As with other types of traffic accidents, crashes involving commercial trucks are not random occurrences, but overwhelmingly the result of human error. Under pressure to meet strict deadlines, many truckers drive long hours without enough rest. They may be fatigued, inattentive, or under the influence of drugs. Large trucks are also more susceptible to vehicle-related crash causes, such as defective brakes or tires.
Truck accident law is complex and difficult to navigate because numerous state and federal laws govern the trucking industry. In addition, drivers and companies are represented by big insurance providers and powerful legal teams whose goal is to minimize or deny your claim, even if you were not responsible for the crash.
The Terry Law Firm has been representing victims of truck accidents in East Tennessee for more than 50 years. We know the tactics that trucking companies use to avoid liability. Our dedicated Jefferson City truck accident lawyers will guide you through the claims process and fight for the full compensation you deserve. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us at (423) 586-5800 or contact us online.
Why Truck Accident Cases Are More Complicated
Truck accident cases are more complicated than accidents involving two passenger cars. That’s why it is important to work with an experienced trucking accident law firm that has a successful track record of handling the unique challenges these cases present.
The size discrepancy between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles can lead to extremely serious injuries and property damage.
While minor fender-benders between two cars resulting in no injuries and little to no property damage are common, the occupants of a 3,000-pound passenger vehicle rarely walk away unscathed from a collision with a fully loaded semi-truck that weighs 80,000 pounds.
The greater the extent of damages, the more complex the claims process. It’s not unusual for truck accident victims to suffer broken bones; head, neck, and back injuries; amputations; and other catastrophic injuries. These injuries may require extensive care and lengthy rehabilitation that add up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in medical costs.
If the at-fault party is not willing to offer a full and fair truck accident settlement, this can lead to a protracted legal battle, including the possibility of a trial.
Complexity of Determining Liability
The vast majority of truck accidents involve multiple vehicles. Although human error is the most likely culprit of trucking accidents, even when the truck driver is clearly negligent, there are multiple third parties that can additionally bear responsibility. These include the driver’s employer, the truck owner, parts manufacturers, maintenance workers, and drivers of other vehicles.
Each of these parties has their own insurance coverage, which can lead to finger-pointing and buck-passing. Dealing with a single insurance company can be difficult enough. Dealing with multiple insurers that are all attempting to limit their own liability is a much more challenging scenario.
Further complicating truck accidents are state and federal commercial vehicle regulations that establish conduct such as truck load limits, driver safety, and inspections, maintenance, and repairs.
Violations of Tennessee laws or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations can establish a company’s or a driver’s liability. Determining whether regulations were violated requires an extensive investigation of the accident. In many cases, qualified trucking accident attorneys are necessary to investigate the crash cause and defend the interests of an injured claimant.
Who Can Be Held Responsible After a Truck Crash in Jefferson City, Tennessee?
The multiple parties that potentially bear liability for a trucking accident complicate the claims process. The skilled Jefferson City truck accident lawyers at The Terry Law Firm have decades of experience successfully handling these complex claims. We know what to look for during an investigation and how to determine fault for a crash.
Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to seek compensation from one or more of the following parties:
- Truck driver: The driver of the truck in a collision is the most likely culprit. According to a major federal study of truck accidents, 55 percent of all crashes studied were the fault of truck drivers. The major critical crash reasons assigned to truckers were prescription and over-the-counter drug use, traveling too fast for conditions, unfamiliarity with the roadway, and fatigue.
- Trucking company: Trucking companies have a legal responsibility to ensure that their drivers and vehicles are safe. Failure to do so can expose them to liability, but they have ways of shielding themselves. For example, truck companies might destroy or conceal log books and other records.
- Cargo company: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study on truck accident causation identified pre-crash cargo shift as the factor with the highest relative crash risk. Truck drivers and truck companies rarely are responsible for loading cargo. This task usually falls to a cargo or freight loading company. If cargo was not loaded securely and it shifts, causing an accident, the party that loaded it may be held responsible.
- Manufacturer or maintenance company: The FMCSA’s truck crash causation study found that about 1 in 10 truck accidents is caused by a vehicle issue. Brake and tire problems were attributed to 29 percent and 6 percent of accidents, respectively. These and other issues that contribute to an accident can be the fault of a parts manufacturer or improperly performed maintenance. Fault can also lie with the trucking company for failure to keep the truck in good working order.
- Government entity or contractor: Roadway problems contribute to about 20 percent of truck accidents. In particular, interruption of traffic flow is one of the factors most frequently coded as the reason for a truck crash. Large trucks are responsible for around 27 percent of work zone fatal crashes and 8 percent of work zone injury crashes. Pre-crash issues such as inadequate warning signage, failure to comply with work zone safety standards, and problems with traffic control can be blamed on the project’s general contractor, or a government agency.
Due to the difficulty of determining liability for a truck crash, you should consider speaking with an experienced Jefferson City truck accident lawyer who has successfully handled these types of cases. Request your free consultation now.
Tips for Protecting Your Rights After a Jefferson City Truck Crash
In Tennessee, if you were a vehicle owner or driver in a traffic crash involving death or injury, or in which property damage exceeds $1,500, you must report the accident to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security within 20 days of the crash.
Aside from this accident reporting requirement, there are certain things you should do after a truck accident to protect your rights and increase the chances that you are fairly compensated.
- Get immediate medical attention: First responders to the accident scene can help to gauge the seriousness of your injuries. In the event that you suffer severe injuries, you may not have a choice about being taken to the emergency room by ambulance. Don’t refuse medical help. And even if you don’t think you need immediate care, get to a doctor as soon as possible for evaluation. Some injuries don’t show up right away. You’ll also want to establish a clear record of your injuries. Delaying treatment has the potential to damage your claim.
- Document the accident scene: If you are well enough to walk around and talk to people after the crash, take this opportunity to thoroughly document the accident scene. Obtain contact and insurance information from other parties to the crash. Talk to witnesses and get their contact information. Take pictures or video of your vehicle, the truck, skid marks, signage, traffic signals, and other contextual clues. Most phones have a voice recorder app. Use this to document your initial thoughts, feelings, and observations.
- Keep everything: Proving your losses is critical to your compensation claim. Meticulously document all medical care, car repairs, and out-of-pocket expenses such as accident-related travel, rental cars, over-the-counter medication, and co-payments. Store receipts, bills, correspondences, and other evidence in one place. Consider keeping a pain journal of how you feel after an accident. A journal helps to substantiate your pain and suffering damages.
- Stay off social media: This cannot be stressed enough. While it may be tempting to share accident pictures and status updates, doing so may ultimately harm your claim. Stay off social media altogether until your case is resolved.
- Talk to an experienced truck accident lawyer: The unique aspects of truck accidents make it more likely that you will need attorney representation. You might do everything needed to document your losses, but if you fail to prove liability, your efforts could be in vain. Consider, for example, that obtaining truck records is vital to a successful case, but this can be a difficult process for the inexperienced.
Anatomy of a Truck Accident in Tennessee
Although every truck accident is unique, statistical trends help to understand the common causes and outcomes of crashes between large trucks and passenger vehicles. They can also inform drivers about how to avoid a crash with a truck.
- In a typical year, there are approximately 450,000 to 500,000 police-reported crashes nationwide involving large trucks — defined as a vehicle weighing 10,000 pounds or more. These crashes kill around 4,000 to 5,000 people annually and injure an additional 150,000 to 200,000.
- Most deaths and injuries in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants in cars or motorcycles. This is because trucks typically weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles and are taller with greater ground clearance, resulting in smaller vehicles under-riding trucks in some collisions.
- Common causes of truck accidents include braking capability and driver fatigue. Loaded 18-wheelers require 20 to 40 percent greater distance to stop than passenger cars. Braking distance is even greater on wet or slippery roads and in trucks with improperly maintained brakes. The federal government estimates that driver fatigue contributes to 15 percent of fatal and injury-causing large truck crashes each year. Federal regulations allow truckers to drive up to 11 hours in a single shift, but many drivers violate the law and work longer hours.
- Serious truck accidents tend to occur in rural areas, on interstate highways, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., and on weekdays.
- The majority of truck accidents resulting in bodily injury or property damage occur when a truck collides with another vehicle in transport. About 5 percent of fatal truck crashes and 2 percent of non-fatal truck crashes involve a rollover.
- Tennessee sees, on average, 100 to 150 fatalities in large truck crashes each year. Most of these are multi-vehicle crashes. Hamblen, Greene, Hawkins, Sevier, Cocke, Jefferson, Washington, and Hancock counties each have anywhere from 5 to 155 truck crashes annually. Of these, Jefferson and Washington counties see the most truck accidents, with roughly 100 to 150 per year.
- Tennessee authorities issue approximately 35,000 commercial vehicle citations each year. Citations are issued for violations that include speeding, moving violations, overloaded or overweight cargo, log book violations, driving under the influence (DUI), and reckless driving. These and other violations are often associated with truck crashes.
If you’ve been in a truck accident, don’t settle for less than your injury is worth. Contact The Terry Law Firm for a free legal review.
Our Jefferson City Truck Accident Lawyers Can Make a Difference for You
There is no substitute for experience. The Terry Law Firm has been representing victims of truck wrecks in Jefferson City and throughout East Tennessee for more than 50 years. We understand the state and federal regulations that apply to trucking, the tricks that trucking companies and their advocates use to deny liability, and how to build the strongest case possible for our clients.
Our reputation is built on success. We have recovered millions of dollars for truck accident victims. With our dedicated and talented team of professionals on your side, rest assured that you won’t have to settle for less than your case is worth.
Don’t delay: Schedule a free consultation today.