s also important to note that pickup trucks are involved in many accidents as well. Approximately 25% of all vehicles involved in crashes are pickup trucks.
How do fatalities happen in truck accidents? The Department of Transportation has conducted a wide-ranging study about the trucking industry. The study was specifically set out to find the ways accidents arise. The results from the study stated that most truck accidents that cause fatalities to happen through external forces, the most prevalent being distractions.
Due to these statistics, we believe that truckers, the companies that employ them, and the insurance companies that cover them need to be held accountable. When you are in an accident with a big truck, it’s important to hire the most experienced lawyers, so that you can maximize your damages.
The first thing that makes large commercial truck crashes different, is the severity of the injuries the victims sustain. A typical motor vehicle weighs about 4000 pounds, whereas large commercial trucks are about 70,000 – 80,000 pounds (this includes the load attached to the truck). The second thing involves the complexity that is usually needed to prove that the truck driver was at fault. Also, large commercial trucks regularly have mechanical problems that other vehicles do not experience. These include, but are not limited to, defective hitches, poorly maintained tires, unsecured loads, and problems with tire pressure symmetry.
This next point is very unique to commercial trucks. Since these trucks have so many wheels, it’s more difficult to maintain symmetry between the air pressure between the wheels. In a car, there are only four wheels, so this problem is not as pronounced. Driver fatigue is another major issue, partly due to the tight delivery schedules. The last thing is the complexity of the litigation itself. Multiple parties, in addition to the driver, may have some responsibility for the crash. There are also important questions, that depending on the answer, will change the nature of the litigation, and hence change the extent of the damages. Who owns the truck? Who owns the trailer that is attached to the truck? Who was responsible for performing maintenance on the truck?
If your motor vehicle incident was caused by a truck driver’s behavior, your lawyer may sue for negligence. In order for the legal action to be successful, your lawyer will have to demonstrate that the driver’s negligent actions caused you to sustain the injuries you did. Common causes of negligence include, but are not limited to, the following: lack of experience, overloading an oversized truck, reckless driving, distracted driving, and drivers’ ignorance of local and state traffic laws.
If the engineering of the truck (or one of its components), was found to be a contributing factor to your accident, your attorney may choose to file a product liability lawsuit. In this case, your lawyer will need to demonstrate the following evidence: that a defective part was deemed unreasonably dangerous, and there was no major maintenance since the truck’s initial purchase.
They must also prove that there were no operational deficiencies on behalf of the truck driver itself. Unfortunately, many truck accident victims do not survive. When this happens, some families attempt to file claims on behalf of their loved ones. This claim is called a wrongful death lawsuit (and will be looked at later).
It’s important to know what factors caused truck accidents in the first place. One of the main causes occurs when trucking industry regulations are not followed. Trucking companies are required to keep extensive driving logs and records. If the driver who caused the accident was not following the proper procedure, he or she could be held accountable for causing the accident. When it comes to driving trucks, there are many unique procedures that need a specialized form of a driver’s license.
Another cause occurs when the truck was not maintained properly. In the event that the trucking company failed to make the necessary repairs, the company itself can be held responsible. This lawsuit can be incredibly complex; therefore, these kinds of actions usually need a qualified lawyer to navigate through the claim. Sometimes, the truck driver has a responsibility to maintain certain aspects of the truck, for example, making sure that the engine is working at a basic level, there are no maintenance lights on, or making sure that the gas has been filled properly. If the driver acts negligently regarding basic maintenance, they may be held liable for the victim’s injuries.
A third reason truck accidents occur is when a truck driver fails to obey traffic laws. These drivers are often very tired, and they are sometimes late for a delivery. Therefore, there are times when drivers will break the speed limit and / or fail to follow other laws in order to get their delivery completed on time. The driver will be responsible if involved in an accident due to a failure to follow the traffic laws.
As the victim in a trucking accident, demonstrating the guilt of the responsible party will be one of your lawyer’s most significant tasks. When this happens, your truck accident attorney will collect the necessary info to establish your position, including for following: the available camera footage, witness interviews, police and accident reports, medical reports, and expert consultants.
There are many possible defendants in truck accident cases. The main two being the truck driver and the company that employs the driver. Other ones include the owner of the truck, the owner of the trailer attached to the truck, the facility that loaded the cargo onto the truck, as well as the company that repairs / performs maintenance on the truck. Note that truck accident liability is not always straightforward, and often requires a thorough investigation because there are so many parties and lots of different pieces of property (as seen above). This complexity usually means there will be a need for an immediate investigation. Why is an investigation by a law firm important? The reason it’s important is that evidence usually begins to disappear very quickly after the accident. Also, there can be two types of investigators, which can have conflicting accounts of events; the police (which are investigators) and the truck’s insurance company’s own investigators.
Truck accident damages are essentially divided into two categories: economic and non-economic. The former includes things such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damages. The latter includes things such as mental anguish, psychological and emotional distress, mental effects from disfigurement, and other issues. It’s important to note that the spouse of a truck accident victim may also be able to obtain non-economic damages. This occurs when the spouse has relied on his / her partner for financial needs. For example, if a truck accident victim’s wife did not work and now experienced mental anguish due to monetary stress, they can also bring legal action for her individual damages.
These are some of the most contentious and serious types of lawsuits that can be brought regarding truck accidents. The reason for this is because of the nature and severity of the injuries that are usually involved. In comparison to a car accident, truck accident deaths are usually much more painful for the victim. When plaintiffs bring a wrongful death claim, such a plaintiff must have some type of special relationship with the deceased. Specifically, the people who may qualify as persons entitled to bring actions include, but are not necessarily limited to, siblings, parents, and spouses.
The boilerplate elements to truck accident wrongful death claims include the following. First, someone (namely the victim) must have died. Secondly, such a person must have died due to the intentional and / or negligent conduct of the defendant (namely the truck driver). Third, the plaintiffs must have suffered either one of both economic damages and non-economic damages.
There are numerous ways the defendant can respond to these allegations. First of all, they may state that the truck driver was an independent contractor, and therefore, the driver should be individually responsible (not the trucking company). Secondly, they may state that the accident was the deceased’s fault, due to things such as distracted driving, failing to obey traffic laws, driving while under the influence, etc. Third, the defendant may argue that death was the result of an ‘Act of God’, which means the defendant is arguing that intervening forces caused the accident. These intervening forces can include, but are not limited to, floods, earthquakes, power outages, and other natural disasters that were not in any human being’s control. This third claim, if argued correctly, may be sufficient enough to remove the defendant from liability.
Overall, truck accidents, although very severe, are some of the most common kinds of accidents in regards to motor vehicle accidents in both the United States and, more specifically, in Louisiana. If you want to bring a claim in regards to this kind of incident, a lawyer should almost always be hired. The damages can be particularly high and insurance companies will not want to pay them out, therefore a qualified attorney will help you navigate the process appropriately.