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  • Truck Accidents

    Every year, thousands of truck accidents result in serious and fatal injuries. These accidents take place on roadways, interstate highways, and turnpikes across the country. An injury from a truck accident is often permanent, changing the victim’s life forever. When involved in a truck accident in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, many factors and conditions can contribute to the accident. A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can investigate the case and help victims navigate the claims process.

    Common types of Truck AccidentsWhat are Common Types of Truck Accidents?

    Trucks are unique in the way they operate and the way they are constructed. Given their size and shape, the types of accidents that trucks are involved in differ from those involving cars. Among those are:

    • Jackknife accidents: These accidents take place when the entire big rig folds so that the tractor, or “cab” creates a 90-degree angle with the trailer. The cause is usually the driver stopping or turning too fast, which forces the weight of the trailer to push forward.
    • Rollover accidents: In this instance, the cab could start to slide and eventually roll over and hit other motorists. Most rollovers occur when an inattentive or inexperienced truck driver fails to adjust their speed to compensate for a sharp turn or must adjust to avoid an accident.
    • Tire Blowouts: These can happen with cars as well as with trucks, but it is more dangerous with trucks because of the size of the tires. The shrapnel from the blowout can hit other cars or force other cars to swerve, causing them to hit another vehicle.
    • Wide turns: To make a right turn, a driver must first swing to the left to make the wide turn. If the trucker is not paying attention to their surroundings, this maneuver can trap vehicles and pedestrians, depending on the circumstances.
    • Blind spot accidents: Given the size of tractor-trailers, they have significantly large blind spots. The problem occurs when a truck decides to change lanes when a car is in an area that is not visible to the truck’s driver. A sudden lane change could result in another vehicle being hit, crushed, or forced off the road.
    • Rear-end accidents: Due to the significant weight of a truck, they are unable to stop as quickly as cars. Their heavy weight means that if they hit a car, they could cause serious damage. These accidents can be caused by speeding, aggressive driving, or distracted and drowsy driving. They are often the result of poor maintenance to the various braking systems installed in the truck’s tractor and trailer(s).
    • Underride accidents: One of the most dangerous types of accidents involving a truck and a car, these accidents occur when a truck stops short with a car right behind it. The car is unable to stop in time and gets itself lodged under the truck’s trailer. Trucks that weigh more than 10,000 pounds are required to have a guard installed to prevent these types of accidents.
    • Lost loads: When cargo is improperly loaded onto a truck, it runs the risk of becoming loose and falling onto the road. The materials can impact cars or leave debris in the road, which can cause havoc for traffic to maneuver around the obstacles. Also, cargo that is poorly packed can cause weight distribution problems for the driver and result in a rollover.
    • T-Bone accidents: When a truck runs a red light and hits a car at a perpendicular angle, it can lead to catastrophic injuries.

    When driving on the road, it is always best to give trucks space to avoid a major accident. However, many accidents are unavoidable due to the carelessness of the truck driver, improperly loaded trailers, or defects in the truck or its parts. If you are involved in an accident with a truck, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible to launch an investigation into the possible causes of the accident.

    Who can be Held Liable in a Truck Accident?

    In a routine car accident case, it is usually a driver who is liable. Truck-related accidents tend to be more complicated. The truck driver can still be held liable for their actions, but there are others that could also be held responsible and named as defendants in a personal injury lawsuit, including:

    • The owner of the truck or trailer
    • The person or company that leased the truck or trailer from the owner
    • The vehicle manufacturer or dealer
    • The party responsible for loading the cargo
    • The party responsible for maintenance to the truck or trailer

    By using substantial evidence, such as cell phone records, driving logs, and maintenance reports, a knowledgeable attorney will review the actions of all possible parties in a truck accident. During an investigation, a lawyer will carefully examine a wide variety of causes and conditions to determine liability, including the following:

    • Driver fatigue
    • Distracted driving
    • Driver under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
    • How the truck was loaded
    • If the vehicle received routine maintenance/inspection and any necessary repairs
    • Road conditions
    • Weather

    If any parties are found to be negligent in any way, injured victims can name them in a personal injury lawsuit. A truck accident lawyer representing the victims will work to build a solid case. However, many claims are actually settled out of court.

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    The goal of a settlement is to pay for the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and associated expenses arising from the accident. Medical bills alone can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, depending on the type and severity of the victim’s injuries.

    What Injuries are Common in Truck Accidents?

    Accidents involving trucks are statistically more likely to cause serious injury or death to others compared to car accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more than 85 percent of the victims who died in truck accidents were passengers in other vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists. Serious injuries common in truck accidents include the following:

    • Traumatic brain injury
    • Spinal cord damage
    • Burns
    • Musculoskeletal damage
    • Cuts and lacerations
    • Fractures
    • Internal injuries
    • Whiplash

    Anyone involved in a truck accident should call 911 as soon as it is safe to do so and obtain medical attention. Symptoms of brain injury, internal injuries, or whiplash may not be obvious right away. Swelling of the brain can onset later and become fatal if untreated. Obtaining a prompt medical evaluation is also very important in a personal injury claim.

    What Influences a Truck Accident Settlement?

    It is difficult for truck accident victims to know in advance what they can expect to obtain in a settlement. The outcome will depend on a variety of factors. The main factors influencing a settlement include the severity of the injury, the resulting medical expenses, lost wages, and the extent to which the liable parties were negligent in causing the accident and subsequent pain and suffering. Some examples of truck accident settlements obtained by Galfand Berger LLP include the following:

    Past settlements cannot predict future outcomes because each case is different and any settlement arising from a personal injury claim will depend upon the specific circumstances under which the accident occurred. However, injured victims represented by legal counsel oftentimes can expect a better outcome for their case. Determining liability often involves investigating whether the truck driver, trucking company, or other parties violated any state or federal regulations.

    What Regulations Must the Trucking Industry Follow?

    When seeking liability against a trucking company or its drivers, there are several differences compared to general personal injury cases involving the driver of another car. One of the biggest differences is that truck drivers and their companies must abide by a set of strict federal regulations. These regulations can make it easier to prove the liability of the company or driver if they are found to be in violation of those regulations.

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) monitors truck traffic throughout the country, tracks accidents, and adopts new rules and regulations that its members believe will improve public safety. Some of the more common rules include:

    • Driving requirements: All drivers must first earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which carries tighter regulations on routine driving infractions. Drivers must also earn a Medical Examiner’s Certificate, which certifies that the person meets all the physical and medical requirements needed to operate a commercial vehicle. If the company fails to verify these steps, it can be held liable if the driver is involved in an accident.
    • Hours of service limitations: One of the more controversial regulations imposed on the trucking industry, the FMCSA mandates requirements on the length of a driver’s shift and how long they must rest before working again. Many drivers and companies have argued that some of these limits are too restrictive, so they might try to bend them every so often. Drivers must keep detailed logs of their shifts, including breaks.. These logs can be beneficial in a personal injury claim.
    • Cell phone limitations: Distracted driving is a problem that every driver deals with. The problem is magnified if that driver is behind the wheel of a big rig.
    • Cargo securement: If cargo becomes loose and falls onto the road, it can lead to dangerous conditions. It is very important that the trucking company or third-party loaders secure the cargo properly. There are regulations in place that dictate securing the cargo based on its size, weight, shape, and strength.
    • Hazardous materials: Drivers must know what they are hauling, especially if it is hazardous. When transporting any dangerous materials, the driver is required to carry a special permit issued by the FMCSA. The agency also has specific requirements on ways dangerous materials are classified, described, packaged, marked, labeled, and the condition it is in for shipping.
    • Vehicle maintenance/inspection: It is the responsibility of the trucking company to maintain all their vehicles in good working condition. Drivers must keep records of all maintenance and inspections, and they should be trained to detect any problems with the vehicle before it causes an accident. Any problems with the truck must be addressed immediately.
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    If truck drivers, trucking companies, loading dockworkers, maintenance contractors, or any other responsible parties violate regulations, they may be held liable for damages in a truck accident.

    What are the Different Types of Trucks on the Road?

    The highways are filled with trucks and other major vehicles that transport cargo throughout the United States. There are different types of trucks out on the road. Some of those various trucks include:

    • Tractor-trailers: This is one of the more common types of trucks that most Americans encounter on the highways. They are often referred to as a semi-truck, 18-wheeler, or big rig. Their main function is to haul cargo across the country. While common on the road, they can still be dangerous with their heavy loads and large blind spots.
    • Dump trucks and garbage trucks: These slow-moving vehicles can have an assortment of cargo that they carry. Garbage, rocks, and sand can be dangerous should they become dislodged. While these trucks have similar problems to tractor-trailers, what makes them more dangerous is the fact that they are usually found patrolling residential streets.
    • Flatbed trucks: The open flatbed rear of these trucks makes them ideal for loading and unloading various types of cargo. However, they are also highly susceptible to losing their cargo, making them hazardous to other drivers.
    • Tanker-trucks: As a type of semi-truck, these vehicles have a significant blind spot and the potential to rollover. Additionally, since these trucks carry certain types of liquids, in some instances, these liquids can be flammable or dangerous if they become airborne.

    There are also other types of trucks that are more common and found mostly around residential streets. Since they drive around homes and people, the drivers of these vehicles need to be more cognizant of pedestrians, cyclists, and other local traffic. These trucks include:

    • Box Trucks: Aptly named for their box-like shape, these smaller vehicles are used to transport small materials. While their size limits their blind spot, the real danger comes with the people that drive these vehicles as you do not need a special license to operate them. That means someone who lacks experience driving these vehicles could have a difficult time getting around town.
    • Cement Trucks: These construction vehicles travel to and from construction sites, and in many instances, they are mixing cement. These slow, lumbering vehicles can cause significant impact to a car in an accident. It could also be dangerous if it accidentally spilled its contents out onto the road.
    • Delivery Trucks: Most times, these trucks are around the size of box trucks and travel with an opening. They transport boxes of varying sizes, which could become dislodged and fall out on the road.
    • Tow Trucks: Most tow trucks tend to be large, flatbed trucks that attach a car to a chain on top of the bed. In most instances, these trucks do not travel that far, but even in their short distances, they run the risk of losing the vehicle they are towing.

    Pennsylvania Truck Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Advocate for Victims Injured in All Types of Truck Accidents

    If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, contact a Philadelphia truck accident lawyer at Galfand Berger LLP to review your case. For a free consultation, call 800-222-8792 or contact us online to get started. With offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.