Each year, there are more than 500,000 accidents involving large commercial vehicles such as 18-wheelers. Because of their weight and size, these large vehicles can cause tremendous damage when they are operated or maintained improperly. Every year, thousands of Americans are killed due to the negligence of trucking companies and their drivers. In fact, trucking accidents account for 1 of every 8 traffic fatalities.
The trucking industry is large and powerful. Estimates are that there are more than 15 million trucks on U.S. roads operated by more than 500,000 trucking companies. These trucks cover more than 500 billion miles per year and generate in excess of $250 billion in annual revenue for their owners and operators.
Some profit-driven trucking companies place unfair demands on their drivers, failing to recognize the toll on the truck driver of performing his/her job safely. Most truck drivers are only paid for moving a product from one location to another. This financial incentive for truckers combined with pressure from their employers encourages some truckers to engage in negligent and dangerous behaviors on the road that result in injurious, and often fatal, accidents. Such behavior includes driving while fatigued, driving at excessive speed, using dangerous drugs to stay awake at night while driving and failing to adjust their speed for adverse weather conditions.
With the price of fuel rising rapidly and increasing competition within the industry, many trucking companies resort to cutting corners to maintain their profitability. They may delay necessary vehicle inspections, refuse to replace worn or defective parts and pressure their drivers to drive more than the safe number of hours per day. All of these practices have an enormous economic and non-economic toll on society, causing thousands of deaths and millions of dollars in damages each year.
Commercial Driver Negligence
Trucking accidents are often caused by the negligence of the truck driver. Types of driver negligence include:
- Driver fatigue
- Unsafe driving for adverse weather conditions
- Distracted driving such as talking on the cell phone or eating while driving
- Truck driver aggression
- Influence of drugs or alcohol
- Excessive speed
- Failure to follow state and federal regulations
- General driver negligence while on the road
Trucking Company Negligence
Accidents involving a commercial truck can be the fault of the trucking company as well. Examples include:
- Poorly maintained vehicles
- Lack of adequate inspections
- Unreasonable deadlines to move product that force the driver to take unsafe risks
- Improperly loaded/overweight trucks
- Failure to follow state and federal regulations
Third Party Negligence
Sometimes trucking accidents are caused by a third party whose negligence might not initially be apparent. Examples include:
- Defective brakes
- Defective tires
- Defective computer systems
- Poor third party maintenance
- Negligence of other drivers
Purpose of Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Trucking accident lawsuits serve several valuable purposes. Most importantly, they allow the victims of driver and trucking company negligence to recover financial damages to compensate for their medical bills, loss of income, pain, suffering and mental anguish. Such lawsuits also serve to punish trucking companies for their gross negligence and wilful violation of trucking laws and regulations. Lastly, these lawsuits serve as a deterrent to trucking companies and truck drivers tempted in the future to cut corners to save time and money.
Finding the Right Attorney for a Trucking Accident Case – Experience Matters
While trucking company lawsuits serve many valuable purposes, they aren’t for the faint-hearted. There are unique laws and regulations that are designed specifically to protect motorists from the negligent actions of truck drivers and trucking companies. These laws and regulations are complex and require specialized knowledge and experience to understand and apply.
Trucking Companies Will Fight to Avoid Legal Responsibility
Trucking lawsuits can also be time-consuming and challenging. Many trucking companies and their insurers are well-funded and are willing to fight tooth and nail to avoid liability for their negligence. Because they face enormous potential damages, companies involved in 18-wheeler accidents and their insurance companies will do almost anything to avoid being held legally responsible. Oftentimes, they will contact victims of 18-wheeler accidents seeking recorded statements about what happened, taking advantage of their naivety and emotional trauma to trick them into making damaging statements. Other times, these corporations will quickly offer victims a low-ball settlement, hoping to resolve the claim before the victims learn of their valuable legal rights by speaking with an attorney. Trucking companies will even falsify or destroy evidence to cover up their wrongdoing. To even the playing field, victims need experienced, aggressive attorneys who will protect them in their time of need and force the trucking companies and their insurers to take responsibility for their actions.
HO&P Can Afford to See Your Case Through
Trucking lawsuits can also be expensive. To properly prepare a case, an attorney may need to hire expert witnesses in the fields of trucking, trucking regulations, accident reconstruction and life care planning. Often times, computer animations are needed to demonstrate to a jury precisely how an accident occurred. Depositions must be taken of numerous witnesses including drivers, eyewitnesses, family members of the victim and trucking company employees. All of this work is expensive and time-consuming. For this reason, victims of trucking accidents need attorneys with the dedication and financial wherewithal to see their case through.
Given the complexities of this area of the law, the high costs associated with bringing such cases and the enormous damages often at stake, the last thing a victim of a trucking accident should do is entrust their 18-wheeler case to a lawyer with little or no experience with trucking accident litigation. While such lawyers might be able to quickly settle a case, often times they will leave hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table in the process. Trucking companies know which lawyers have the commitment, legal acumen and financial resources to take them to trial, and will pay more money in settlement to such lawyers rather than to lawyers who they know are only seeking a quick and easy settlement.
At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, our attorneys have tried dozens of cases involving accidents with 18-wheelers and other large commercial vehicles. Our attorneys have helped achieve a $36 million verdict for the family of a teenager injured in a bus crash in East Texas. They have negotiated a $15 million settlement of a case involving an 18-wheeler accident that killed several members of the same family. And they achieved verdicts or settlements of $7.25 million, $5.2 million, $5 million, and $1.8 million in other 18-wheeler cases, just to name a few.
If you or a loved one has been injured or if you have lost someone in an accident involving a commercial truck, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.