Large trucks and commercial vehicles, including tractor-trailers, are involved in nearly 500,000 accidents each year. A tractor-trailer can weigh as little as 18,000 pounds or as much as 80,000 pounds. The average passenger car, in contrast, weighs only 4,000 lbs. The difference in weight indicates that the majority of the injuries and fatalities in these accidents are caused to the passengers in the cars.
Tractor-trailer accidents are often more complex than accidents involving only personal use vehicles. The trucking industry is highly regulated and navigating the governing rules is best left to an expert. Determining whether or not the trucking company or driver violated a regulation is a complicated process. There are also multiple parties that can be fully or partly responsible for the accident such as the truck manufacturer, the loading company or the driver. The firm of Farris, Riley & Pitt has years of experience handling these cases. We can help you determine who caused your injury so you can recover sufficient money for the pain, suffering and medical bills you are facing.
Tractor-trailers are huge. They are used to haul everything from cars to produce and furniture for either short or often very long distances. Tractor-trailer drivers are almost always on a schedule and have a deadline to meet. There is a danger to this type of driving that has resulted in significant regulation of the trucking industry.
Drivers are often pushed to deliver goods on time, regardless of how tired they may be or how long they have to drive. A tired driver can be a danger to everyone else on the road. The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) set limits on the number of hours a trucker may drive. Typically, drivers are limited to a workweek of 70 hours and must rest for at least 30 minutes during each shift of 8 hours. Drivers are limited to not more than 11 hours of driving and a total of 14 hours of work each day.
Drivers are required to keep logbooks or records of their driving and working time that can be checked to ensure the drivers are complying with the regulations. The regulations are in place to prevent fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel and injuring others in an accident. Sources estimate that driver exhaustion plays some role in 40% of tractor-trailer accidents.
You can benefit from having an experienced lawyer to help investigate whether driver fatigue is to blame for your injuries in a tractor-trailer accident. A driver may face pressure from his employer to drive in excess of the legal hour limit if there is an unrealistic delivery expectation. A driver may also falsify entries in a logbook with or without his employer’s knowledge. Chances are that this type of accident, will result in severe injuries and mounting medical bills.
Experienced truck accident attorneys from Farris, Riley & Pitt can help you determine if the driver and trucking company may be at fault in your case and can begin to advocate for your compensation.
Defective Truck Parts
Defective tractor-trailers or trucks with malfunctioning parts can cause devastating accidents. Defective brakes or tires often cause these accidents. It is not hard to imagine how faulty brakes or a blown or broken tire can cause a truck to veer out of control and crash into one or more vehicles. The size and weight of the truck can cause tremendous damage and injury to the car it collides with and its passengers. A tractor-trailer in this situation can jackknife or roll over crushing whatever is in its path.
In many cases, the owner of the tractor-trailer fails to care for the vehicle and causes parts to malfunction. Companies operate on a budget, and sometimes maintenance of vehicles is not a priority. If a tractor-trailer causes an accident due to improper maintenance of its parts, the company may be liable for your damages and injuries that result from a collision.
Faulty Brakes. Miles of driving and years of wear and tear can significantly slow the efficiency of a tractor-trailer’s brakes. Malfunctioning brakes can make it hard for a driver to stop suddenly. Tractor-trailers and other large trucks usually have air brakes, which are supposed to increase stopping ability. However, more maintenance is required with air brakes than traditional ones that use hydraulic fluid. There are many gauges and pressure systems that must be adequately functioning in order for the tractor-trailer to stop properly. An accident can happen if any one of them is off just a bit.
Defective Tires. You must change Tractor-trailer tires frequently to maintain traction and to prevent them from shredding or popping. Shredded tires can cause accidents when other vehicles hit or swerve to avoid the dangerous debris. Blowouts and shred tires can cause a tractor-trailer to jackknife or rollover. Underinflated tires, overloaded cargo compartments, extreme temperatures, and unfixed punctures can also cause tires to explode. If these defects cause an accident, the party responsible for safely maintaining the tires may be responsible for any injuries.
In some cases, the tire manufacturer may be at fault for defective parts and malfunctions that cause injuries in an accident. Recalled parts may cause an accident before or after a defect is found. Manufacturers may be responsible for all costs associated with a tractor-trailer accident if inherently defective parts cause it.
Accidents From a Malfunction
If you are injured in an accident with a tractor-trailer, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you determine who is at fault if defective parts or a malfunction caused your accident. Attorneys who understand the complex maintenance and equipment regulations will hold companies accountable if they have not met these standards. Farris, Riley & Pitt attorneys are familiar with tractor-trailer and truck accident cases. We can help you recover lost wages, medical costs and whatever compensation is necessary to repay your damages.
Recklessness by the truck operator causes many tractor-trailer accidents. Someone who drives with disregard for the rules of the road or in violation of a regulation or law may be a reckless driver. Although truck drivers have strict rules to follow, when they ignore them, the accidents that can follow are devastating. Some situations that may be considered reckless are:
- Driving with no pre-trip inspection of the truck, its cargo or emergency equipment
- Failing to secure a load properly
- Texting or talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel
- Driving while drowsy or beyond the time limits established by state and federal rules
- Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, including illegal drugs or prescription medication
- Driving too fast for weather conditions
- Making sharp turns without leaving enough space
- Backing up without maintaining a proper lookout for another vehicle
- Stopping on the shoulder of the road without using warning signal flashers or markers
Determining if a tractor-trailer driver has been reckless requires investigation. The victim of an accident caused by the reckless driving of a huge truck is likely in no condition to evaluate and investigate his case alone. Your tractor-trailer accident attorney can assist you by asking the right questions and seeking the most compensation under the circumstances.
Improper Truck Maintenance
There are federal and state regulations guiding the maintenance, inspection, and safety of tractor-trailers and other trucks. Trucks are required to undergo annual inspections, and truck owners are supposed to keep strict logs of incidents involving the truck. Truck drivers are obligated to perform pre-trip inspections of their vehicle. The inspection includes checking to make sure the brakes, steering, lights and reflectors, tires, horn, windshield wipers and more are functioning properly. The driver signs and files a report for the trucking company regarding the inspection.
The cost of properly maintaining a tractor-trailer is high, and the trucking company that is looking to cut costs may look to do so in these areas when possible. They may choose to honor the delivery schedule over the maintenance schedule. The more maintenance that is done on a truck, the more it costs. The less maintenance performed, the more likely it is that the truck will cause an accident as a result of equipment failure.
The FMCSA identifies the parts that must be maintained to keep a heavy truck safe on the road. They include:
- Coupling from cab to trailer(s)
- Exhaust system
- Fuel system
- Lighting & reflectors
- Tires, wheels, & rims
- Windshield & wipers
If the trucking company or its driver fails at any time, to properly maintain these parts, it is exposing all other drivers on the road to a great risk of injury. When any part is not properly maintained, there is an increased chance that a truck can lose control, be unable to stop, blow a tire, lose its load or jackknife. If a tractor-trailer injures you in an accident, it can be difficult to know what the regulations require and what records to seek. Seasoned truck accident attorneys can help navigate your case and seek compensation from the right party for your injuries.
Overloading a truck is just what it sounds like. It is when the truck carries more weight than is safe. Overloading a truck makes it even more difficult to maneuver and puts significantly more stress on every part of the truck, increasing the risk of a malfunction. Extra weight can make it harder for the driver to stop quickly and increase the risk of a jackknife or rollover.
Complex state and federal regulations govern how to calculate proper load weights. There are weigh stations along the road to help determine if trucks are exceeding safe limits. However, these are not always open. If an overloaded tractor-trailer causes an accident, the damage to surrounding cars and people will likely be devastating. It can be difficult to determine who is at fault for the heavy load and the malfunction that follows. Attorneys can help you seek recovery from the correct entity.
Improperly Secured loads
When a load of cargo is being hauled by a large tractor-trailer, the items must be properly secured in order to prevent items and debris from flying off and injuring motorists. The load must be secured no matter what is being hauled. A mobile home,; landscaping equipment, scrap for the dump, or cars- all must be secured in a manner that keeps other drivers safe. When a driver fails to secure items properly, or perform a periodic check on them, there is a significant danger. If even small objects fall off a tractor-trailer, they may cause injury. Debris may crash through a car window or cause a driver to swerve. If a driver swerves suddenly, he may lose control of his car or swerve into someone else causing even more injuries.
Driving a tractor-trailer while under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or even some over-the-counter or prescription medications, can be catastrophic. Of course, there are state and federal laws that ban driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, but some drives unfortunately ignore these laws. Additionally, the pressures of delivery deadlines despite regulations about the number of hours a truck driver may be behind the wheel, may cause a tired driver to take drugs or have too much caffeine in order to stay awake during a long haul. Under any of these circumstances, a driver may speed, drive aggressively or recklessly, or be less aware of things like road conditions and nearby vehicles. Any of these actions is a recipe for disaster when you are behind the wheel of a 60,000 pound tractor-trailer.
Catastrophic Injury or Wrongful Death
Catastrophic injury includes paralysis, disfigurement or an injury that causes lifelong disabilities. All accidents can result in injuries. An accident with a tractor-trailer, however, is more likely to cause catastrophic injuries or even death. If you have catastrophic injuries because of a tractor-trailer, it is likely that you will have medical bills for years to come. You may need multiple surgeries, long-term care and be unable to work to support your family. If you lost a loved one because of a truck accident, you might have lost the financial support they provided and experience emotional distress. In either situation, you may have the right to seek damages and compensation for your injuries. The trucking company, the driver, or the parts manufacturer may be held responsible for your suffering. The attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt have experience with these types of cases and the large corporations that are often parties to them.
Statute of Limitations
Every state, including Alabama, has time limits during which you must file a lawsuit for damages. These are called statutes of limitations. Within each state, the time periods vary according to the type of case or claim. Knowing the correct statute of limitation that applies under state and federal law is critical. If you do not bring a lawsuit within the time limit that applies to the case, the right to sue and recover damages is forever lost.
It is difficult to know what time limit applies to your particular tractor-trailer case. The specifics of each case determine when the statute of limitations begins and ends. Time may be running out. Contact Farris, Riley and Pitt immediately and find out how to preserve your right to collect compensation for your injuries.
Steps to Take if You Have Been in an Accident
- Assess your injuries and wait for emergency vehicles to arrive if you are too injured to move about.
- Call 911 or have anyone nearby call for you.
- If you can, move yourself and your car to a safe area on the side of the road. You want to get as far away from roadway traffic as possible. If you have them, set up flares on the road in front of the accident.
- Get names, addresses, driver’s’ licenses, and telephone numbers of anyone involved in or witness to the accident. Take pictures if you can. Write down a description of the tractor-trailer and all the events that happened before and after the accident. You may have to give this information to insurance companies, your accident attorneys, doctors, or a judge.
- Be honest and truthful about what happened when the police ask questions.
Contact Farris, Riley & Pitt for Help
Contact Alabama personal injury attorneys Farris, Riley & Pitt if you or a loved one has been injured in a tractor-trailer accident. You will need an experienced attorney who specializes in tractor-trailer accidents – especially if you or a loved one has severe injuries. We will help you navigate the potentially complicated facts of your case, determine the appropriate parties responsible, and recover the maximum amount of compensation.