Accidents are a fact of life, but when an accident involves a tractor trailer or large truck, the consequences can be catastrophic. Nearly 5,000 Americans are killed each year in accidents involving large trucks. Tens of thousands are injured. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation impose strict safety rules for commercial carriers, truck company and truck driver negligence are still factors in about 1/3 of all crashes.
These factors can include: Poor company safety oversight; Bad hiring practices and supervision; Poor equipment maintenance; Poor equipment safety inspection practices; Aggressive driving; Speeding; Driver fatigue; Distracted driving; Impaired driving; and/or Construction zone dangers.
The Federal Motor carrier Safety Administration defines a commercial vehicle as any self propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when -
- the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating fo 10,001 pounds or more; or
- is used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or
- is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers ,including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or
- is used in transporting material is used in transporting hazardous material pursuant to 49 USC 5103.
So while a vehicle over 10,000 pounds is considered a commercial vehicle, a fully loaded tractor trailer can legally weigh up to to 80,000 pounds. This means that even at relatively low speeds, these large trucks generate a tremendous amount of energy that can have catastrophic consequences when they collide with other vehicles on the road.
After a serious crash with a tractor trailer, the truck company's insurance carrier will likely send their agents, reconstruction experts and lawyers to an active crash scene. These accident reconstruction experts and defense lawyers will quickly and aggressively try find any evidence they can to help minimize their liability and defend their case.
An experienced truck accident lawyer will investigate a crash scene with his/her own experts to properly establish the cause and responsibility for a wreck. One of the crucial pieces of evidence in these crashes, other than photographs, physical evidence (gauge marks, skid marks, vehicle damage patterns) is the “black box” data recorder. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) requires that all commercial trucks record and report certain information. These “black boxes,” also known as Electronic Control modules (ECM), Event Data Reorders (EDR) or Electronic Logging Devices (ELD), log and record technical information of a truck's operation before and during a crash. These devices preserve information such as speed, rpms, steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal positions. An experienced truck accident attorney will be able to secure this evidence for study and analysis to properly investigate truck driver and truck company negligence.
Your lawyer also needs to investigate the several layers of possible culpability after a crash. The investigation needs to include an inquiry as to whether responsibility goes beyond the truck driver and includes the truck or leasing company or the larger company they work for. There are sometimes several layers of negligence and culpability that only an experienced truck accident attorney can appreciate, discover and expose.
Don't get bullied after a truck accident. Don't help the truck company and its lawyers investigate by giving them a recorded statement or other statements that may hurt your case. These are often complex cases that involve serious investigation and representation.
If you need help because you or a loved one was injured or killed as a result of a truck accident, call us at 314-300-8380 for a free consultation.