Have You Been Injured In A Trucking Accident?
According to information provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), for the year 2006, there were 385,000 trucks involved in accidents. This included a variety of different sized trucks including eighteen wheelers, semi-trucks, tractor trailers, and various other commercial trucks. Of these accidents, 106,000 people were injured, and nearly 5,000 people were killed.
Unfortunately, many of these accidents were related to negligence. Injured parties of trucking accidents that were caused by negligence do have legal rights and may be entitled to compensation to help cover medical expenses, as well as various other expenses related to the accident.
In order to assert negligence, the injured party must be able to establish that the driver acted in a manner that was irresponsible and careless, thus resulting in harm to others, and owes compensation for that harm. This is proven by providing evidence in the form of eyewitnesses, photographs of the accident scene, police reports, and in some cases expert witnesses.
There are also cases where indirect or circumstantial evidence can also be submitted regarding truck accidents. One example of this type of evidence is a report from a police officer stating the driver of the truck smelled of alcohol, had droopy eyes, or had an open alcohol container in the cab of the truck.
Only injuries that are direct result of the truck accident can be submitted for consideration. Since these injuries can be quite severe, and in some cases fatal, it is important to take prompt action. Injuries can include: broken bones, burns, head and neck injuries, cuts, abdominal injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputation, and decapitation.
Compensation for these injuries is typically based upon how much the injured party has to pay for accident related expenses. It may also be based upon pain and suffering, lost wages, medical care, and property damage. Preset formulas are used by insurance adjusters and juries to determine fair compensation values.
There are certain states which are considered to be no fault. Injured parties in these states often have a difficult time filing a claim. No fault laws are designed to limit the number of frivolous lawsuits, and to provide prompt compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. While this may sound ideal, these laws also prevent injured parties from receiving compensation they are legally entitled to receive. A personal injury attorney can help a great deal with this matter.
Trucking accidents can be quite complicated in nature because there can be a number of contributing factors that led to the accident. The National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly a quarter of all truck accidents that were fatal in nature involved truck drivers with pervious speeding convictions. Speeding is a form of negligence, as is failing to yield to traffic, following too close, and changing lanes improperly. Injured parties in a trucking accident that resulted in the truck driver being cited with a traffic violation can use the violation as evidence in their legal claim.
Another contributing factor to trucking accidents is driver error. Driver error can be any of the following issues: distraction, drowsiness or fatigue, illness, intoxication, medication use, lack of experience, unfamiliarity with the road, inadequate training, lack of attention, improperly loaded cargo, and aggressive driving.
Because drowsiness and fatigue leads to a large number of trucking accidents, the FCSA has imposed rules on trucking companies that require them to comply with “hours of service”. These rules mandate that truck drivers: cannot drive more than eleven hours after a ten hour break; cannot drive more than sixty hours over the course of a seven day period, or more than seventy hours over the course of an eight day period; cannot being a seven or eight day driving venture without at least thirty four hours off; and cannot drive past the fourteenth hour after starting a shift, after ten consecutive hours off.
Injured parties can seek compensation if they have been harmed or suffered property damage from any of the above mentioned contributing factors. Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol is another contributing factor, however when accidents are related to this issue, it typically becomes a criminal matter. That being said, injured parties can file a civil lawsuit in addition to a criminal suit.
Trucking accidents can also be the result of equipment failure. Large trucks are required to complete a certain amount of maintenance in order to keep them on the roads safely. This can be time consuming and costly to the truck owners, which sometimes leads to skipped sessions. When maintenance is not done properly and on time, malfunctions may occur, leading to accidents. The most common malfunctions occur with the following pieces of equipment: tires, brakes, lighting, wheels, accelerator, steering components, chassis, fuel lines, and fifth wheel hitches.
Even though insurance companies prefer to handle most trucking accident claims, there are many times when the professionalism of a personal injury attorney can prove beneficial. Since personal injury attorneys are quite skilled in this area of the law, they are able to determine the best course of action for the injured party to take in order to receive the most compensation. He or she can help ensure your legal rights are fully protected throughout the entire process.
There are also distinct situations when it is crucial to hire a personal injury attorney, even if you have reached an agreement with the insurance company. These situations include:
• Expenses from the accident have not been covered. This often happens in no fault insurance states.
• The insurance company delays the payment of the claim. All personal injury cases have to be resolved within a certain amount of time, based upon the laws of the particular jurisdiction. Injured parties have a legal right to timely compensation.
• A non-insured party caused the accident that resulted in injuries.
• The insurance company has denied the claim and is not issuing any form of compensation.
A personal injury attorney can provide a great deal of assistance for injured parties of trucking accidents. Do not delay in seeking legal advice; your physical and financial future depends on it.