It does not take a physicist to understand, that due to the massive size and heavy weight accidents involving trucks, including 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, dump trucks, box trucks or otherwise, will often times result in serious injury and/or death. Looking at the statistics, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s FARS (fatal accident reporting system) commercial vehicles account for 9% of fatal accidents versus accounting for only 3% of registered vehicles on the road – what that means is commercial vehicles are over represented in proportion of fatal car accidents. In 2007, there were 178 fatal heavy truck crashes on Pennsylvania’s roadways, and over 3000 truck crashes resulting in injury. Philadelphia truck accidents accounted for a large portion of these figures.
The public relations representatives for the commercial trucking industry espouse the training and strict policies that are in place, but year after year unsafe actions of truck drivers cause horrific accidents. According to the USDOT Commercial Motor Vehicle/Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study in November 2012, 87% of all truck accidents are because of a driver error, while only about 10% of all truck accidents are due to a vehicle defect, and 3% of truck accidents are because of an environmental issue (i.e. weather). Despite the ‘training and strict policies’ in place, the most common reasons for truck accidents stem from the dangerous actions of the truck driver – including:
Driving while fatigued and/or lack of sleep, DUI – alcohol or drugs, Reckless driving, Lack of training and/or lack of defensive driving techniques, Speeding to meet tight deadlines, Backing up the commercial vehicle without looking properly behind them, Poorly securing heavy loads, Loading the truck to more than its max capacity, which can affect tires and overall mechanics of truck, Improper speed or sudden turns, which can cause the truck to flip over to any one side, Not keeping the truck in good repair.
Understand that the above list is not all encompassing, driver error can take many forms, and an investigation of all aspects of a truck accident are needed when trying to determine cause. Other causes of truck accidents range from poor driving of another vehicle on the roadway, to unavoidable conditions on a roadway (i.e. an oil spill etc). Time is of utmost importance when you are involved in a truck accident, speak to a truck accident lawyer as soon as you can, because physical evidence at the scene can be lost when there is delay.
Differences Between a Truck Accident Case and a Passenger Vehicle Accident Case:
An important point to understand is that a truck accident injury case is different from that of a passenger vehicle accident case. Although, both types of accidents may result in injury, truck accidents involve regulations that are entirely different than a passenger vehicle is required to observe, which means there are many issues that are typical of truck accidents that do not apply to other auto accidents. Some examples of these regulations: a truck driver needs to have a special license that is obtained after undergoing specific training, truck drivers must have specialized and formal education on how to handle and drive their trucks, truck drivers needs to have special instruction in driving a truck, loading and unloading it, and how to drive it safely. These requirements are not needed of ‘regular’ drivers, other than having a standard license to drive.
That translates to allowing for an injured person to bring suit against the driver of the truck if they did not have the required training, against the trucking company if they failed to provide their drivers with proper instruction about operating the trucks, or if the company employed the truck driver without checking their driving qualifications. In addition, there are many other federal rules and regulations that govern the entire trucking industry. Some of these rules are: preventive maintenance and inspection of the trucks, specific driver documentation and conduct, checking and understanding brake performance, taking the mandatory rest period between driving shifts, keeping a driver’s log book, conducting routine alcohol and drug testing, proper transportation of HAZMAT goods, etc. If the truck driver or trucking company is in violation of the federal rules that govern them, and if such violation has resulted in the truck accident, then liability can be proven, and your truck accident case becomes much more likely to succeed. In ‘regular’ passenger vehicle accidents, there are no such federal rule violations to apply.
Finally, truck drivers and trucking companies must keep minimum limits of protective insurance coverage which are often much higher than passenger vehicle limits. The reason for the high level of minimum insurance is, as previously discussed, the injuries and damage from truck accidents are often much worse in nature and scope than standard passenger vehicle accidents.
2 Most Important Steps if Involved in a Truck Accident:
1. Call 911 and seek medical assistance – obviously get help from the authorities and take care of any injuries immediately.
2. Speak to a Philadelphia truck accident lawyer – There will be insurance representatives calling you, do NOT speak with them until having a lawyer representing your interests, which are not the same as the insurance companies interests.