Trucking accidents are an often overlooked problem on American interstates and freeways. When it comes to collisions with big rigs, injuries are all too common, and fatal crashes with commercial trucks have grown to a serious epidemic. Although there are some pushing for changes in legislation to address this dilemma, the causes for the dramatic increase in fatalities over the last decade are varied and complex – ranging from over worked truckers, negligent companies, and a lag in enforcing new safety technologies.
Tractor-trailers, big rig trucks, semi-trucks, 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks can create serious problems for other drivers, simply due to their size, the speed at which they travel, and their blind spots. Collisions with these giants often cause more severe injuries, death, and property damage than any other type of auto accident. Additionally, commercial trucking companies often have large insurance companies backing them, leaving an injured person at an unfair disadvantage without an experienced truck accident lawyer.
If you or someone you love has been involved in a Sacramento trucking accident, an experienced Sacramento personal injury lawyer can help get you fair compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and much more. Eric Ratinoff Law Corp is dedicated to helping clients fully recover from trucking accidents.
Drastic Rise in Trucking Accidents
Over the past fifteen years, the number of truck accidents in the United States has increased by 10 percent. In 2002, accidents involving large trucks resulted in 4,897 deaths and 130,000 injuries, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and Departments of Transportation in each state require truck drivers and trucking companies to know and follow safe truck driving procedures. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR’s) are an important factor in truck accidents, as they govern all interstate trucking operations. They help determine whether a commercial truck driver was negligent in putting others in harm’s way. Too often, truckers involved in accidents are found to have violated federal or state safety regulations.
In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 4.89% of truck drivers were taken out of service once inspected in 2012, for having too many violations. That’s 171,150 drivers with excessive safety violations! Additionally, 20.13% of vehicles were taken out of service once inspected in 2012, for having too many violations. That’s 2,145,733 trucks with excessive safety violations! The American Trucking Association estimates that only about 10% of all trucks on the road have some kind of active safety technology installed in their rigs.
The FMCSA also reports that on average in the United States, fatal truck accidents occur nearly 11 times a day, killing nearly 4,000 people each year. An additional 100,000 people are injured every year in truck crashes. In 2014, CNBC reported that the rate of trucking accidents is as bad as if a commuter jet crashed every single week of the year, killing everyone on board.
Due in large part to economic improvements, since 2009, fatal trucking accidents have dramatically risen from the previous decade’s 10% to over 18%. As more goods are being transported on American highways, there is more pressure placed on truckers to get the loads delivered on time.
The trucking industry has struggled to keep up with increased demand for goods, and trucking companies find it difficult to retain drivers they already have. With long hours, low pay and extended time away from family, the turnover for large trucking carriers is extremely high. All of these elements lead to large numbers of overworked and extremely tired truck drivers.
In CNBC’s coverage of this problem, they stated that in any other industry, thousands of deaths a year would generate a national outcry. However, deaths caused by trucking accidents are scattered in small numbers across the country, so they don’t often get covered by national news outlets. Most Americans do not even realize how big of a dilemma trucking injuries and fatalities has become.
Why are commercial trucks more dangerous than other types of motor vehicles?
It is more difficult for trucks to brake. Compared to cars, large trucks need much longer stopping distances to bring the vehicle to a full stop. Recent studies show that large trucks are more likely to cause rear-end collisions simply because the truck driver was not able to stop in time.
Another problem is caused by trucking companies failing to properly maintain and replace brakes. Over 53% of the trucks causing fatal accidents had at least one brake safety violation, according to a Michigan study. On wet and slippery roads, especially at high speeds, large trucks are much harder to stop than smaller motor vehicles.
- Oversized or shifting truck loads create hazards. Oversized trailers or extra-wide loads are hazardous when they infringe on the lanes of other traffic. Shifting truck loads can cause dangerous unexpected swerving into other lanes or rollover accidents. Rollovers are one of the major causes of injury and death in trucking accidents.
- Large trucks make wide turns. The need to make wide turns causes large trucks to move unexpectedly into the lanes of other traffic, sometimes surprising other drivers. Collisions can also happen when a driver tries to pass a truck on the right, not realizing that the truck is in the process of making a wide right-hand turn.
- Jackknifing. Jackknifing occurs when a large truck comes to a sudden stop, the load shifts, and the trailer goes sideways toward the tractor. The trailer may flip and roll. Jackknifing can happen at speeds as low as five miles per hour.
- Driver fatigue, alcohol or drug impairment. A study by the Federal Highway Administration (Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study) showed that tired professional truck drivers get only a little more than half the sleep they need to remain alert while driving. While most people require 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep a day, the average truck driver gets only 4.8 hours of sleep.
- Another study showed that of 168 truck drivers who died in crashes, 67% were found to have some sort of drug in their system, and one-third had alcohol or mind-altering drugs (such as marijuana) in their bloodstreams (studies by the National Transportation Safety Board and The National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Driver Inexperience/Training. Commercial truck drivers are required by law to have special licensing, training, and experience. Drivers lacking these special requirements are more likely to cause accidents as they struggle to maneuver large complex and difficult trucks through traffic.
Truck Accidents Require the Expertise of a Truck Accident Attorney
Federal and state regulation of the trucking industry is intricate and detailed, and there are often many parties responsible for the safe operation of a semi truck. The complexities of a truck accident require attorneys who are experienced in handling truck accident lawsuits.
Our truck accident lawyers have gone up against some of the largest and toughest trucking and insurance companies in the world. We have knowledge of FMCSR’s, and experience in the special types of investigations required for trucking accident reconstruction. We use engineers and expert witnesses specific to the trucking industry, and obtain records about the training, licensing and driving activities of semi truck drivers, including maintenance and repair schedules for the truck and other equipment that may have contributed to the accident.
- Knowledge of specific federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to the commercial trucking industry
- Special types of investigation for truck accident reconstruction, using engineers and other expert witnesses specific to the trucking industry
- Expertise locating records about the training, licensing and driving activities of commercial truck drivers, as well as maintenance and repair schedules for the truck and other equipment that may have contributed to the accident
- Experience litigating against large insurance companies, whose attorneys are well versed at pushing plaintiffs into lower settlements than they should accept
Commercial trucking is regulated by many specific state and federal laws. These laws regulate everything from the number of hours a driver may drive without rest, to the way in which freight is loaded into the trailer, to the types of vehicle safety equipment required for various types of trucks. If a driver or a trucking company has caused an accident by violating these laws, they may be held responsible for the injuries that result.
Many Different Defendants in Big Rig Accidents
When an accident is caused by a truck driver or by a problem with the truck, there are many parties that may be held responsible. Even when the truck driver, alone, carelessly caused the accident, his employer may be held responsible to pay damages to the injured.
- Sometimes the employer is responsible because it was negligent in hiring or supervising a poorly trained or inexperienced driver, because it failed to check the driving record of the driver, or because it negligently entrusted a large and powerful truck to an unqualified driver.
- Sometimes the owner of the trucking company is responsible because of failure to properly repair and maintain truck brakes and other equipment.
- The manufacturer of defective trucks or truck parts can be held responsible, if those defects caused the accident.
- Government entities can be responsible if they failed to maintain safe roadways, especially roads where large truck traffic is permitted.
Gathering Special Evidence in Trucking Accidents
Many big rig trucks have “black boxes” that keep track of important information that can help lawyers and expert engineers reconstruct the accident to determine how it happened. Truck accident lawyers know how to demand that the black box data be preserved and produced for a law suit.
Experienced truck accident lawyers know that the government keeps many records about the training, licensing, and driving activities of commercial truck drivers. These records can be the source of important evidence such as driver log books, tickets for speeding or other traffic law violations, or driver substance abuse.
Government records may also have information about maintenance and repair schedules for the truck involved in the accident, violations of truck safety equipment laws, and other safety violations by the trucking companies.
Types of Damages Recoverable in a Trucking Accident
Eric Ratinoff has recovered millions of dollars in damages for people injured in motor vehicle accidents and trucking accidents. He has successfully litigated even the most challenging of commercial trucking cases, and his ability to effectively understand and convey his client’s story to a jury has resulted in exceptional recoveries.
Injured persons may be entitled to:
- Payment for pain and suffering
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost earnings
- Property damage
- Emotional distress
A good truck accident attorney not only understands the dangers caused by big-rig trucks, but he or she should have years of experience successfully litigating these complex injury cases. A personal injury lawyer with a good reputation will go a long way toward the success of your case, even before setting foot into a court room, simply because the lawyers who represent the other side will already know they’re up against a formidable opponent.
Consult a Trucking Accident Lawyer
Most states have laws that dictate how long you can wait before losing your right to pursue compensation for your injuries from an accident with a commercial truck. If you have been injured in a truck accident, it is important to contact an experienced trucking accident attorney as quickly as possible to protect your rights.
Eric Ratinoff has over 20 years of experience representing people injured by commercial trucks. He teaches trial techniques to lawyers from all over the country, and his team of lawyers know all the complexities involved in suing trucking companies whose negligence caused serious injuries and death to innocent motorists. His extensive experience representing individuals injured in commercial truck accidents include victories in both jury trials and settlement negotiations. This is an important aspect when seeking a qualified personal injury attorney. A lawyer who has won multiple jury trials is always well equipped to enter settlement negotiations.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, you don’t have to face the trucking and insurance companies alone, our Sacramento personal injury lawyers can help. Upon accepting your potential case, we will conduct a thorough investigation and deal directly and firmly with trucking and insurance companies on your behalf. Simply fill out the form to the right or call us locally at (916) 473-1529 for a free and confidential case evaluation.