Tractor Trailer and Truck Cases
The major difference between an automobile accident versus one involving a tractor trailer or other commercial truck is the severity of the consequences. Commercial trucks can have maximum weights of up to 70,000, whereas a normal car or sports utility vehicle weighs between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds. Therefore, when a commercial truck hits someone in a passenger vehicle and a death occurs, it is almost always someone in the car or SUV that is killed, not the tractor trailer driver. When a truck driver causes serious injury or death, the driver as well as the trucking company that employs him or her, can be held responsible.
Tractor trailer cases are significantly different than a standard automobile accident case in that truck drivers and trucking companies are required to comply with a different set of rules and regulations, compared with drivers of passenger vehicles. These regulations are called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and they set forth rules on issues such as brake inspection, maximum loading of tractor trailers, driver qualifications, pre-trip inspections of the tractor trailers and the maximum number of hours that a tractor trailer driver can operate in a given time period to prevent fatigued truck drivers from operating on our highways.
Since tractor trailer and commercial vehicle cases are governed by a special set of federal regulations, it is important that you have attorneys representing you who have experience in the complicated issues involved in tractor trailer litigation. You should hire attorneys who have experience in investigating and preparing this type of case for trial. Pierce & Thornton's attorneys have that experience and specialized knowledge.
What are some of the causes of tractor trailer or commercial vehicle crashes? There are many factors that occur in combination to cause a tractor trailer crash. Despite the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations limiting the number of hours of service that a driver can operate, driver fatigue is still cited as the cause of approximately 20 to 35% of all truck crashes. Another common cause is a driver's lack of proper training or experience in operating a tractor trailer. Failure to conduct proper pre-trip inspections, overloading the trailer or failing to have proper safety systems in place, such as safety lights, reflectors and properly maintained brakes, are other common reasons that tractor trailer crashes occur.
Once a tractor trailer crash has happened, the insurance company for the trucking company typically sends a response team to the crash scene for purposes of photographing, measuring and gathering other important evidence regarding the crash. Unfortunately, the victim of the crash and the victim's family is often not in a position to conduct an investigation on the scene, and therefore, the trucking company immediately gains an advantage in having first access to the scene, witnesses and law enforcement personnel "working the scene". Trucking companies often send accident reconstruction experts who are trained in engineering or are former law enforcement personnel, who have special training in the dynamics of a high energy collision, such as a tractor trailer crash. Accident reconstruction experts are often able to calculate the speed of the vehicles involved, using the skidmarks on the roadway, the amount of "crush" damage to the vehicles impacted and scientific calculations of time, distance and reaction time of the drivers.
Knowing that the trucking company and its insurance company have the advantage in the early stages of crash investigation, it is vital for the victim or his family to act quickly to preserve the physical evidence at the scene of a tractor trailer crash. There is time-sensitive information that must be preserved if one is to successfully litigate a case against a major trucking company, its insurance carrier(s), lawyers and experts.
You should contact an attorney to protect your or your loved one's rights immediately. At Pierce & Thornton, we have experience in dealing with the specialized regulations that apply to the trucking industry. We have handled tractor trailer cases here in Virginia and in other states. It is important that you contact one of our experienced lawyers now so that we can take immediate steps to investigate, secure the evidence and interview the witnesses.
If you, a loved one or friend have been involved in an accident with a tractor trailer or other commercial vehicle, contact Pierce & Thornton for a free consultation.