Tractor trailer wreck cases are among the most serious and the most deadly in the United States. At our firm, we recognize that handling these cases requires a thorough understanding of commercial vehicle regulations on both the Federal and State level as well as the medical knowledge necessary to litigate a case with catastrophic injuries or wrongful death.
Trucking Accident Statistics:
One out of eight traffic fatalities in 2005 resulted from a collision involving a large truck. In 2005 442,000 large trucks, gross vehicle weigh rating greater than 10,000 pounds, were involved in traffic crashes in the United States. 4,932 were involved in fatal crashes. A total 5,212 people died. (12% of all traffic fatalities reported in 2005 and an additional 114,000 were injured in those crashes). In 2005, large trucks accounted for 8% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes and 4% of all vehicles involved in injury and property damages.
Large trucks are more likely to be involved in more fatal multi-vehicle crashes as opposed to a fatal single vehicle crashes than were passenger vehicles. Most of the fatal crashes involving large trucks occur in rural areas during the daytime and on the week days. The percentage of large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes who had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher was 1% in 2005. Unfortunately, truckers frequently use illegal stimulants such as cocaine and meth amphetamines to drive when they are physically too tired to handle these big rigs.
The Motor Carrier and Highway Safety Law Division of the Federal Highway Administration estimates that there are upwards of 220,000 interstate carriers and upwards of 5 million drivers subject to the Federal Motor Carrier safety regulations at this time. When intrastate motor carriers and their drivers are included, these estimates can increase by 100 percent. There were 50,000 truck tractor registrations in the State of Georgia alone in 1988 and 12 million truck tractor registrations in the United States for that year. The number of carriers and drivers operating on our highways is huge. With the strong economy that has benefited the United States in the 90’s, the number of tractor trailer rigs traveling the nation’s highways has reached a staggering number. Anyone who travels on the interstates is amazed by the number of “big rigs” speeding down the nation’s highways and interstates all hours of the day and night. Many of these rigs routinely cruise the highways at speeds exceeding 80, 90 or even 100 mph.
Based on the study by the United States Office of Technology Assessment, there are twice as many large trucks involved in fatal accidents as passenger cars per 100 million vehicle miles traveled for each year between 1976 and 1985.
The National Transportation Safety Board has published a safety study that concluded 33 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for alcohol or other commonly abused drugs. The state likewise concluded that fatigue and fatigue-drug interactions caused a significant percentage of total accidents in tractor trailer wrecks.
In a technical paper published by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the author concluded that the largest risk factor relative to large trucks is defective brakes and poor maintenance followed by driver fatigue.
The statistics show that the causes of large truck crashes usually involve more than just driver negligence. Trucking cases often involve another dimension of negligence in terms of industry and corporate management policies involved with the emphasis on making a profit versus safety. For economic reasons, drivers are pressured by the industry to drive too many hours without rest. Many drivers resort to drugs to stay awake and are operating their rigs in a sleep-deprived, slowed response time state. Drivers logs of hours are frequently altered or forged.
Trucking companies are required to follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations concerning their equipment and their drivers’ hours of service. Driver fatigue is a common problem as hours of service regulations are routinely violated and driver logs intentionally recorded inaccurately, noted in my recent blog about driver fatigue and trucking.
Careful examination of drivers’ hours as well as the inspection and maintenance records on trucks, often show serious and fraudulent violations of safety regulations. In some instances, trucking companies are only required to maintain these records for six months. Without obtaining these records before they are destroyed, the injured person or survivors of a person killed in a truck wreck has a much more difficult time proving the trucking company’s negligence.
Truck Accident Litigation:
I sit on the advisory board of The Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, a national organization of attorneys who handle high complexity cases involving tractor trailers.
Usually when a wreck involves a tractor trailer, someone is seriously injured. Death, brain injury, spinal cord injuries and fractures frequently occur.
Often we engage the services of an engineer or accident re-constructionist early to inspect the truck in question as well as the maintenance and driver logs of the truck or trucker in question.
In tractor trailer wreck cases, often times the Plaintiff must sue the truck driver, the motor carrier for whom the driver was working at the time of the wreck, the insurance company for a common or contract motor carrier, employees of the public or private motor carrier, other than the driver, the parent company of the operating trucking subsidiary, companies which maintain the truck, companies which manufacture components of the rig, the leasing company which supplied the tractor, trailer or both, other drivers such as other truckers traveling in a convey, safety consultants/transportation service companies and/or the insurance company for the trailer.
A survey of all the possible venue locations must be made and the best possible venue for the lawsuit must be chosen. The trial lawyer will attempt to file the suit in the county which has the best track record for adequate Plaintiffs’ awards by juries.
When a wreck involving a tractor trailer occurs, a prompt investigation must take place and a spoliation letter written to preserve the evidence. The trial lawyer must typically obtain the manufacturer’s material concerning specifications and proper maintenance of the vehicles involved, the driver’s log book information from the Georgia Public Service Commission, meteorological information, the investigating police officer’s report, and must interview witnesses. Often times an expert is quickly hired to prove some area of professional negligence. The trial lawyer must also explore the Federal Motor Carrier safety regulations and possible violations. Company safety rules and policies must also be obtained, and the conduct of the driver must be compared to the policy of the company. Experts may testify as to the adequacy of company safety policies.
Oftentimes demonstrative evidence such as aerial photographs, anatomical models, models of the crash site, and the like should be used.
Clients should question attorneys about their experience and qualifications in pursuing compensation for citizens injured by negligent tractor trailer drivers and their employers. It is usually in the client’s best interests to select a lawyer who has experience in such cases. Mr. Davis has handled dozens of trucking cases throughout his career and has obtained outstanding results on behalf of his clients and/or their survivors.
Time is of the Essence:
In all trucking accident cases, it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question and to enable physicians and other expert witnesses to thoroughly evaluate any injuries.
The initial consultation is free of charge, however, if we agree to take your case we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a successful recovery of funds on your behalf. If we do not recover a monetary reward for you, you will owe nothing. So please don’t delay. Time is of the essence in these matters. The investigation must be completed before evidence is destroyed or dissipated. You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations has expired.
Learn More About Trucking Cases:
- The Basics of Handling Truck Injury Cases
- American Trucking Association
- Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
- United States Department of Transportation (USDOT)
- National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA)