Crashes involving trucks are more likely to cause serious injury or death for many reasons, including the size and weight of tractor-trailers as compared to smaller passenger cars. If you have been injured in a collision with a semi-truck or tractor trailer—or if your loved one lost his or her life—you should consult with a compassionate attorney to understand your legal rights during this difficult time.
Commercial truck crash claims are significantly different than standard car accident cases. Trucks are likely to be owned by a company that employs the truck driver, which makes the trucking company liable for the accident. Because of the nature of the trucking industry, there may be multiple parties liable for your losses in an accident.
Our skilled and dedicated attorneys could:
Investigate the accident and identify all parties potentially liable
Fight to hold the trucking company accountable for the harm caused
Pursue the full compensation needed to recover from a devastating 18-wheeler accident.
A Kentucky truck accident lawyer at Becker Law Office can evaluate your case free of charge and discuss your rights to seek monetary compensation from the truck driver, trucking company and/or others responsible for your crash. We understand the devastation a truck collision can cause and our attorneys are committed to helping you seek justice.
Causes of Truck Crashes
Kentucky had 162,940 commercial trucks registered in the state as of 2015. Professional truck drivers are held to higher standards when it comes to road safety laws because of the potential harm a big rig can cause.
For example, drivers of commercial trucks, tractor-trailers and buses are required to have commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs). And while most drivers can be charged with drunk driving if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, truck drivers are considered to be breaking the law if their BAC is just .04% or greater.
Despite the fact that commercial truck drivers are expected to be skilled at piloting their large vehicles, truck wrecks happen every day. Tractor-trailer crashes have many different causes, including errors made by truck drivers, disregard for safety by a trucking company and defective truck components such as faulty brakes.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates truck drivers and trucking companies and has analyzed the causes of truck accidents. According to the latest data from the FMCSA, approximately 60 percent of all fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred on rural roads and 25 percent on rural or urban Interstate highways.
The FMCSA indicates that certain types of dangerous driver behavior are among the top causes of accidents. These include:
Speeding, the most often cited driver-related factor
Driver inattention, the second most common contributing factor in truck collisions.
Kentucky keeps data on how truck crashes occur in the state. According to the state’s most recent Traffic Collision Facts, for the year counted:
Driver distraction was a contributing factor in 333 truck crashes, including four fatal crashes. Cell phone use was a factor in 41 accidents. Driver distraction can significantly increase the risk of an accident. Using a handheld cell phone — which is prohibited under FMCSA rules — increases a truck driver’s risk of a crash by four times. A person texting on a cell phone is 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident than someone paying full attention to the task of driving.
Speeding was a leading cause of many accidents. Drivers going too fast for road conditions (regardless of speed limit) were involved in 297 accidents, including nine fatal crashes. In 39 accidents, including five fatal collisions, drivers were exceeding the posted speed limit.
Failure to yield the right of way was a contributing factor in 855 truck crashes, including 13 fatal collisions.
Following too closely or tailgating was listed as a contributing cause of 416 accidents, including four fatalities.
Disregarding traffic signals was a driver-contributing factor in a total of 215 truck wrecks, including seven fatal wrecks.
Alcohol was involved in 100 truck collisions, five of which involved fatalities. Drug use, also illegal under Kentucky’s impaired driving laws, played a role in 51 truck collisions. “Medication” was blamed for six additional accidents. Truck drivers often overlook the effects certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can have on alertness.
Driver fatigue played a role in 60 accidents and one fatal wreck. Truck drivers fell asleep at the wheel in 112 accidents, including two fatal crashes. The FMCSA limits the number of hours that truckers can drive to try to prevent collisions involving fatigue and drowsy drivers. But studies show that truckers routinely violate these Hours of Service (HOS) limits and drive while dangerously fatigued.
Improper backing caused 140 collisions.
Passing improperly was a contributing factor in 139 crashes, including one fatal accident.
Improper turning was a contributing factor in 164 accidents, including three fatal collisions.
Other driver errors — inattention, misjudging clearance and “not under proper control” combined for 6,472 truck collisions, including 73 fatalities.
These are the top driver-contributed factors in truck crashes in Kentucky. The state’s Traffic Collision Facts also identify other driver-related accident causes, which include loss of consciousness or fainting, oversteering, the driver becoming ill, physical disability, “emotional,” and the driver weaving in traffic.
Driver behavior is not the only reason for these accidents. Sometimes a defect in the vehicle occurs such as a tire blowout or brake failure that leads to a wreck. In fact, in a total of 314 truck accidents in Kentucky, a vehicle problem was a contributing factor to the crash.
Vehicle factors responsible for accidents included problems with securing the load, a load that was too large, tire or brake failure, a defect in the tow hitch that caused the units to separate, a headlight or other lighting defect or steering failure.
Uncovering the cause of the truck accident is very important since the person or company responsible for causing an accident is responsible for the losses suffered in the crash, which is why the aid and counsel of an experienced Kentucky lawyer could be crucial.
Who May Be Liable in a Truck Accident?
It is not unusual for multiple parties to be partly responsible for an accident. This may result in multiple claims. It can lead to the insurers for the various parties pointing fingers at each other to avoid paying a claim.
Our truck accident attorneys in Kentucky have the experience and resources to investigate and identify all the parties potentially liable in a truck crash and pursue claims on your behalf. This may include the:
There are multiple ways that driver error, negligence or recklessness may contribute to a serious 18-wheeler accident. A truck driver is also required by the FMCSA to inspect his rig and cargo to ensure safety before hitting the road.
A trucking company is responsible for the activities of its employees, including truckers and others, and for the safety of trucks and cargo they put on the road. Trucking companies must perform regular maintenance on their vehicles to keep them in safe operating condition.
Some trucks are loaded by third parties, who may be liable for accidents caused by shifting cargo or spills that happen because of improper loading or overloading.
Some trucks are maintained by third-party service vendors, who may be held liable if their work contributed to a vehicle problem that caused a crash.
If the failure of a component of a large commercial truck (such as tires, brakes, lighting, couplings, etc.) caused an accident, the component manufacturer may be held responsible through a product liability lawsuit.
If road design or construction mistakes, or lack of maintenance on a stretch of highway, contributed to a truck crash, a governmental entity responsible for the road and/or contractors it hired may be liable. They may be liable for poorly marked road construction work zones that prove unsafe and contribute to an accident.
Any party whose negligence or recklessness contributed to the accident you were involved in should be held accountable for your costs and losses. Our investigation into your accident may indicate that one or more parties contributed to the crash that injured you, and should, therefore, compensate you.
Injuries from Collisions with Tractor-Trailers
Accidents involving tractor-trailers and other trucks can cause serious injury or result in death. They are more likely to be fatal because:
Large trucks are generally defined as those weighing 10,000 pounds or more. However, trucks and tractor-trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when loaded. Since the average car weighs just between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds, passenger vehicles are significantly outweighed and provide little protection from the impact of a truck crash.
For example, trucks have a higher center of gravity and are more likely to roll over than passenger cars. When a truck tips over, other vehicles, motorists, and pedestrians can be crushed. In a rollover, cargo inevitably spills, which causes an additional crash hazard. Trucks can also be involved in jackknife accidents, in which a tractor-trailer’s cab and trailer spin out of control independently of each other.
Trucks often travel on highways and interstates as they move goods across the country. This means they are often traveling at 55 to 70 miles-per-hour. The faster a vehicle is going, the greater the momentum and force of impact, and the more dangerous an accident is.
Compensation After a Trucking Crash
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation including:
Medical expenses, now and in the future. The size and weight of a truck may cause serious injuries. Medical treatment may be a one-time event, or it may continue for years as an accident victim deals with chronic pain or a disabling condition. If you are injured in a truck accident, you may be able to recover compensation for your present and future medical costs.
Lost income, now and in the future. When you’re injured, you can be out of work for days, months, or years. If your injuries prevent you from returning to work, you may be able to recover the income that you lost as a result. An attorney can review your case and help you document how the truck accident injuries have reduced your income and affected your earning capacity.
Pain and suffering. When you’re injured in a truck accident, you may suffer physical and psychological harm. Because of your physical injuries, you may have depression, difficulty sleeping, post-traumatic stress, and psychological issues for years to come. If you have suffered emotional and psychological pain and suffering because of an accident, an attorney can help you document the problems and obtain compensation.
Punitive damages may be available in special situations. Punitive damages are a special type of damages intended to punish an at-fault party whose conduct is outrageous and grossly negligent or willful. An attorney can review your case and help you understand whether punitive damages are appropriate to seek.
Possible Complications in These Cases
Truck accidents can be complicated due to the severity of accidents and the many types of equipment involved. Critical pieces of vehicles may be destroyed, thrown from the accident site, or moved by bystanders and emergency responders. Electronic data recorders on trucks can fail and lead to confusion about the events leading up to the accident.
Multiple parties may be liable for the accident. Drivers, trucking companies, cargo loaders, equipment manufacturers, and others may be individually or jointly responsible. None of them will pay unless they’re forced to. The accident investigation will need to be thorough and identify everyone’s liability. Until that is taken care of, the parties involved will usually refuse to compensate you.
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, an attorney can help you put the puzzle together and get the compensation you need.
Retain the Services of a Kentucky Truck Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries after a collision with a tractor-trailer or other big rig, it is proper for you to be concerned about how your medical costs will be covered. What will happen if you can no longer work and support your family? The law says you have a right to be made whole if someone else was to blame for an accident that injured you or your loved one. To learn more about your legal rights and options following a crash, call a Kentucky truck accident lawyer today.