Every year there are almost a half million large truck accidents in the United States. Truck driver error causes the vast majority, and many of those errors are related to falling asleep at the wheel. In 2014, there were 846 fatalities recorded in NHTSA’s database that were drowsy-driving-related. See https://one.nhtsa.gov/Driving-Safety/Drowsy-Driving/scope–of–the–problem. That number has not improved year after year.
Trucks are 20-30 times heavier than a typical car. They should be operated with the utmost care. When a truck or tractor-trailer kills or injures someone you love, you want and deserve answers. The truck owner will not provide them. Companies routinely try to hide an accident’s true cause and blame you, the victim.
Tractor-trailer catastrophes are far more complicated than car accidents. To uncover what happened, it is critical that you promptly retain attorneys who have already represented other victims of trucking accidents. The accident scene, the truck itself, video, key records and witnesses all can change, be altered or disappear quickly. Truckers and their insurers will quickly send agents to the scene who represent their interests – and you should too.
Our investigators will immediately photograph the accident scene, secure physical evidence and obtain witness statements to protect you. We will send preservation of evidence letters to the motor carrier and the truck driver. We will be sure that the carrier maintains the tractor’s engine control module and other in-cab electronics, including data on the tractor’s speed, the governor, lights, video, and GPS tracking.
Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer tractor-trailer attorneys know what to do and look for at the beginning of the investigation — when it matters most.
Ultimately, our accident reconstruction expert will take the facts and materials we gather and work with an animator to create a video simulation of exactly what happened so those responsible can be held liable and you and your family can obtain justice.
What To Do First
At the scene of a wreck, first, be sure that everyone is safe, meaning that 911 is called, all persons are out of the way of traffic and anyone needing medical attention has it.
Second, write down the names, phone numbers, and addresses of the parties and all witnesses.
Third, if you can do so safely, photograph or video everything. Pictures taken immediately after the accident typically are the most accurate and valuable; that means photographing or shooting video of all vehicles (from every side), the scene, sight lines, signage, the weather and lighting, and any injuries you sustained.
Do not admit fault and do not make a statement to anyone other than a police officer.
It is not unusual for an agent from the trucker’s insurance company to call or even visit you after the accident. They do not represent your interests. Do not agree to make a video statement, and do not sign anything the insurance company presents. Call an attorney immediately.
The Anatomy of a Truck Disaster
When investigating the cause of a trucking accident, here are some of the things that we look for:
Commercial Driver Hiring Practices: Was the driver qualified at the time of hiring to be driving the truck and fit to be on the road? We scrutinize the truck driver’s personnel file, criminal record and employment/driving history. This includes drug screens and evaluations from the driver’s probationary period with the current company.
Carrier Safety Policies: Truckers must comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and state CDL requirements. One key component of Federal law governs how many hours an operator may drive.
Drivers of so-called “longer combination vehicles” (typically two or even three trailers) must receive extra training.
Carriers also should conduct ongoing operator training and be able to provide evidence of completion for all drivers, including nighttime safety programs (midnight to 6:00 a.m. is known as the “danger zone” in the trucking safety world).
Drowsy Driving/Hours of Service Violations: This is probably the number one cause of trucking accidents in the United States. Every investigation must include a careful look at the operator’s log, diary and other evidence of how long the trucker went without sleep before the incident. It is also important to see if the trucking company required dispatcher clearance of the driver’s recent activities to assure that all drivers are rested and fit to drive.
It is an open question whether courts can now hold truck manufacturers liable for not installing collision avoidance systems in newer trucks, when this technology is found in almost all new cars.
Here is a video showing how effective and potentially life-saving truck collision avoidance technology is:
Tragically, companies like Volvo and Daimler provide collision avoidance in new trucks sold in Europe, but they do not in the U.S. because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does not require it.
Load Balance, Securement and Overload: There are clear standards how loads are to be placed on tractor-trailers. Violations of these standards due to laziness, inexperience or rushing cause tragedy on highways every day.
Shoulder Parking and U-Turns: These are generally prohibited for large tractor trailers since they are very dangerous. This is particularly true at night.
Failure to install side guards, rear guards and reflective tape on tractor-trailers: The trucking industry has known for many years about the danger of “side underride,” which occurs when a car is jammed under a tractor-trailer. These are gruesome with car occupants typically suffering severe head injuries.
Trailer side guards are very effective at preventing this type of tragedy but are too seldom used.
Reflective tape is now mandatory on tractor-trailers to avoid cars failing to see a turning trailer at night and during periods of poor visibility.
Tire Failure and Negligent Maintenance: It is very common for trucking companies to fail to properly inspect and maintain tires and brakes. The reason is cost. Repairs cost money. Taking a truck out of service also costs money. When this kind of inexcusable behavior devastates a family, however, the trucking company must be held accountable.
Learn the many options available to you or a loved one following a truck accident by contacting the national truck accident lawyers at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer. You will receive a no-cost evaluation to see if our team can help. Remember, we never charge a fee unless we collect for you. Also don’t forget that all states impose statutes of limitations which set a deadline for when a claim may be filed. It is important to contact a truck lawyer as soon as possible to avoid forfeiting your valuable claim.
If you or a loved one has been critically injured do to someone else’s negligence, please click here to fill out the contact form, or call 1-800-535-1797 and someone from our team will be ready to help.
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Tim was a talented young man who had distinguished himself in public service, and was just starting to build a new career when he was killed in a fiery accident.