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Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorney

While all traffic-related accidents have the potential to cause serious accidents and injuries, accidents involving large commercial trucks can cause particularly devastating damage. Commercial trucks are much larger than regular passenger vehicles and can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, as opposed to an average car that weighs around 3,500 pounds. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports[1] that, in 2012 alone, collisions involving large trucks caused an estimated 104,000 injuries as well as nearly 4,000 fatalities.

If you have been involved in a large truck accident, you have likely suffered serious injuries and incurred significant losses including medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. An experienced Philadelphia truck accident lawyer can help you receive proper compensation for your losses.

What Causes Truck Accidents?

Semi truck driver error is the leading cause of accidents involving commercial trucks. A study conducted[2] by the FMCSA revealed that a truck accident is ten times more likely to occur due to driver error than due to other factors. Professional truck drivers are required to go through special training in order to obtain a commercial driver’s license and they should understand the risks that large semi-trucks pose on the roads. Due to the extreme risk of injury to other motorists in truck accidents, professional drivers are held to a higher standard of safety than operators of regular passenger vehicles. Unfortunately, truck drivers do not always abide by their duty to drive in a safe manner and driver negligence routinely causes truck accidents.

  • Some examples of truck driver negligence that leads to serious accidents include the following:
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving while fatigued or violating FMCSA Hours of Service regulations[3]
  • Unlawfully driving with a serious medical condition, such as a heart condition or epilepsy
  • Engaging in distractions, such as using a handheld mobile device, eating, grooming, and more
  • Failing to complete all required pre-trip inspections
  • Aggressive driving, including speeding, following too closely, improper passing, or intimidating other motorists
  • Taking turns too quickly
  • Failing to adequately pay attention to blind spots
  • Driving a commercial vehicle without the proper license or training
  • De-powering the brakes in the front of the truck
  • Otherwise violating traffic laws or FMCSA regulations

All truck drivers who negligently cause accidents and injuries should be held fully accountable for any losses suffered by accident victims. Because drivers will not often simply admit to making an error, identifying driver negligence may often be complicated. An experienced Philadelphia truck accident attorney has the knowledge and tools to investigate the driver’s actions to identify negligence to help victims recover.

What is a jackknife accident?

Semi-trucks belong to a class of vehicles known as “articulated vehicles [2],” which are vehicles that are made up of various segments linked by movable joints. This construction allows these vehicles to be more maneuverable than they would be if they were made up of a single unit, but also makes them vulnerable to certain types of accidents to which non-articulated vehicles are not. Jackknife accidents are one of these types of accident that are unique to articulated vehicles and occur when the trailer of a truck swings out from behind the vehicle, resembling the action of a pocket knife. They can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • High winds
  • Improper braking
  • Taking turns too fast
  • Improperly loaded or secured cargo
  • Driver error
  • Coupling device failure
  • Over-steering

Winter Weather Can Cause Semi-Truck Accidents

truck accidentIssues such as snow, ice, wind, and whiteout conditions can wreak havoc on drivers on their vehicles, and winter storms are known for being a significant factor in motor vehicle accidents, including those involving large commercial trucks. Poor weather conditions are no excuse for truck driver negligence, however, and federal regulations require that truck drivers use extreme caution and even stop driving if conditions become sufficiently severe. As a result, many victims of truck accidents in which winter weather played a role can recover from the party responsible for their losses through a personal injury lawsuit.

Winter weather can make roads treacherous

Snow, sleet, hail, and ice are all common issues associated with winter storms. When this type of precipitation accumulates on a road surface, it can make the road extremely slippery making it difficult to keep vehicles under control. Additionally, if liquid precipitation falls and the temperature subsequently falls below freezing, nearly invisible patches of ice can form on the road surface potentially causing serious accidents. Some of the more common kinds of truck accidents that occur in winter weather conditions include:

  • Override accidents
  • Underride accidents
  • Jackknife accidents
  • Rear-end accidents
  • Broadside collisions
  • Rollover accidents
  • Head-on collisions

Determining whether a semi-truck accident was caused by driver negligence or was unavoidable based on the conditions can be a complicated process and requires significant legal and technical expertise. Our attorneys will conduct a thorough analysis of your case and determine whether any evidence of negligence exists. It is important for victims to be aware that they still may be able to recover even if they were partially at fault for causing an accident with a semi-truck, depending on the laws of your jurisdiction.

Claims arising from these types of accidents are subject to a strict statute of limitations, meaning that there is a limited amount of time in which you can file a claim. Consequently, it is highly advisable for anyone who has been involve in a truck accident to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Discussing your case with an experienced truck accident lawyer is the first step in getting the compensation you deserve.

Steer Clear of Dangerous Truck Drivers

We have all likely seen a car swerving, departing its lane, over-correcting, or making other sudden and unusual maneuvers. These are generally signs that the driver is engaging in distracted driving, is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or may even be falling asleep at the wheel. The same is true for truck drivers and you should stay as far away as possible from trucks that are moving in an unusual manner.

In addition, many truck drivers may engage in aggressive driving if they are impatient or encounter slower traffic and this can be especially dangerous. Signs that a truck driver is aggressive include:

  • Following you too closely (tailgating)
  • Cutting you off by changing lanes
  • Making offensive or threatening gestures or comments
  • Excessive speeding
  • Unnecessary horn honking or flashing headlights
  • Following you off the highway

If a truck driver seems aggressive, give them plenty of room on the road. You should never try to engage in a confrontation or stand your ground against a large semi truck. Instead, it is a good idea to diffuse the situation by refraining from returning any comments or gestures and by moving out of their way. If a truck driver follows you on an exit and you believe you may be at risk, call the police.

Avoid No-Zones

“No-zones” are the blind spots on a large truck and they can be substantial. No-zones exist behind the trailer, alongside both sides of the trailer, directly in front of the trailer, and next to the passenger side door of the tractor. If you need to pass a truck or drive in a no-zone, do so quickly and try to get out of the no-zone as soon as possible. Always remember that you should be able to see the truck driver – either directly or in the rear view mirror – or else the truck driver likely cannot see you.

Move Over for Stopped Trucks

When a truck driver has an issue on the road, they may not be able to make it to a truck stop and they may pull over on the shoulder of the highway or of an exit ramp. While truck drivers have a particular protocol they should follow when pulled over they do not always take all necessary steps. You can increase your safety by trying to never pass directly by a pulled over truck and instead move over to an outer lane, which can help avoid a collision with the trailer.

OTHER POTENTIALLY NEGLIGENT PARTIES IN TRUCK ACCIDENTS

In addition to truck drivers, several other factors may lead to serious truck accidents. Some of these potentially negligent parties include:

Trucking company—The trucking company may be found negligent if an accident is caused by the hiring of inexperienced or unqualified drivers, failing to conduct the required drug and alcohol testing on drivers, failing to supervise or discipline drivers to ensure FMCSA compliance, encouraging unsafe practices to improve their bottom line, failing to sufficiently inspect and maintain trucks in the fleet, and more.

Cargo loading team—An independent cargo loading team may be held accountable if an accident is caused by over-loading, under-loading (generally for liquid cargo), or failing to properly secure the cargo in the trailer of a truck. Cargo mistakes can cause trucks to have trouble braking or stopping or may cause roll-over or jackknife accidents.

Truck manufacturer—Manufacturers have a duty to produce and sell truck parts that are safe for use. For this reason, if a defective truck part—such as brakes, tires, axles, steering columns, coupling, and more—malfunctions and causes an accident, the manufacturer should be held liable under product liability principles.[4]

Government entity—The government has a responsibility to properly inspect and maintain roads and highways and keep them free of dangerous hazards. Large commercial trucks are particularly susceptible to losing control when they hit a pothole, a large crack in the pavement, uneven lanes, or other hazardous conditions. If a truck encounters a road hazard and an accident occurs, the negligent government entity should be accountable to the losses of victims.

How Negligent Trucking Companies Cause Accidents

While truck driver mistakes are the main cause of commercial truck collisions, there are many ways that trucking companies can be negligent and lead to a crash and serious injuries. The following are only some examples of negligence for which trucking companies may be held responsible.

Hiring Practices

Every trucking company should have a careful hiring system to ensure that they do not allow anyone who is unsafe or unqualified to operate their commercial trucks. Truck companies should always review a potential driver’s health records, driving record, criminal record, and qualifications such as a valid commercial driver’s license and any necessary endorsements for the job.

In many cases, a company may not thoroughly vet an applicant or may hire friends or family members despite negative facts. A company may be deemed negligent if they hire an unlicensed commercial driver, someone with a history of driving under the influence or other serious traffic violations, someone with a serious and untreated health issues, or any other red flags that should indicate to a company that the driver will put motorists at risk of harm.

Insufficient Supervision or Discipline

As an employer, a trucking company should always stay aware of the actions of its employees. If a truck driver violates a regulation or law, the company should know through careful supervision and should take necessary disciplinary measures to prevent further danger in the future. For example, if a driver fails a drug or alcohol test or has been driving while impaired, a company should take immediate action to suspend the employee until they are sure the employee has received proper treatment.

If a driver is found to be violating hours of service regulations set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA),1 a trucking company should keep close track of their time records to ensure that they do not continue to commit such violations. If a company failed to properly supervise or discipline drivers, it could be help liable for any accidents that result from dangerous employees.

Neglecting Trucks in the Fleet

Whether a trucking company has one truck or an entire fleet of trucks, the company has the duty to keep those trucks in safe and working condition. All trucks should be regularly inspected for any possible defects that may need to be repaired. If any defects exist, they should be fixed before the truck goes back out onto the road. In addition to repairs, regular maintenance must be performed to prevent any issues on the road.

If a truck has been poorly maintained and brake failure or a tire blowout causes a crash, many people can be seriously injured. The injured accident victims would be able to hold the trucking company liable for their losses.

Failing to Perform Required Alcohol or Drug Tests

Because driving a large commercial truck while impaired by drugs and alcohol is extraordinarily dangerous, the FMCSA strictly regulates all types of impaired commercial driving. One requirement2 is that trucking companies must regularly perform random alcohol and drug testing on drivers, either before or after their shifts. In addition, if a driver is in an accident that causes serious injury or damage, an alcohol and drug screening must be performed.

When trucking companies do not perform the necessary chemical tests, it can allow drivers with alcohol or drug issues continue to drive while impaired and go undetected. If drivers know that their employers do not test, they may even be encouraged to push the envelope and drive while intoxicated.

Pushing Drivers to Violate FMCSA Regulations

In some circumstances, trucking companies have even encouraged drivers to violate certain regulations set out by the FMCSA. One common example is requesting that drivers make deliveries faster than they can while adhering to the hours of service regulations. If drivers are pushed to do so, they can become fatigued and can crash. In addition, companies may also create false records to make it appear as if their drivers are in compliance when they truly are violating the law.

What to do after a semi-truck accident

Accidents involving large trucks injure thousands of people every year. In many cases, these wrecks are the result of negligence1 on the part of the truck driver or another party responsible for the truck or its cargo, meaning that victims are often entitled to compensation. A check does not get put in the mail automatically after an accident, however, and there are certain things that victims can do in order to maximize their chances of recovery, some of which are detailed below.

Do Not Apologize

While apologizing after an accident may seem like good manners, it is not a good idea to say you’re sorry after a car crash, as doing so can be interpreted as an admission of fault. After an accident, you should be polite, exchange information with the other drivers involved, and answer any questions that the police ask, but be sure not to say anything that could be taken as an apology.

Be Careful with Your Social Media Use

While involvement in a truck accident may seem social media-worthy, it is important to keep in mind that social media posts can have an effect on the way that your case is resolved. For example, if you post pictures of yourself exercising, traveling, or engaging in other activities that could be seen as indicating that your injuries are not as severe as you are claiming, it could affect your settlement or award. Likewise, things you post about the way your accident occurred could inadvertently indicate that you were at fault for your accident.

See Your Doctor as Soon as You Can

You should always see your doctor as soon as possible after an accident. Waiting to do so may allow the insurance company to argue that your injuries were the result of an intervening cause rather than the accident itself.

Additionally, you should undergo a medical evaluation, even if you do not believe that your injuries warrant seeing a doctor. Doing so will ensure that your injuries are evaluated and that you start any necessary treatment as soon as possible. In addition, it will result in the generation of a medical record that may be useful when it comes to establishing causation2 and damages, both of which are essential parts of a truck accident case.

Call a Lawyer

Truck accident litigation is complicated, and victims who do not retain legal counsel run the risk of accepting a settlement far below what their case is actually worth. They also might say or do something that could jeopardize their ability to recover at all. For this reason, anyone hurt in a truck accident should call a personal injury attorney soon as possible.

Should you Settle your Truck Accident Claim?

Whether you should settle your truck accident claim will depend on a number of factors. Individuals involved in auto accidents tend to sustain much more serious and devastating injuries when trucks are involved in those accidents. More often than not, small passenger vehicles hardly stand a chance against large trucks and as a result, sustain more damage. If you or a loved one were involved in a truck accident, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries.

WHAT IS A SETTLEMENT?

There are generally two types of settlements:

  • Lump-sum settlement – A lump sum settlement is one that is paid in full, all at once.
  • Structured settlement – A structured settlement is paid in regular, recurring payments spread over a period of time.

An experienced truck accident attorney will understand your needs and be able to evaluate which settlement is right for you. Your attorney will also help you determine whether settling is the best option for your unique case.

HOW DO I GET A SETTLEMENT?

A legal settlement is usually reached when the parties are able to arrive at an agreement outside of court. There are several methods that can be used by an attorney to settle your truck accident case. These methods include:

  • Arbitration
  • Mediation
  • Negotiation

Often, claims for damages that arise from a trucking accident can be settled. And in the event that a settlement is reached in your case, it is important to have an understanding of the types of settlements usually available to individuals involved in truck accidents. Below are some of the pros and cons of settling your truck accident claim:

Pros

  • Settling a claim is generally less expensive than going to court.
  • Settling a claim allows the parties to confidentially present their positions without admitting fault.
  • The parties are generally able to reach an amicable settlement agreement because they are able to discuss difficult issues calmly and rationally.

Cons

  • The injured party may end up settling their claim for much less than they would have been awarded if successful in court.
  • Usually, the injured party gives up their right to pursue any other legal claim in connection with the accident.

HOW MUCH WILL I GET FROM MY SETTLEMENT?

Determining the compensation you may be entitled after a truck accident is more difficult than most people imagine. This is because you may be entitled to more damages than simply physical injuries and property damage. Being in a truck accident can be devastating enough, and when you are the injured party in a passenger vehicle, the resulting injuries can be severe, which is why it is critical that an experienced personal injury attorney helps you navigate your legal options.

Calculating damages can be challenging, and the amount of your settlement will depend on many factors such as complexity of your case, the nature and severity of your injuries, and the amount of the claim. Other factors that can help determine the amount of the pain and suffering damages you may be entitled to include:

  • Any aggravating circumstances.
  • The length of time it took you to recover from your injuries.
  • Whether you were able to recover completely from your injuries.

When trying to determine the extent of the damages you are entitled to, it is important to also think about the following:

Lost income/wages
Present and future quality of life
Whether you have suffered permanent injuries
The extent of your property damage
Emotional stress
Potential to be gainfully employed

CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED PHILADELPHIA TRUCK ACCIDENT ATTORNEY TODAY FOR ASSISTANCE

If you have suffered injury and related losses in an accident involving a large commercial truck, you always want to seek the assistance of an attorney who understands the complications in this type of case. At the Levin Firm in Philadelphia, we have the experience and resources necessary to hold truck drivers, trucking companies, and other relevant parties responsible for the injuries and damage caused in serious truck accidents. We offer free, no-obligation consultations, so please do not hesitate to call our office today at 877-825-8542 for help today.

[1]http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811868.pdf

[2]http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief

[3]http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-of-service

[4]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Product_liability

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