The trucking business plays a crucial role in the economic success of our nation. Almost all industries rely on commercial vehicles to deliver goods and raw materials to customers and businesses all around the nation. This means there are thousands of trucks on the road each day across our country.
Unfortunately, as important as the trucking business is, it is also one of the top reasons for roadway fatalities and accidents. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident with a truck, it is important to contact a trucking accident attorney. The Cartersville truck accident lawyers at Joel Thrift Law are here to help after a truck accident.
Steps to Take After a Truck Accident
It’s crucial to understand that the steps you take following a truck accident can significantly affect your prospects of receiving compensation. It is probable that you will need to act quickly, given the time constraints for personal injury claims.
Remain Calm and Call 911
It may not be easy, but after a traumatic accident, it is best to remain calm so you do not put yourself or anyone else in further danger. Call 911 Immediately and move to a safe location. When calling 911, ensure that both the police and medical services are on their way. Some injuries do not present themselves right away. The shock of the accident can overpower any injury, so it is important to have a paramedic access you at the scene.
Seek Medical Treatment
Even if the injuries are minor, it is important to have a doctor treat you after an accident so that all possible injuries are documented. This will help later with the insurance company and filing a possible suit against the responsible party (or parties).
After ensuring everyone’s safety, it is then important to exchange information and gather any evidence at the scene. This includes getting the truck driver’s information, as well as the trucking company’s information—and, if possible, the manufacturer and cargo loader. This information will be helpful down the line and may show that multiple parties were liable for the accident.
Also, obtain the names of any witnesses at the scene, which could even include a recorded statement. Always ask for their contact information because they may need to submit sworn testimony. In addition to exchanging information and getting witnesses, one should take pictures of the scene and document any injuries and damage.
Talking to the Other Driver and the Police
At the scene of the accident, avoid apologizing or saying anything that indicates fault or partial fault. It is also important not to argue or become hostile at the scene, as this can only escalate matters. Try not to make a traumatic and stressful situation worse. Anything stated at the scene may go into the police report and be used by insurance adjusters when deciding the claim amount.
Write a Preliminary Accident Report
In addition to any reports that may be filed with the police, it is helpful to have your own account of the situation. If possible, documents everything in writing (or on your phone). This will include details like date, time, location, accident description, estimated speeds, posted speed limit, weather conditions, road conditions, traffic patterns, and any other relevant information. It may even be helpful to draw a diagram along with obtaining a picture.
What Do Truck Accident Lawyers Do?
Even though a truck accident might be horrifying, when the insurance company disputes your injuries or assigns blame for the collision, you may feel helpless and enraged. A Georgia truck accident lawyer acts as your legal representative to uphold your rights, combat the insurance provider, and pursue the highest amount of compensation for the injuries you suffered.
Truck accident attorneys will review the insurance policy’s fine print, precisely estimate all victim damages, and manage all interactions with the insurance companies. They will make an effort to reach a settlement that is genuinely just and compensates the sufferer for their losses.
In addition to handling the insurance adjusters and other parties, truck accident attorneys will also be ready to take your case to court if needed. Sometimes the insurance companies will place unnecessary blame or not offer enough claim money to properly compensate the victim, which may require filing a lawsuit to obtain proper compensation. A truck accident lawyer can represent you through claim and court.
Determining Liability After a Truck Accident
One of the primary challenges when dealing with injuries and property damage after an accident with an 18-wheeler is liability. It is crucial to hold the appropriate party accountable for the damage in order to obtain all required compensation.
Depending on the type of carrier operating the vehicle, trucking accidents include a large number of people as well as at least one corporation or government body. In the case of commercial vehicles, the driver may sign on with a firm that moves and transports goods, but they may also operate independently without a relationship with an agency.
In these circumstances, the trucker can still be held totally responsible for the accident. Knowing the relationship is essential for the victim when pursuing compensation through a legal claim with the aid of an attorney. To ascertain who is responsible, an experienced truck accident attorney will research the situation and all parties involved. Determining liability when a corporation is involved can be extremely complicated, which is why an attorney is necessary to help with the claim process.
Proving Negligence in a Truck Accident Case
When proving liability after a truck accident, it generally means that you are showing a party acted negligently. To establish negligence, every element must be met. If all four elements cannot be proven, then you will not be able to claim negligence, and there may not be a lawsuit.
The four elements of negligence that must be met after a truck accident are:
- Duty: Establishing duty is generally the easiest element because when a driver gets behind the wheel, whether it’s a car or big rig, they owe a duty of care to all other drivers on the road. This is an inherent responsibility that comes with every driver. Also, when it comes to the companies involved with the trucking industry, they owe a duty to maintain their trucks and train their drivers.
- Breach of duty: To show a driver or person was negligent, they must have breached their duty of care. This can come in many forms. Breach of duty can be considered reckless driving, not adhering to roadway signs, drinking and driving, texting a driving, excessive speeds, failure to maintain driving controls, not properly loading the cargo, and not following posted rules and regulations for drivers.
- Causation: After establishing duty and breach of duty, the party bringing a claim must show that the breach was the exact cause of the accident. This can be a little more difficult to show because, frequently, there are multiple scenarios that can lead to an accident. This is when evidence from the scene will be helpful. Sometimes a driver will admit their fault and say they caused the accident. However, this is rare, and showing that a driver’s or company’s negligence was the direct cause of an accident can be difficult.
- Damages: Finally, there must be some sort of damages that were incurred. One cannot bring a claim for negligence if there were no damages. Damages include both physical and mental damages, as well as property damages. Generally, this is easy to show after a truck accident.
It may sound overwhelming to establish negligence, but a skilled truck accident attorney has handled hundreds if not thousands of similar claims and will know how to properly show each element to hold the property party or parties responsible.
Common Causes of a Truck Accident
Truck driver error is the most common cause of a truck accident. Long hours are frequently required of truck drivers. Some drivers disobey the law’s requirement that truck drivers have a specific amount of rest. When ignoring proper rest requirements, extreme fatigue can cause an accident.
Fatigue is one of the most common reasons for a truck driver to cause an accident, but not the only reason. Other common causes that a truck driver may be responsible for an accident include driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and distracted driving—using a phone, radio, or tv.
There are other common causes of truck accidents that are outside of the control of the driver. These include issues with the manufacturing company, maintenance team, trucking company, and cargo company. Poor vehicle maintenance can lead to catastrophic accidents. When tire and other mechanical operations go unchecked, this can lead to a stalled truck or a massive car accident.
Also, having cargo that is not properly loaded into a trailer can cause an accident. Some cargo can weigh hundreds of pounds, and a shift in weight can cause the trailer to tip. This can cause injuries to the driver and other cars. It is important to secure all cargo before departing the site.
Federal and State Truck Laws and Guidelines
The federal government strictly controls the trucking industry and all other modes of transportation for the safety of truckers as well as the general public. The goal of federal trucking laws and industry regulations is to uniformly enforce minimum safety standards throughout the trucking industry.
The US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT’s) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides rules regarding truck drivers’ work schedules, drug and alcohol usage, truck upkeep, transportation of hazardous materials, and other topics.
Hours of Service
By limiting the number of hours a driver can work and operate a truck in a given period of time, the FMCSA regulates “hours of service.” This law aims to reduce the likelihood of accidents brought on by fatigued drivers.
The rule has two requirements:
- A truck driver is limited to the number of hours they may drive within a 14-hour shift. They may only drive up to 11 hours during a 14 consecutive hour shift, but only if they were off for 10 straight hours prior to beginning the 11-hour drive. Even if the work does not include driving, the 14-hour window starts as soon as the driver engages in any type of employment.
- A driver is not allowed to operate a vehicle after clocking 60 or 70 hours of on-duty time in the previous seven or eight days, respectively.
The FMCSA mandates that trucking businesses administer drug and alcohol tests to all of its drivers at random. Marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and other substances must all be included in drug tests. Additionally, the blood alcohol levels of drivers should also be checked on a regular basis.
Drivers must be tested at random and under specific circumstances, such as before a new employee operates a vehicle, immediately following an accident that results in a fatality or an immediate injury requiring medical attention, and in a number of other situations required by the FMCSA.
Truck Accident Statistics
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a total of 4,714 people lost their lives in truck accidents in the most recently reported year, which is a 17 percent increase from the prior year. Of these fatalities, occupants of trucks accounted for 16%, those of cars and other passenger vehicles for 68%, and pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders for 15%.
Every year over 100,000 truck accidents result in injury, according to the National Safety Council. Within the past ten years of collecting data, the number of fatalities and accidents involving trucks has nearly doubled.
Hiring a Cartersville Truck Accident Attorney
We at Joel Thrift Law are dedicated to giving you the best possible legal counsel available. We provide sympathetic care to make sure you do not have to deal with expenses you should not have to pay. When you need a truck accident lawyer in Cartersville, Georgia to fight for what you deserve, we are there for you.
We will help you seek the compensation you deserve. Contact us through our convenient online form today to schedule your free, no-risk consultation.