Paintsville & Ashland Trucking Accident Lawyer
Fatal truck crashes in the United States are a problem that gets little attention. On average, 11 people in the United States die per day in trucking-related accidents. In addition, incidents involving trucks injure more than 100,000 people each year. And accidents are only increasing: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that the number of crashes has grown steadily since 2009. As if that were not surprising enough, here are some more numbers from the FMCSA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- In 2012, 171,150 truck drivers were taken off the road for too many violations.
- In the same year, more than 2.1 million trucks were taken off the road for violations.
- There was an average of 284 injuries per day from truck crashes in 2012.
If you have been in an accident with a big rig, delivery truck, or other 18-wheeler, you probably have questions. Who is at fault? What recourse do you have? How will the bills be paid? We believe in giving you all the information you need to make an informed decision.
What Laws Regulate Truck Drivers?
Truck accidents can be catastrophic because of the weight and size of the vehicles involved. Even at slow speeds, the damage can be terrible. State and federal laws govern who is at fault in an accident. At a federal level, the Department of Transportation and the FMCSA set rules for trucks that cross state lines, including:
Use of Commercial Driver’s License
Truck drivers must follow licensing requirements to drive certain vehicles on the road. To get a CDL (commercial driver’s license), a driver must pass a knowledge test as well as a skills test. If a driver involved in an accident does not have a valid CDL, you may be able to seek damages.
Since commercial truck drivers spend hours at a time on the road, they have to take mandated breaks and get a certain amount of sleep each night. In general, commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers must take a 30-minute break every eight hours, and workweeks are limited to 60 to 70 hours depending on certain factors.
Truckers are required to produce logs that prove they are working the appropriate hours and taking breaks. If they cannot produce this information, they could be liable for the accident.
You have probably seen weigh station signs posted on the sides of the highway when you are traveling. This is because truck drivers are required to keep their trucks at certain weight limits to stay on the road. This helps prevent wear and tear on roadways and ensures drivers stay in maximum control of the vehicle. The truck type determines maximum weight; for example, a single-axle truck cannot carry in excess of 20,000 pounds. Determining the weight of these trucks at the time of an accident can be a key factor in deciding liability for damage or injury.
CMV drivers are expected to maintain their equipment reasonably. If you are injured in an accident, your legal representation may investigate a claim based on “product liability.” Under this provision, your counsel may seek damages from the manufacturer or mechanic responsible for keeping up the truck.
If trucks are carrying potentially hazardous material, they must follow strict guidelines set by the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety. If the trucker or company does not adhere to these regulations and causes you direct harm, you may have grounds to pursue a civil suit.
General Liability Considerations: Who Is Responsible?
To seek additional damages in an accident involving a commercial truck, your legal representation will have to prove that the driver, the employer, or the truck manufacturer is the one responsible for your accident. Your attorney may try to seek damages from the company that employs the driver, rather than the individual behind the wheel. Seeking compensation from the employer is more common because there is a better chance of getting the reparation you deserve. There are several ways to approach a case:
- If your attorney can prove the driver broke one of the regulations detailed above, he or she can use negligence as grounds for a civil suit.
- If the truck driver has broken the law (i.e., by driving under the influence), they have automatically committed “negligence per se.” You are entitled to compensation.
- If your attorney can show that the company negligently hired a driver (for instance, one who had prior convictions or conditions that make him or her unsuitable for driving).
Liability Coverage for Truckers
State and federal guidelines mandate a certain level of coverage for commercial motor vehicles. Kentucky follows the rules the FMCSA sets and enforces. Liability limits depend on the truck’s weight because, in general, the heavier the truck, the more catastrophic the damage. These are general guidelines:
- Trucks 10,001 pounds and under should have at least $300,000 in coverage.
- Trucks over 10,001 pounds need $750,000 in coverage.
- Trucks carrying hazardous material should have between $1,000,000 and $5,000,000 in coverage.
These numbers sound very large; however, your hospital bills, care, lost wages, and emotional distress can easily exceed them. That is why it is always important to have a competent, compassionate attorney at your side.
Determining Your Compensation
When you decide to pursue damages, the amount you may receive depends on several factors:
- Medical expenses. Hospital stays, bills for doctor’s visits and tests, ambulance rides, and any long-term or at-home care.
- Wages lost. The amount of money you lost from missed work.
- Earning capacity. The amount of money you will lose over the course of a career if you are no longer able to perform your job.
- Pain/suffering/emotional distress caused as a direct result of the accident (i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety).
- Loss of companionship (if you are a grieving spouse or family member).
If you have been involved in an accident involving a commercial motor vehicle, you should not have to worry about medical bills, long-term care, or your financial future. Call us today for a free consultation. We have recovered millions of dollars from our clients in our nine years in the business. Let us go to work for you.
Big Rig Accidents
A big rig is simply another term for a large truck that has a tractor and a trailer, such as a semi-truck. These generally have three axles and are very heavy. According to the NHTSA, accidents involving big rigs are on the rise. An investigation into these accidents concluded that the majority of them were due to tire blowouts from speeds in excess of 75 mph or a lack of maintenance.
In many states, posted speed limits for trucks are between 55 and 65 miles per hour. However, drivers are often overtired and eager to get the job done, so speeding becomes an issue. This same principle applies to drivers who miss routine maintenance checks or skip weigh stations.
With big-rig accidents, there are a few special considerations when investigating liability:
- Jackknifing. This occurs when a big rig stops suddenly and the trailer careens to the side of the tractor pulling it. Your legal team will work with insurance companies and other entities to determine if the jackknifing was a result of excessive speed or other types of negligence.
- Turning. Big rigs are unwieldy and make very wide turns. If a truck uses two lanes to make a turn, it may be at fault in an accident.
Delivery Truck Accidents
Delivery trucks, unlike big rigs, commonly take regular routes through town for business. They are not required to take pre-designated commercial routes as larger trucks are. Delivery trucks can cause damage or injury by:
- Stopping suddenly or backing up into another vehicle.
- Being overloaded (it puts too much weight on the tires and can cause blowouts).
- Cargo flying off of a truck and into traffic.
If you have been in an accident with a delivery truck, you may be entitled to compensation. Your lawyers will work to prove negligence on the part of the employer or truck driver to pay for any medical expenses, emotional damages, lost wages, or loss of companionship. Call the law offices at Salyer today for a free consultation. We will fight for your rights to the settlement you deserve. We have won millions of dollars for our clients in our nine years in business.