Trucks and Trucking Industry Accidents - New York Attorney
Trucks and the Trucking Industry
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has seen an increase in trucking industry accidents by 20% over the past few decades. Despite this unfortunate increase, trucking continues plays a vital role in American commerce by moving manufactured goods and agriculture produce throughout the country—tasks which could not be accomplished without big rigs and large trucks to do the job. The trucking industry is the “lifeblood of the U.S. economy,” as stated on the website of the American Trucking Associations, the largest national trade association for the industry. Trucks move nearly 70 percent of the freight tonnage in the country. Moving 9.2 million tons of freight annually requires nearly three million heavy-duty, Class 8 trucks and more than three million truck drivers. With numbers like that evidencing trucks on the road, it is easy to see why other drivers may be at risk when driving on roads that are frequented by these massive vehicles. And, while many consider big rigs the culprit, other trucks that take to the road can also pose dangers to others due to their size, improper loads, ineffective loading of the weight distribution, poor maintenance, and more.
News and Causes of Truck Accidents
In 2013, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued a 248-page report on all vehicular accidents. One page in the report is devoted to injury and fatal accidents specifically addressing large-truck drivers and their occupants, and covers a range from 1975 through 2012. In 2012, 697 occupants of large trucks died in accidents and 25,000 occupants sustained injuries. While truckers themselves have to drive defensively, truck drivers might not be more prone to accidents than other drivers, but can inflict more damage to others owing to their size of their rigs. And, we all know that accidents involving large trucks of any kind also tie up traffic (which could lead to other accidents), draw gawkers and propel news coverage. And, sadly, lack of screening of truck drivers means that many companies hire drivers who are unqualified, whether they serve as a subcontractor or an employee of the company.
In 2014, a high-profile case involved a truck driver who killed a man and injured comedian Tracy Morgan on the New Jersey Turnpike. News reports claim the driver was awake more than 24 consecutive hours before the accident. He faces prosecution for vehicular homicide and assault by auto. Driver fatigue is just one of the many problems that face truckers, and others who drive trucks for their occupations. In addition to fatigue, factors for accidents involving trucks and big rigs include improper loading of the truck, limited capabilities in the vehicle’s acceleration or braking, underestimating braking, loss of visibility, inclement weather conditions like ice and fog, extreme driver fatigue, simple driver carelessness and jackknifing. A jackknife is when the trailer of the truck swings around so it covers the entire road or more than two lanes of a multilane highway. Often a jackknife is caused by the inability to properly engage the brakes; other jackknifing can occur when the truck attempts to turn a corner to quickly or downshifts too late.
Protecting Yourself from a Truck Accident
Because of the size of the vehicle, accidents involving trucks can destroy your car, cause serious injuries and death, and lead to lost income if you or family members require extensive hospitalization and rehabilitation. A skilled personal injury attorney could represent your interests by subpoenaing documents on the truck drivers, including whether they have faced suspensions and other citations. What follows are suggestions to make driving safer, while sharing highways with trucks and other large vehicles. These suggestions include:
- While driving, keep a safe distance from trucks and other vehicles.
- Report truckers if they cut you off or drive erratically. A number of trucks contain messages on the back of their rigs asking motorists to gauge how they are driving, and many list a phone number to call if you witness behavior that it out of the norm.
- Do not drive in the zone where the trucker might have limited visibility such as the right rear quarter, the left rear quarter, or directly behind the truck.
- Always use your directional signals, and give yourself enough time to turn or pass.
- Only pass a truck when it is safe to do so.
- Pay attention to the signals and lights of the trucks in front of—and behind—you.
- Refrain from changing lanes too quickly, often causing a truck to have to readjust his path.
- Merge safely on the highway so that trucks never have to move or break suddenly.
- Never maneuver to the right to pass a truck who is attempting to make a right hand turn.
- Always move your disabled vehicle out of the way and not in the way of any type of oncoming traffic, like a large truck that might have to suddenly give you room by moving into another lane.
Obtaining Legal Help for Truck Accidents
Federal laws and regulations determine the rules for the trucking industry and challenges can present from the beginning to the end of your case. Challenges may include determining who was at fault if the trucker was an independent contractor or an employee of the trucking company. Witnesses may be difficult to obtain before, during or after an accident occurs. Jackknifing may be difficult to prove, unless circumstances could clearly have been prevented. As with any accident, the more you have on hand before you meet with your New York Attorney the better. Materials may not always be at the ready, however, but should not stall your intent to immediately and appropriately seek legal action. Some facts and details you may want to gather ahead of time include the following:
- Name of trucking company or of the driver
- License plate of the truck
- Details of the accident: how, when, where
- Were the police available and was a report filed?
- Did you or anyone else take photographs or videos of the scene?
- What were the weather conditions?
- Were there other vehicles involved?
While not a comprehensive list these questions by any means, these prompts should get you started and prepared to meet with legal counsel. When you enlist the Finz Firm to assist you with your case, you know that you will be in good hands. Their firm has a record settlement for a truck-trailer case, and is the largest recorded individual personal injury truck accident settlement in New York State history. As experienced personal injury lawyers, the Finz Firm attorneys can assess the damage resulting for you truck accident, and help you pursue full and fair compensation for the losses you have suffered. If you, a family member or a friend has suffered a serious injury in an truck accident, contact the Finz Firm now toll free at (855) TOP-FIRM or simply fill out the free truck accident case evaluation form.