In most car and truck accidents, the person responsible for the crash is the person who was driving the vehicle. In many accidents involving commercial trucks, the driver is the one who makes a mistake that causes an accident. However, there are certain situations where this is not the case. Sometimes, other people are responsible for accidents, especially if defective tires or other vehicular issues cause the accident.
If you are in a truck accident, you need to know how it occurred. If you believe the wreck was not your fault, find out whose fault it was. Did the truck driver do something wrong? Or did they run into a problem with their truck? If so, the trucker or the trucking company may have failed to maintain the truck, allowing the accident to happen.
If you are unsure how to prove who caused your truck accident, a truck accident lawyer can help. A lawyer could help you gather the evidence to prove that a lack of maintenance led to your accident if that was the case. If you think that a lack of care caused your accident, call an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer to learn more about your options.
What Are the Most Common Reasons for Truck Accidents?
Because several different parties could be liable for a truck accident, you need to know who caused your accident so that you can seek compensation from the appropriate person.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), semi-trucks crash for three main reasons:
- Running out of travel lane, either into another lane or off the road
- Losing control of the vehicle due to traveling too fast for conditions, shifting cargo, vehicle systems failure, poor road conditions, or other reasons
- Colliding with the rear end of another vehicle
Notice that driver error leads to all three of these common crash scenarios. Overall, driver error causes 87 percent of all truck crashes. Contrastingly, vehicle malfunctions cause about 10 percent of accidents, while environmental factors cause 3 percent. Although driver error is the most prevalent cause of semi-truck crashes, these statistics show that vehicle malfunctions pose a significant danger to drivers.
Tire problems alone accounted for about 6 percent of all truck crashes examined in the study, while brake problems accounted for about 29 percent of crashes. If you were in an accident where a vehicle problem caused the crash, you can blame the driver, the trucking company, or potentially even the manufacturer for the accident.
Who Are the Responsible Parties in Truck Accidents?
A few parties may be responsible for an accident with a commercial truck:
As noted, driver error causes most accidents. Common driver mistakes include:
- Driving while tired or falling asleep
- Being disabled by a medical condition like a heart attack, seizure, or narcolepsy
- Inattentive driving
- Following vehicles too closely
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs
After a truck accident, first check whether the driver made a mistake that led to the crash.
The Trucking Company
About 10 percent of drivers involved in large crashes felt pressure from the carrier to work harder and longer hours than they should have worked. This pressure can easily cause accidents if a driver is too tired to drive correctly and makes a fatal mistake.
Truck drivers are only allowed to drive a certain number of hours under federal law.
Here are the basics of how long they may travel:
- A maximum of 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off duty
- No more than 14 consecutive hours after their ten consecutive hours off
- No more than 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days without at least 34 hours off
Drivers must take a 30-minute break after driving for eight cumulative hours without a break. The only exception to these rules, in general, is if a driver encounters adverse environmental conditions and needs to drive for at least two hours beyond their limit to get to a safe stopping place.
If the trucking company pressures or even forces a driver to drive beyond the limits set by the law, they may be at least partially responsible for an accident caused by fatigue.
Another way a truck company might be responsible is if they fail to maintain the truck properly. There are particular rules regarding how a trucking company and the truck driver must upkeep a truck. If the trucking company ignores those rules, they can be liable for accidents caused by a malfunction like a defective tire.
While less common, a commercial truck manufacturer could also be responsible for accidents. If the manufacturer fails to build or repair a truck appropriately, they could be liable for its mechanical failure.
Maintenance Regulations for Commercial Trucks
There are several maintenance regulations for those who own and operate commercial trucks.
Some regulations include:
- Every motor carrier and intermodal equipment provider must systematically inspect, repair, and maintain all motor vehicles and intermodal equipment subject to its control
- Motor carriers must maintain records for each motor vehicle they control for 30 consecutive days, including a record of inspection, repairs, and maintenance indicating their date and nature
- They must retain the records for one year and for six months after the motor vehicle leaves the motor carrier's control
As you can see, drivers and motor carrier companies must maintain their trucks appropriately. Failure to do so can lead to severe accidents.
Additionally, the USDOT recommends that semi-truck drivers do the following to prevent defective tire accidents.
- Examine tires every day for irregular tread, cracking, bulges, cuts, foreign objects, and inadequate tread depth
- Gauge tire pressure cold before each trip
- Only use approved rim and tire combinations
- Avoid extreme loading—overloading cargo on underinflated tires can lead to tire failure
- Avoid exceeding their tires’ speed rating
If truckers take these precautions before each haul, they can reduce the number of defective tire accidents. However, when truckers fail to care for their tires, devastating accidents can occur.
What to Do After a Truck Accident
As you might imagine, it can sometimes be challenging to prove who caused a truck accident, especially if defective tires or another vehicle issue caused the crash. Finding evidence to support your claim can be challenging. You can take a few steps to help this process go more smoothly, although you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss any evidence.
Immediately after a truck accident:
- Seek medical attention. Call 911 to get immediate medical attention for your injuries. You might be in shock after an accident and not notice some injuries. Have a professional check for hidden or internal injuries to protect yourself from more severe damage in the future. Plus, having a professional examination will later help you prove which injuries the accident caused.
- Call the police to the accident scene. The police will write a report which will offer details of the crash and provide a professional opinion on what caused the accident.
- Speak with witnesses. Eyewitness testimony is crucial to proving how an accident happened. If there are any witnesses nearby, ask them for their contact information and a written statement of what they saw.
- Exchange insurance information. Speak with the truck driver to get their insurance information. If the other driver caused the accident, you need their insurance information. Be sure you also get contact information from the other driver to get in touch with them as needed.
- Take photos. Take pictures of the damage you notice at the accident scene if you can safely do so. It could be helpful to your lawyers to have photographic evidence from the crash. If defective tires caused the accident, try to get a picture of the defect for evidence.
- Call your insurance company. Do not admit to any fault or apologize for the accident; doing so could be detrimental to your case. However, you do need to report the accident to the insurance company.
- Call a lawyer. Once you have received medical attention and are sure you are okay, call a lawyer to help you put together evidence for a case against the at-fault driver or trucking company.
If you follow these steps, your claim against the at-fault driver or trucking company will go more smoothly.
The Damages You Can Claim After Your Truck Accident
Commercial trucks are large and heavy, which usually means that they cause severe damage to any other vehicle and person they crash into.
You may sustain severe injuries and losses in a truck accident, including economic and non-economic damages such as:
- Medical expenses for emergency room visits, surgeries, procedures, therapy and other ongoing care, medical equipment, and prescriptions
- Property damage expenses for repair or replacement of your vehicle, phone, and other property
- Lost income incurred from your recovery leave and potentially loss of earning capacity if you cannot return to the same job or working capacity as before the accident
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma or distress
- Scarring, disfigurement, and humiliation
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium (relationship) with a loved one
Speak with your lawyer about potential damages. Your lawyer will know which ones you can claim compensation for and which ones will not help your case.
Why You Need a Lawyer After a Truck Accident
Recovering from a truck accident is always going to be challenging. You will likely suffer severe injuries, in addition to a severely damaged vehicle that needs immediate repairs. With all of that loss, it can be beneficial to seek support from a lawyer to help you with other issues you may face.
If you do not want to deal with the complications of fighting for compensation and negotiating with an unwilling insurance company, a lawyer can help. A truck accident lawyer can negotiate to help you get a deal in a settlement. You can focus on recovering while your lawyer takes care of the complicated legal processes involved in pursuing a settlement.
While you may not think a lawyer is necessary, you will find that your case will go much more smoothly and quickly with legal support. If you have been in a commercial truck accident and need help proving that a defective tire or other malfunction caused the accident, do not hesitate to reach out for support. Get in touch with a lawyer for a free consultation to get started on the road to recovery.