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Chicago Truck Accidents
Full Episode Transcript
Welcome to Legal Squeaks. I’m Dennis VanDerGinst. If you haven’t already done so, please be sure to subscribe to Legal Squeaks on your favorite podcast platform.
Today I’m going to talk to you about commercial truck accidents. From a lay perspective, it may not seem important to distinguish these type of accidents from other traffic accidents, but they are very different and distinct from accidents that only involve passenger vehicles. So this is a topic that’s definitely worthy of its own discussion.
And I have a special passion about this topic because I have served on the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice for many years, and I currently serve on the National Advisory Council for the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America.
As an attorney, I’ve handled numerous cases involving big rigs and other large commercial trucks. And on a personal level, I’ve had loved ones who have been involved in these accidents. So I, I know firsthand the devastation that these types of accidents can cause.
So the term commercial vehicle usually indicates any motor vehicle that’s used to transport goods or paying passengers, but when I use the term commercial trucks, I mean the types of vehicles that can really create havoc and serious accidents on the roadways. For instance, the vehicles that are sometimes referred to as big rigs or tractor trailers, semis, 18 wheelers.
Similar concerns would exist for tanker trucks, busses, box trucks, any large truck of that nature. These vehicles are held to a heightened safety standard due to that size and power.
Drivers are required to undergo specific training to operate them, and the vehicles themselves are subject to regular inspections. Accident cases involving those types of vehicles can be considerably more complex than a regular car accident might have been. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, between 2000 and 2018, nearly 90,000 people died in the United States because of crashes involving large trucks and busses. During that same period of time, over 1.8 million people were injured in accidents involving big trucks and busses.
Now, obviously, people can be injured or killed in regular traffic accidents as well. You know, it doesn’t have to involve a commercial truck, but the risk of death or serious injury resulting from these accidents is much higher due to the size and weight of these types of commercial vehicles. Don’t get me wrong, the overwhelming majority of truck drivers are safe and thoughtful drivers. In fact, I’ve got several family members who either are currently or have in the past been over the road truck drivers. In addition, most trucking companies adhere to the applicable state and national regulations regarding training and supervision of drivers and the inspection and maintenance of vehicles.
And accidents involving large trucks are often, you know, not their fault, often it’s the fault of people driving smaller cars around them who fail to take into account the size of the trucks, the lack of maneuverability, or the large blind spots that some, sometimes exist with trucks, especially older trucks. But having said that, large truck drivers do cause their fair share of accidents as well. And one of the main concerns with this type of vehicle is that given the fact that it has extremely high inertia, it means that it takes longer for it to stop.
And if a driver doesn’t leave adequate room between that commercial vehicle and the car in front of it, he or she might end up rear ending someone with disastrous consequences. So, like I mentioned, regular maintenance of big rigs and other large commercial vehicles is extremely important, and that’s because commercial vehicles are required to adhere to certain safety standards for their air brakes. Large commercial vehicles are notorious for brake problems, and inspecting the vehicle after an accident can reveal important information about the state of its braking system, including brake lining adjustments and durability tests.
Equipment malfunction is often a contributing factor in these types of accidents. Trucking companies have to keep a record of the vehicle maintenance, but they’re allowed to discard those records after a certain period of time, you know, and it’s very, very common that those records are crucial to evaluating accident cases. So it’s really important to gain access to them right away before all the relevant maintenance records are either destroyed or discarded somehow.
Another source of negligence might be the company who loaded and secured the cargo in the tractor trailer. Sometimes loads are too heavy or they’re not properly secured so that they shift when the vehicle is moving or making turns. And that causes the vehicle to become unstable and perhaps tip over or again, get the momentum going in such a fashion that they cannot, the driver loses control of the vehicle causing an accident.
Speaking of the driver losing control, driver error may be a cause, obviously, of big rig accidents as well. Truck drivers have the same distractions as other drivers on the roadways, including sometimes being distracted due to texting or phone usage. But in addition to those other typical distractions that we all face when we’re driving, truckers can have long hours on the road, which can cause fatigue, which often, often is going to contribute to accidents.
In addition, there’s there’s the stress of constantly rushing to meet deadlines with respect to deliveries, and that can play an adverse impact on physical and mental health. Intoxication can be a part of the puzzle. It’s always good to do an extensive search into the driving histories in order to determine what the exact nature of the delivery was, and that can be useful for building a case.
If an operator, for instance, has a poor driving record, it’s much more likely that the accident was a result of his or her human error. Speaking of drivers, a commercial driver’s license, CDL, is the driver’s license required to operate large, heavy or placarded hazardous material vehicles and commerce. The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act established the minimum requirement that must be met when a state issues a CDL. And there are different classes of licensure and endorsements which are going to determine what types of vehicles a person is allowed to operate.
Sometimes there are other outside factors that contributed, that may contribute to these types of accidents, including weather conditions, road conditions, road work, dangerous roadways. These are all factors that need to be evaluated to see what impact they may have had on any given scenario when we’re talking about an accident involving a large truck, or a big rig or, you know, a tanker truck, for instance. Speaking of injuries from a commercial vehicle accident can also be complicated.
Obviously, there’s the risk of serious bodily injury or death, but if the vehicle was carrying a harmful substance such as chemicals, then the victims are at risk for suffering a myriad of other medical problems.
In the worst case scenario, sometimes the cargo might even increase the risk of cancer or respiratory problems, which could affect the person’s quality of life and employment opportunities for the rest of his or her her life. So there are a number of things that are pertinent to large truck accident cases that just don’t usually arise in your typical passenger vehicle car accidents.
That’s why it’s important that if you’ve had an accident that involves this type of consideration, that you have an attorney helping you, that is familiar with the rules and regulations that impact these types of accidents, I hope this information has been useful. And I also hope you never have to use it.
If you have any questions, VanDerGinst Law is always honored to help.
Again, please be sure to subscribe and review Legal Squeaks as well as our other podcast, Uncommon Convos.
Also, check out legalsqueaks.com, where you can suggest topics for upcoming podcasts.
So please have a great day. Stay safe. And I love you all.
Why You Need an Experienced Chicago Truck Accident Lawyer on Your Side
Traffic accidents involving large trucks often yield the most devastating results. Due to the weight of trucks compared to passenger vehicles, the injuries that result from trucking accidents are frequently much more severe, often fatal. (See Wrongful Death) By “truck accidents,” we mean accidents that involve large commercial trucks, sometimes referred to as “big rigs,” “tractor-trailers,” “semis,” or “18-wheelers.”
Due to the complexities that arise when dealing with commercial truck accident claims, an experienced Chicago truck accident attorney is often the best way to ensure fair compensation for the damages that occur in these types of vehicle crashes. These cases are very different from accident cases that involve typical passenger vehicles. They often require an expert familiarity with federal and state laws and regulations that apply to interstate and intrastate trucking. Further, most of the defendants in truck accident cases are corporations who are well-experienced in defending claims and lawsuits brought against them for personal injury or wrongful death.
The Chicago truck accident lawyers of VanDerGinst Law have the necessary experience to successfully navigate through complex truck accident cases to get clients the best compensation possible. We have been selected by The National Trial Lawyers as among the Top Ten Trucking Lawyers in Illinois. We have served on the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice and serve on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America.
We have represented injured clients and their families in cases involving semi-trucks throughout the Chicagoland area, across Illinois and the Midwest. We have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of truck crash victims, and we can help you too!
Additionally, we handle claims involving tractor trailers or “big rigs” on a contingency fee basis, which means that you do not owe us a dime unless we win your case!
Get a FREE CONSULTATION today!
Determining Causation in Trucking Accidents
The truck driver is not always at fault when an accident with a commercial truck occurs. Other parties may face some of the blame, including the trucking company, the maintenance fleet, shipping and loading companies, municipal entities who oversee road maintenance, or even the truck’s manufacturer. Also, the other driver could be partially or wholly to blame. Because liability can be difficult to determine, it is best to discuss your case with an experienced Chicago truck accident lawyer at the earliest stage possible.
Contacting a Chicago truck accident attorney at an early stage is crucial for several reasons related to securing evidence of fault. Investigation should begin as soon as possible to secure the truck’s black box, the driving log, the maintenance records, the documents related to cargo and the driver’s cell phone records. These records can often determine causes for the accident including:
- Equipment failure or malfunction
- Improperly loaded/secured cargo
- Truck driver error or negligence
- Commercial trucking regulation infractions
- Hazardous road conditions
Trucking companies are vicariously liable for the negligence and misconduct of their drivers. Sometimes trucking companies can even be obligated to compensate truck accident victims when the company does not technically employ the driver nor own the truck. Trucking companies can also be accountable to truck accident victims due to the company’s own acts of negligence such as not following proper procedures in hiring and training drivers or failing to properly maintain trucks and equipment. Other potentially liable parties may include cargo companies, third-party drivers, and municipalities for unsafe roadways.
Determining causation often requires an intimate familiarity with the Federal Safety Regulations that refer to commercial trucking. VanDerGinst Law has the experience necessary to navigate these laws and regulations to get you the compensation to which you are entitled under the law.
Common Types of Commercial Truck Accidents in the Chicago Area
The most common trucking accidents in and around Chicago are due to driver error or negligence, including inattention due to cell phone usage or driver fatigue. Regardless of the cause, these are the types of trucking accidents in which people are seriously hurt:
- Rear end collisions
- Intersection collisions
- Driving too fast for road and/or weather conditions
- Left hand turn accidents
- Wide turn accidents
- Head on collisions
- Blind spot accidents
- Undercarriage accidents
Common Types of Injuries Caused by Trucking Accidents in the Chicago Area
Victims of accidents involving tractor trailers, 18-wheelers, big rigs, semis, tanker trucks, box trucks, buses, and other commercial trucks can experience the same injuries as the victim of an accident with an ordinary passenger vehicle. However, due to the size and weight of such vehicles, and the inertia involved, the degree of severity is often much greater. These injuries include:
- Soft tissue or whiplash injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Burn Injuries
- Exposure to hazardous materials or chemicals
- Disc herniations
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal injuries
- Joint and ligament damages
Some of Our Recent Results for Truck Accident Victims
$2,500,000 for Spinal Injury
$2.5 million for family of man who suffered spinal injuries in a trucking accident but died from an unrelated cause several months after the accident.
A young man died when his car collided with a semi-truck that had pulled out in front of him, leaving behind two children. Liability in this case was hotly contested, the case was mediated and ultimately resulted in a settlement of $1,400,000.
Our client sustained a below-the-knee amputation as a result of a collision with a semi-truck while he was tending to his disabled vehicle. Liability in this case was hotly contested but resolved after lengthy litigation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Accidents
What should I do if I have been involved in an accident with a large commercial truck like an 18-wheeler, semi, tractor trailer, box truck, bus, tanker truck or big rig?
Should the police or other emergency personnel be called after a truck accident?
Accidents involving commercial trucks often result in catastrophic damages. Frequently, emergency personnel, including police, fire, and ambulance units will need to be contacted to investigate and to render emergency aid.
Clearly, if that is necessary and you are physically able to do so, you may feel free to contact emergency services. But if you are in a dire condition due to injuries, it is likely someone else will contact those people.
Should I move my vehicle after a truck accident?
Vehicles should only be moved right after an accident when necessary to avoid further harm. For instance, if the crash site is causing congestion which may lead to further accidents, and only if vehicles can be moved safely.
Otherwise, it is a good idea to leave vehicles where they come to rest after an accident involving a truck.
That way police or other investigators will be better able to reconstruct how the accident happened to determine fault.
Should I seek medical attention right away?
If you sustained injuries or suspect that you may have been exposed to hazardous materials after a truck accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as is practical after the accident.
Often, collisions with large trucks lead to severe injuries which may require emergency medical attention at the scene and transport to an emergency room for more care.
But even if your injuries are not life-threatening or urgent, you should get the medical attention necessary for proper care. Even if you are not certain who is at fault, your physical well-being should be your first concern.
In addition, if another party was to blame for the accident, you will want to ensure that all of your injuries are properly documented so that you can receive proper compensation when your claim is resolved.
Should I secure photos or video of the truck accident site?
With the widespread availability of smart phones that can take photos and videos, it is always helpful if you can secure this type of evidence to show the extent of the damages and possibly answer questions about liability in a truck accident case.
However, you should only attempt to do so if it can be done safely, and only if you are not in need of urgent medical attention.
Should I secure contact information from witnesses?
As with the prior question, it is always helpful to gather as much information as possible with respect to what happened and how it happened.
Securing witness information can be crucial, but only if it can be done safely and if you are not in need of medical attention.
Police investigators and other experts can usually determine liability and other factors through physical evidence which helps recreate or reconstruct the accident.
Do not jeopardize your health or safety in securing this information.
Should I give a statement to the trucking company’s insurance adjuster?
Absolutely not. It is common for an adjuster to request a statement. Usually, they want a recorded statement.
You should not speak to their adjuster or any other representative of the trucking company, any other potential defendants, or their insurance carriers. Your attorney can provide them the information they need to evaluate your claim.
No matter how nice an adjuster or other representative may seem, it is their job to get you to settle for as little as possible.
They are looking out for the interests of the companies they represent – not you. For the same reason, do not sign anything they present to you. They may ask for an authorization to obtain medical bills and records or a release of information form.
Do not be fooled.
All information they need can be provided by your attorney and other sources.
Should I give information to my own insurance carrier?
If you have insurance coverage that may assist in paying medical bills (or property damage if applicable) you will be obligated to cooperate with your own adjuster or representative.
However, it is still a good idea to allow your Chicago truck accident attorney to coordinate and participate in any communication with your own insurance as well.
Should I contact a truck accident attorney? If so, how soon?
It is extremely important that you contact a truck accident attorney to assist you in navigating the complicated road to financial recovery when you have been injured in an accident involving any kind of commercial truck.
This should be done as soon as possible after the accident, after your immediate medical needs have been addressed. A good truck accident attorney will be able to gather all the necessary evidence to establish liability and damages.
Often, important information should be secured right away after the accident. Do not delay in contacting a Chicago truck accident attorney from VanDerGinst Law.
Hiring a Lawyer for Truck Accident Cases
Must I hire a lawyer for my truck accident case?
You are not required by law to hire an attorney for your truck accident case. You may represent yourself. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, a person “who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
That is particularly true, given the inherent complexities of truck accident claims. Even experienced attorneys are not necessarily qualified to handle truck accident cases unless and until they have become familiar with the nuances involved in these complicated matters. Even if you could familiarize yourself with the requirements necessary to successfully navigate a truck accident case, you do not have the ability to litigate the case if negotiations break down.
That is often the tool that is used to get a worthwhile settlement.
A good truck accident lawyer can also take on the burdens involved in successfully addressing your claim so you can focus on the important matter of addressing your injuries.
Does it matter what type of lawyer I hire for my semi-truck accident case?
The practice of law is a lot like the practice of medicine. In both professions there are general practitioners who handle several different areas of concern, and then there are specialists who are focused on a very specific area of concern.
A family physician, for instance, may address several illnesses or injuries very well, but may refer a more nuanced illness or injury to a specialist. Personal injury law is an area of law which has developed into a very focused subcategory of law. Within personal injury law, truck accident law is even more narrowly focused.
Truck accidents are very nuanced. To successfully navigate these cases, one must be familiar with the laws and regulations which apply to interstate and intrastate commercial trucking.
Accident patterns and investigation techniques are also very specific in these cases. Therefore, it makes sense to secure an attorney who is experienced in handling truck accident cases.
Does experience matter?
As with all things in life, experience can certainly matter when it comes to handling truck accident cases.
Unlike many typical accidents involving passenger vehicles, commercial truck accidents are regulated by a complex mixture of state and federal rules and regulations which require very deft handling.
The Chicago Truck Accident attorneys of VanDerGinst Law have the necessary experience to successfully navigate through complex truck accident cases to get you the best compensation possible.
We have been selected by The National Trial Lawyers as among the Top Ten Trucking Lawyers in Illinois. We have served on the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice and serve on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America.
We have represented injured clients and their families in cases involving commercial trucks throughout the Chicagoland area, across Illinois and the Midwest. We have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of big truck crash victims, and we can help you too!
How much will it cost to hire an attorney to help with my truck accident case?
Attorneys and law firms can charge whatever they like if it is considered ethical. But most attorneys who handle truck accident cases do so on a contingency fee basis.
That means that they will not charge you a fee unless they are successful at securing you compensation for your injuries. The fee comes out of that recovery as a percentage of the amount recovered.
At VanDerGinst Law, we work on a contingent fee basis. In addition, we advance all the costs necessary to pursue your case. Those costs can often be tens of thousands of dollars, or more if the case must be litigated. Not all firms (or attorneys) advance costs.
Be sure to inquire when you speak to a prospective attorney about handling your case. When we handle your truck accident case, you will never be out of pocket a dime.
Are there other expenses involved in a lawsuit for a trucking accident case?
Attorney fees refers to the amount of money an attorney or law firm is paid for their services in representing a client. However, often there are other expenses which may be required to successfully pursue injury claims.
This is especially true when referring to truck accident cases.
For instance, often forensic experts or accident reconstruction experts are necessary to establish liability. Special reports or testimony from treatment providers and other experts might be necessary to establish the extent of injury and damages.
All of those people charge for their services. In addition, there are numerous other costs that can be incurred for filing fees, copies, reports, deposition transcripts, court reporters, etc. Sometimes these expenses can be thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars or more.
Even though most attorneys work truck accident cases on a contingent fee basis, some will charge a cost retainer to cover those types of expenses.
At VanDerGinst Law we charge NO cost retainer. We advance the costs of all expenses.
If we are not successful in winning you compensation, you will not owe us anything for attorney fees, nor for costs that we advance. You are never out of pocket a dime.
How can a truck accident attorney help with my trucking accident case?
If you’ve been in a collision with a semi-truck, tractor trailer or other large commercial truck, you likely need a truck accident attorney if you suffered anything but minor injuries. The trucking company and/or their insurance carrier have attorneys and other resources at their disposal to defend such claims – and to pay as little as they can get away with.
A good truck accident attorney can help even the playing field. There are complex laws that govern these types of cases. A good trucking accident lawyer can ensure that your legal rights are protected.
These are just some of the ways that may be accomplished:
- Ensure all statutory deadlines are met.
- Review any comparative negligence issues
- Interview witnesses.
- Secure necessary maintenance, inspection, and repair reports from the trucking company
- Secure the truck’s black box information, logbooks, and other important documents.
- Address the possibility of other liable parties including parts manufacturers, maintenance companies, and cargo companies.
- Identify proper liability insurance carriers.
- Hire experts necessary to prove liability and damages, including accident reconstruction experts, medical experts, life care planners, accounting experts, economists, etc.
What should I ask a truck accident lawyer?
In any serious accident, it is important to carefully choose your attorney. You want someone who will ensure that you receive the best possible outcome given your circumstances.
It is perfectly appropriate that you conduct a thorough investigation into the experience and qualifications of anyone you consider hiring. A good place to start is often the website of the attorney or law firm you are considering. You can also look at online reviews to see what other clients have to say about their experience.
But you may spend a great deal of time with the attorney or law firm you choose to hire. So, nothing beats having a discussion to determine what your comfort level is with that person.
Here are some of the topics you may want to address:
- What prior experience and success has the attorney or law firm had with commercial truck accident cases?
- What is the value of your case? Beware of any attorney that tries to answer that with specificity, because there is no way to know that without investigating the case. But they should be able to tell you the types of damages you may be entitled to receive.
- How long should your case take before it is resolved?
- How much do you charge? Do you require a cost retainer for anticipated expenses? If so, how much is it?
- Explain how the process works.
- Will I have to go to trial?
- How often will I hear from the attorney’s office? How available are you when I have questions?
Truck Accident Investigations and Determination of Fault
Who may be liable to pay compensation to an injured victim of a trucking accident?
If you have been injured in a trucking accident, it is possible that multiple parties may be obligated to compensate you for injuries that you sustained.
In general terms, any person or company that caused or contributed to the accident may be held liable for the damages that occurred as a result.
The following are often identified as potential sources for compensation in truck accidents causing serious injuries:
- The truck driver.
- The trucking company.
- Truck maintenance companies.
- Truck or truck part manufacturers.
- Shippers or loaders of cargo.
- Third-party drivers.
- Municipal entities responsible for road maintenance.
A good truck accident attorney will leave no stone unturned in trying to identify parties who may be responsible in whole, or in part, for causing the accident which led to your injuries, and holding them accountable to compensate you.
How is fault determined in a truck accident?
The determination of fault in a truck accident begins with an investigation like other vehicle crashes. It may include an examination of physical evidence at the scene of the accident, and the accumulation of witness statements.
However, in most passenger vehicle accidents, blame is attributable only to the vehicle drivers to one degree or another. In truck accident cases, on the other hand, there can be multiple parties that may be to blame in causing an accident.
Therefore, a good truck accident attorney will evaluate which persons or companies may be exposed to liability by reviewing the circumstances of an accident and applying the appropriate state and federal laws which regulate truck accidents.
In addition to each individual state’s Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determine and enforce trucking laws and regulations. Several federal regulations exist which aid in determining who may be at fault – and therefore responsible – for compensating injured victims of trucking accidents.
Any company that owns a trucking permit is responsible for all accidents involving a truck that has its name displayed on the vehicle. Prior to such regulation, trucking companies often attempted to avoid liability by pinning the responsibility on the driver or other parties.
Due to the complex nature of truck accident claims and litigation, it is important to have an experienced truck accident attorney representing you if you have had serious injuries as a result of a truck accident.
VanDerGinst Law has the experience necessary to get you the financial recovery to which you are entitled.
Do special laws and regulations apply to truck drivers?
Chicago truck accident cases are governed by a combination of laws and regulations that have been put in place by the City of Chicago and other local municipalities, the State of Illinois, and the United States Department of Transportation.
Municipal laws that regulate traffic and vehicle maintenance in the context of accident cases involving passenger vehicles may apply in the context of truck accidents as well.
More specifically, however, Illinois has enacted trucking regulations that follow national guidelines, particularly regarding braking requirements, inspection and maintenance of vehicles, and driver drug testing.
In addition, interstate truckers must abide by federal trucking regulations provided by the United States Department of Transportation. Specifically, they must adhere to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
Some of the rules and regulations address the obligations of truck drivers. Others address the obligations of trucking companies with respect to conducting regular inspections of their vehicles and ensuring that the vehicles are safe to be on roadways.
How do insurance companies and trucking companies prepare to defend trucking accident cases?
Trucking companies and the insurance carriers that represent them vigorously defend themselves in trucking accident cases.
They usually get their own accident reconstruction experts and field investigators to the accident scene right away. They secure their truck and often conduct their own inspection almost immediately.
Their goal in doing all of this is to minimize their exposure with respect to compensating victims. Their job is not to play fairly. Their job is to get claims resolved for as little as possible.
To do so, if they deem it necessary, they will get attorneys involved right away. For all these reasons, and many more, it is essential that you get an experienced attorney involved on your truck accident case as early as possible.
Can a truck driver be fired for causing an accident?
Yes, truck drivers are often be fired by their employers if they cause an accident resulting in injuries.
Truck accident claims can also reveal safety violations in a trucking company, such as negligent hiring. That can lead to other changes in the company and may help to elevate safety standards.
Truck Accident Statistics and Accident Details
How common are commercial truck accidents?
Nearly 400,000 large commercial trucks including 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, delivery vehicles, and semi-trucks are involved in serious crashes every year.
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation the most recent available data for Illinois traffic accidents showed 12,267 crashes involving tractor-trailers in 2018. 106 of those resulted in fatalities. Statistically, large truck accidents result in fatalities at a higher rate than passenger vehicle accidents. Big rig accidents accounted for 3.8% of all crashes in Illinois, but 10.4% of fatal crashes in 2018.
In addition, crashes with big trucks accounted for 405 people sustaining incapacitating injuries. Accidents involving tractor-trailers accounted for 3.1% of all injury crashes. Incapacitating injuries accounted for 18.6% of all injuries in tractor-trailer crashes – far higher than for typical passenger vehicle accidents.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, between 2000-2018 nearly 90,000 people died in the United States because of crashes involving large trucks and buses.
During that same period, over 1.82 million people were injured in accidents involving big trucks and buses.
Why are big rig and other large trucks accidents more likely to cause injury than ones involving passenger vehicles?
Because of the massive size and weight of commercial trucks, accidents can be particularly catastrophic.
An average passenger car weighs between 2000 to 5000 pounds and is typically 12 to 18 feet long.
A commercial truck weighs between 10,000 and 80,000 pounds and may be more than 65 feet long.
Why are tractor-trailers so dangerous?
Due to the size and weight of large trucks, they are more difficult to maneuver than passenger vehicles.
Completing turns and other necessary maneuvers require more space than would typically be necessary when navigating a passenger vehicle.
Additionally, larger vehicles require more time and distance to come to a complete stop.
What are the primary causes of truck accidents?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration statistics identify several primary causes for most large truck crashes. Some of the elements that influence the occurrence of a crash take place hours, days, or months before the accident.
Those elements include things like driver training and experience, vehicle design, manufacturing defects, roadway conditions, traffic signals, and weather conditions.
Other elements take place immediately before a crash. That includes things like a tire blowout, driver fatigue, alcohol usage and other environmental factors.
Driver-related causes fall into four categories:
- Non-Performance: The driver fell asleep, became physically disabled, or was physically impaired for another reason.
- Recognition: The driver was inattentive, was distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle, or failed to observe the situation adequately for some other reason.
- Decision: The driver was driving too fast for conditions, misjudged the speed of other vehicles, or followed other vehicles too closely.
- Performance: The driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control.
There are also hundreds of associated factors which may cause or contribute to large truck accidents, including:
- Brake or other vehicle problems or malfunctions
- Traffic flow interruption (congestion, previous crash)
- Prescription or over-the-counter drug use
- Traveling too fast for conditions
- Unfamiliarity with roadway
- Roadway problems
- Required to stop before crash (traffic control device, crosswalk)
- Inadequate surveillance
What types of trucks are regulated by special state and federal rules?
Commercial motor vehicles or trucks that operate on U.S. highways can be classified based on their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).
The GVWR is used to prevent the overloading of trucks. It is the maximum safe operating weight of a vehicle, and it includes the net weight of the vehicle itself, plus occupants, fuel, and cargo.
If a vehicle has a GVWR of more than 10,001 pounds and is used for a business, including nonprofits, then it is subject to federal and state safety regulations for the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles. Vehicles over this weight are required to stop at state weigh and inspection stations, and drivers must follow regulations concerning hours of service and medical examinations.
People often think of 18-wheelers, semis, tractor-trailers, big rigs and tanker trucks when considering the applicability of federal regulations of commercial vehicles and trucks.
But there are many other trucks that also fall under these regulations:
- Flatbed trucks
- Panel trucks
- Dump trucks
- Cement trucks
- Buses and other passenger transport vehicles
- Refrigerator trucks
- Box trucks
- Large vans
- Garbage trucks
Truck Accident Lawsuits
Should I accept a settlement on my truck accident injury claim?
It is rare to get a reasonable settlement offer without some expert work being done by an experienced truck accident attorney.
However, it is not unusual to eventually be able to settle a truck accident claim without the need to present the case for trial. Sometimes it is necessary to file a lawsuit in order to push the defendants into a reasonable settlement.
That is why it is always a good idea to have an experienced truck accident attorney on your side when you have suffered a serious injury as result of a crash involving a commercial truck.
What happens if I was partially at fault for causing the truck accident?
The law recognizes that accidents can occur without one party or the other being 100% at fault. There are times when the truck driver is not entirely to blame for an accident occurring.
If you were injured in an accident involving a commercial truck and believe that you were partially at fault for causing the accident, that does not mean that you are not entitled to compensation.
Each state has different rules that apply when determining fault and whether compensation can be recovered. Some states follow a rule known as contributory negligence. Other states follow a model called comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence.
These laws recognize that multiple parties may have some blame in causing an accident but may still allow compensation, at a discounted amount in proportion to a party’s own fault.
Will I have to file a lawsuit in order to be compensated for my injuries?
Whether a lawsuit will need to be filed to get you compensation for your injuries really depends on several factors.
If liability is clear, that makes it more likely that you can settle the case without having to file a lawsuit. Of course, that depends on if the parties can agree to the proper compensation given the extent of injuries and damages that you have had to endure.
It also sometimes depends on the parties involved. Some trucking companies and their insurance carriers are known to be much more difficult to deal with than others.
Even if a lawsuit must be filed, it does not mean that the case will go all the way to trial. Often, cases get resolved once they are filed because the parties get a chance to conduct discovery, learning both the strengths and weaknesses of each side.
Cases rarely need to go to trial to be resolved. But it is good to know that your attorney is ready, willing, and able to do so if necessary. VanDerGinst Law is always prepared to go to trial if necessary.
Is there a deadline for filing a trucking accident lawsuit?
Yes. Each state has laws that determine the length of time within which you must file a lawsuit to recover compensation. Those deadlines are known as statutes of limitations.
If you fail to comply with the applicable statute of limitations, you are forever barred from pursuing your claim. For that reason, it is important to hire an experienced truck accident lawyer as early as possible.
How long does a truck accident lawsuit take?
The time it takes to resolve truck accident cases depends on several factors. If liability is clear and the injuries and damages are agreed upon, a case can be settled relatively soon after treatment ends or after an injured party attains a maximum medical improvement level.
However, if liability is contested or there is a disagreement as to the injuries and/or damages, the case might have to be litigated before it gets resolved.
Depending on the court docket where the case is filed, a trial date may be set withing a year or two, or several years later. Of course, even litigated cases can be settled at any point in time prior to trial, and they usually are.
How much money should I expect for my injuries from a truck accident?
Compensation for your injuries and damages related to a truck accident case depends upon a number of factors, including: how clear liability is, how severe your injuries are, what your medical bills amount to, how long you treat for your injuries, the types of treatment you have to undergo, lost wages, the impact of your injuries upon your lifestyle, any permanent disability or disfigurement resulting from the accident, and numerous other things.
Because injuries in truck accidents can often be catastrophic in nature, very serious injuries can result. Due to that fact, it is not unusual to see settlements and jury verdicts that exceed hundreds of thousands – even millions – of dollars.
Each case is different and should be evaluated on its own merits. No attorney worth their salt can give you a good estimate of the value of your case without learning more about your injuries and their impact on your life.
What kinds of damages might I be entitled to be compensated for?
The types of damages you might be entitled to would vary a little from state to state but usually include:
- Payment of medical bills
- Lost wages and loss of ability to generate income
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Vehicle damage
The Chicago Trucking Accident Lawyers of VanDerGinst Law Are Ready to Help You
We are available 24/7. Contact us for a FREE Consultation. There is NEVER an Attorney Fee Unless We Win Your Truck Accident Case.
We have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of truck crash victims, and we can help you too!
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