Choosing a Semi-Truck Accident Lawyer?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
There is little doubt that commercial trucks are the most dangerous vehicles on our roads today. A truck can weigh in the range of 35,000 pounds unloaded up to the U.S. legal limit of 80,000 pounds, a collision involving one of these behemoths of the road can often have devastating and tragic consequences.
In fact, data recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributed 4,951 fatalities in 2018 to accidents involving at least one truck.
In the period from 2009 to 2019, the fatality rate of commercial truck accidents has risen a staggering 46.5% with some states (with higher speed limits) seeing increased fatality rates of as much as 66.5%.
So what happens after a truck or semi-truck accident? And how do you choose the best lawyer to represent you in any related case?
Laws and Regulations
Michigan’s no fault insurance laws apply to trucks as well as cars. This means that as well as any specialist insurance carried, there must also be no fault insurance included in any policy or carried as a separate policy.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)is responsible for overseeing the trucking industry nationally and is involved in many different aspects of improving safety.
- Developing and improving the standards of licensing and testing for truck drivers.
- Analyzing accident and safety data and developing national safety programs and courses.
- Recording all accident data and identifying repeat offenders and high-risk carriers and removing their licenses where appropriate.
- Carrying out roadside inspections to ensure roadworthiness of vehicles.
With so many trucks traversing America’s highways (more than 11 million trucks and 4 million commercial license holders), the FMCSA focuses primarily on improving safety.
The laws developed by the FMCSA and the Department of Transport apply nationally as many trucks operate interstate routes. For trucks operating only within Michigan, the state has adopted several of the national laws as state laws. These include:
- Commercial drivers must be 18 years or older and 21 and older if transporting hazardous materials.
- All commercial vehicles weighing more than 5,000 pounds must clearly display the owner or operator’s details, including name, city and state, and any brand logo used by the company.
Unlike auto accidents where liability can be clearly defined if proven, truck accident cases can be more complicated when it comes to assigning liability. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the truck crash, the following parties may be identified as liable or partly liable.
- The driver of the truck.
- The trucking company operating the vehicle.
- The vehicle manufacturer.
- Shippers, brokers, distributors, or suppliers responsible for the load.
- The mechanics or technicians responsible for servicing the truck.
- Any company that may have supplied defective parts for the truck.
Liability can be complicated in these vehicle accidents, and having an experienced truck accident attorney from Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can help navigate the investigative process and identify who may be liable.
One advantage we have with truck accident claims compared to standard auto accidents is that some evidence is more easily collected. Thanks to the FMCSA, all commercial vehicles are now required by law to have an electronic logging device (ELD or black box) installed in their tractor trailer or other commercial vehicle.
This allows the FMCSA to monitor factors such as hours of service and speed. This in turn allows your personal injury lawyers to identify if a driver was traveling over the speed limit or working over the hours of service specified.
ELD data can be very important in identifying liability along with other factors such as the police accident report, mechanical inspection of the truck, and photographic evidence.
Consequences of Truck Accidents
Given their sheer size and weight, the consequences of being involved in a collision with a truck can often be very serious. When you add in factors such as speeding or working more than legally allowed hours, the risks can be extremely high. Some of the most common truck accidents include:
- Tire blowouts leading to loss of control of the truck.
- Trucks rolling over (or being blown over by high winds).
- Collisions due to visual blindspots.
- Jackknifing (usually due to braking) where the driver loses control and the trailer and cab end up at a 90 degree angle.
- Poor turning on wide corners or junctions where the driver loses awareness of other vehicles.
- Under rides, where the truck brakes suddenly and without warning and a vehicle behind it ends up beneath the trailer.
- Rear ending, where the truck is too close to a vehicle in front and cannot stop in time if that vehicle stops suddenly.
- Loss of load., where a load is not properly secured and all or some of it spills onto the road.
- Head on collision, where the truck hits an oncoming vehicle.
- T-boning, where the truck or other vehicle jumps a red light or stop sign and is hit side on by the truck.
Some of these accidents are far more dangerous than others. Under rides, rear ending, and head on collisions account for many of the truck accident related fatalities.
Tiredness is often a big factor in truck accidents as is exceeding the speed limit. But it is the use of drugs and alcohol that may be the most frightening factor involved in truck crashes. In fact, U.S. truckers have the highest incidence rate of positive alcohol tests in the world and drugs such as methamphetamine are a very real problem too.
How Do I Choose the Right Lawyer?
If you have been involved in an accident involving any type of truck and wish to pursue an injury claim, make sure you choose the right attorney for your case. Once you have identified some potential law firms, there is certain information you should check for on their website and several questions you should ask when you contact them.
- Does their law firm have experience of truck accident claims?
- Do they have a high success rate in winning such cases?
- Do their attorneys have trial experience in this area of law?
- Does the law firm have extensive knowledge of national and state laws and regulations for trucks and trucking companies?
- Do they have a proven track record of negotiating with insurance companies when there are disputes or low settlement offers?
- Do they offer a free consultation to evaluate your case and for you to ask questions?
- Will the lawyer you meet in any initial meetings represent you throughout your case?
A lot of information can be found on the law firm’s website. You can usually gather general information such as the case types the firm specializes in, what the individual attorneys’ experience and qualifications are, perhaps some idea of their success rate in previous truck accident cases, and whether they operate on a contingency fee basis.
If their website offers positive answers, then the next step is to schedule an appointment so you can ask more detailed questions. The appointment also allows the law firm to evaluate your particular circumstances and give you some idea of your chances of success.
Some Final Thoughts
As the statistics show, accidents involving trucks and semi-trucks can lead to devastating injuries and many fatalities. With those numbers constantly on the rise, more personal injury attorneys are being called upon to pursue claims on behalf of victims or, in cases of wrongful death, on behalf of the victim’s surviving family.
As one of Michigan’s leading law firms in the field of personal injury, Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. have many years of successful experience in pursuing claims related to truck accidents.
Our law firm operates on a contingency fee basis which means you do not have to pay any upfront fees and only pay us when we win your case. If you have been affected by a truck accident, schedule a free appointment with us by calling 866-MICH-LAW.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.