According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, the United States has experienced a 72% increase in truck crash injuries in the past ten years. More and more people are killed every year in truck-related crashes—the number of fatalities rose from 3,380 in 2009 to 5,005 in 2019.
In Kentucky and across the nation, trucking industry negligence continues to endanger the lives of passenger vehicle drivers who share the road with large commercial vehicles.
If you or someone you love has been involved in a trucking accident, there is legal help available to support you through this devastating time. We invite you to get in touch with a qualified Louisville truck accident lawyer from Thomas Law Offices to learn about your legal options for recovery.
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Truck Drivers or Other Parties May Be Liable for a Truck Accident
Semi accidents are complicated events involving many factors. A truck collision may be caused by an action that happens immediately prior to the crash (such as distracted driving) or by actions that were carried out long before the accident occurred (such as inadequate driver training).
It takes an experienced truck accident attorney to accurately determine how and why a big rig crash happened. This includes examining the actions of multiple parties over extended periods of time. Truck accident lawyers must be well-versed in trucking industry federal regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and legislation at the state and local level.
A big rig has the capacity to cause extreme devastation if involved in a collision with passenger vehicles. Whenever operations involve such a large vehicle, each party involved must work to prioritize safety at every level. If even one person in the commercial trucking industry acts negligently in their role, the results can be catastrophic and are often fatal.
Truck Driver Liability
Because the truck operator is the most visible party in a tractor-trailer accident, many people assume the driver to be liable. But that is not always the case. A truck driver is only one of several parties who may be found at fault in a truck accident case. A driver who engages in negligent or wrongful actions may be fully or partially responsible for your Louisville truck accident.
A truck driver may be liable if they operate their vehicle negligently, such as:
- Speeding or driving too fast for conditions
- Reckless or aggressive driving
- Texting and driving
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driver fatigue
- Driving without the required training or license
While truck drivers are certainly responsible for their own actions, there are some factors that may be difficult or impossible for them to control.
Other Party Liability
In some situations, liability lies with a party other than the driver. It’s possible that your truck accident was caused by an action that occurred long before and far away from the scene of the accident. For example, if the shipping company responsible for loading the trailer did so in an irresponsible manner, the load could shift on the highway and cause a collision. Or a company responsible for inspections and maintenance could send an unsafe truck out on the road.
Entities most commonly found to be at fault for 18-wheeler accidents include:
- Trucking companies
- Private truck owners
- Loading or shipping companies
- Personnel responsible for truck maintenance and inspection
- Truck auto parts manufacturing companies
How Our Truck Accident Attorneys Prove Liability
Truck accident cases are complicated—but they are often made even more complicated by the trucking company responsible and their insurance company. Commercial truck accidents are costly to the motor carrier. Victims of a large truck accident often need to seek compensation for life-altering injuries through a personal injury claim. Many for-profit trucking companies are willing to do whatever it takes—no matter how illegal or dishonest—to shield themselves from liability, avoid a financial payout, and keep their records clean from an incident proving company negligence.
It is nearly impossible for an individual to win the compensation they deserve without an experienced attorney by their side. Going up against a negligent trucking company while dealing with serious injuries can be an insurmountable challenge for many. That’s why the truck accident lawyers from Thomas Law Offices fight to make sure there is no obstacle to justice. We have the experience and diligence to find the evidence needed to prove and win your case. Your experienced truck accident lawyer will do the hard work so you can focus on what’s most important in your life.
After your motor vehicle accident, your personal injury lawyer from Thomas Law Offices will examine the following evidence and more to win your truck accident lawsuit or wrongful death claim:
- Driving logs
- Truck black box data
- Vehicle maintenance and inspection records
- Past violations by the driver or trucking company
- Loading and shipping information
- Driver cell phone records
- Weight station records
- Property damage to roadways and involved vehicles
- Traffic camera or dashboard camera footage
- Driver alcohol and drug test results
- Eyewitness accounts
- Reports from truck mechanics on defective or unmaintained vehicle parts
- Testimony from expert witnesses like traffic reconstructionists and industry experts
Top Causes of Truck Accidents
Commercial vehicle accidents have many causes, but there are a few factors that are commonly seen in a majority of truck collisions.
Hours of Service (HOS) Violations
Driver fatigue is a critical issue in the commercial trucking industry. As experienced truck accident lawyers, we know that a shockingly high percentage of truck accident cases involve federal hours of service (HOS) violations. These laws exist to prevent drivers from spending too much time behind the wheel with too little rest. Fatigued drivers experience decreased decision-making abilities, slower reaction times, and blurred vision. They are also more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel or turn to substance abuse (often amphetamines) to artificially increase alertness.
Vehicle or Parts Malfunction
A large truck like an 18-wheeler needs continual inspection to ensure it is safe for highway travel. Federal laws demand that certain maintenance protocols be followed to reduce the risk of an automobile accident. Truck accidents often result when problems are not caught early and prevented. The most common vehicle parts failures that may apply to your truck accident claim include:
- Brake failure, insufficient brake fluid, or faulty brake lines
- Tire blowout
- Steering system malfunction
- Transmission failure
- Non-working headlights or taillights
Poor Driving in Adverse Conditions
This can include both weather conditions and traffic conditions. Commercial truck drivers have a duty to analyze all potential dangers and act appropriately to mitigate risk. If, for example, a snowstorm makes driving too risky, the semi-truck driver should wait for the storm to pass, even if it means getting behind schedule. Trucking companies also have a duty to properly train drivers on how to handle these conditions and not force a truck driver to stay on the road under dangerous circumstances.
Overloading or Improper Loading
Tractor-trailers are at risk of overturning if they are improperly loaded. Similarly, overloading puts excessive strain on commercial trucks’ brakes, tires, and transmissions, leading to entirely preventable semi-truck accidents. While improper loading techniques may save a truck company time and money, they lead to many serious accidents that should never have happened.
Damages From a Truck Accident
Depending on the repercussions of your commercial vehicle accident, you may be entitled to economic, noneconomic, or punitive damages.
Economic damages address the tangible losses associated with your personal injury, like medical bills. Large commercial trucks have the capacity to cause immense physical damage to accident victims. The economic damages associated with trucking accidents are often much more substantial than those in auto accidents that involve only passenger vehicles.
Economic damages may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and loss of future earnings
- Property damage and cost of vehicle repair or replacement
Not every loss comes with a bill. Some of the most substantial losses suffered by those injured in truck accidents are known as noneconomic damages—the less tangible ways your life is altered by a severe injury.
Noneconomic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental and emotional anguish
- Loss of companionship or loss of consortium in wrongful death cases
If the accident resulted in fatal injuries, the surviving family of the deceased may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim. Compensation can work to cover medical bills, funeral and burial costs, and loss of financial support.
Economic and noneconomic damages are known as compensatory damages because they seek to compensate the victim for what was taken from them. Punitive damages, on the other hand, aim to punish the defendant for deliberately harmful or grossly negligent behavior. Punitive damages may apply in trucking accidents that involve drunk driving, for example.
During your free case evaluation, your Louisville truck accident attorney will sit down with you and your family and discuss all the ways your life was impacted by the automobile accident. We will make sure you obtain maximum compensation to cover all current and future losses. If applicable, we will also pursue punitive damages on your behalf.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Truck accident injuries are almost always serious. While distracted driving might lead to a fender bender between passenger cars, the same act of negligence can kill multiple people when the distracted driver is behind the wheel of a 40-ton semi-truck.
Severe injuries suffered in a truck crash are often catastrophic, meaning the victim is no longer able to live the life they once led. Paralysis, permanent disability, and fatality are common outcomes of trucking accidents.
Severe injuries commonly suffered in truck accidents include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Back and neck injuries
- Crushing injuries
- Internal organ damage
The Difference Between Car Accidents and Truck Accidents
One of the most important things to be aware of is that truck accident cases differ from lawsuits involving smaller vehicles. When a commercial truck is involved, there are several factors that make litigation much more complex. For this reason, not all personal injury lawyers are willing to take on commercial trucking accidents. When pursuing your claim, be sure to partner with a law firm highly experienced in this area of the law.
The following (and other) factors make truck accidents more challenging to litigate than passenger vehicle accidents:
Size and Weight of Vehicle
Commercial tractor-trailers are roughly 20-30 times the weight of a passenger car. This means that any devastation caused will likely be more severe than a normal traffic accident. A court of law will look at factors such as speeding or distracted driving in greater detail since truck drivers inherently need to be more careful while behind the wheel.
Truck Industry Regulations
When an accident involving a semi-truck is being investigated, a court of law will first check to see if everything in the original accident report complies with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and any local trucking standards that may be in place. The FMCSRs attempt to regulate the trucking industry on a federal level by enforcing licensing requirements, work hour limitations, weight, size, and route limitations, and trucking insurance minimums. Any state and local regulations can complicate the case even further.
An auto accident typically involves vehicles owned by the drivers. This is not the case for trucking accidents. The truck may be owned by the driver, but is more often owned by the trucking company or another entity. In some cases, the truck may be owned by the driver, but the load being hauled may be owned by another party. Determining liability can quickly become complicated in these types of situations.
Truck Accident Settlements for Injury Victims
The Louisville truck accident lawyers from our law firm know the cost of a catastrophic truck accident. A full and fair settlement is often the only way victims have to get their lives back after the devastation caused by trucking negligence. As your truck accident attorneys, we make a promise to devote the time and effort needed to fully value your claim.
The legal action we take together can demonstrate to negligent trucking companies that dangerous practices won’t be tolerated. Through obtaining justice for you, we also work to make the roads safer for all Kentucky residents.
Seek Recovery With the Help of a Louisville Truck Accident Lawyer
As with all traffic accidents, it’s important to contact a lawyer as quickly as possible after your 18-wheeler collision. This ensures that evidence is properly preserved if needed at a later date. Evidence at the scene, including skid marks and road scuffs, begin to disappear mere hours after an accident occurs once the police barriers are removed. This means that photograph or video evidence is often necessary right away.
Additionally, U.S. trucking companies are not usually forced to keep records and evidence for longer than a certain period of time after a trucking accident. As such, a trucking company may be quick to dispose of any evidence and documentation in order to avoid possible lawsuits. Having a truck accident lawyer with evidence and documentation on hand is vital.
With the Louisville truck accident lawyers of Thomas Law offices on your side, you can rest assured knowing that we will do everything in our power to help you and your family through this difficult time. Thomas Law Offices is based in Louisville, Kentucky, but handles cases across the entire state of Kentucky. We can assist you every step of the way—from case and insurance claim filing to evidence preparation, courtroom preparation, and the litigation process. Time is of the essence. Don’t wait to receive the assistance you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.