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  • Tractor Trailer and Semi Truck Accidents

    Commercial vehicles, such as tractor-trailers and semi-trucks, are one of the leading causes of fatal accidents on U.S. roadways. Their considerable size makes them a substantial risk for those operating smaller passenger cars.

    Too often, a harried truck driver on a deadline is guilty of working more hours than deemed safe, leading to a truck accident. Sometimes, the trucking company or truck owner can be found liable for a semi-truck or tractor-trailer accident, or even a truck manufacturer could be held responsible if the accident was caused by a faulty auto part.

    tractor trailer driverWhat Causes Truck Accidents?

    Many factors and conditions contribute to truck accidents. A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can investigate the cause of your accident and help you navigate the legal claims process.

    Most truck accidents are preventable, and the causes of these collisions fall under three main categories: driver errors, trucking company errors, and manufacturing errors.

    What Are Driver Errors?

    Driver errors are the most common reasons for accidents involving semi-trucks and tractor-trailers and include the following.

    Fatigue

    When a driver sets out on a long haul, they must adhere to federal regulations for breaks if they transport goods from state to state. These regulations include:

    • Each duty period must begin with at least 10 hours off-duty.
    • Drivers may work no more than 60 hours on-duty over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over eight days. They must maintain a driver’s log.
    • Drivers can be on duty for up to 14 hours following 10 hours off duty, but they are limited to 11 hours of actual driving time.
    • Drivers must take a mandatory 30-minute break by their eighth hour of duty.
    • Drivers who work only within one state are subject to that state’s guidelines for rests and breaks.

    Some truck drivers may disregard the regulations for breaks. They may try to make up for lost time because of adverse weather or traffic jams, or maybe they are trying to make an unrealistic deadline set by their employer. Whatever the reason, a truck driver who does not follow these regulations can become seriously fatigued or fall asleep while behind the wheel, leading to a serious accident.

    Distracted Driving

    Distracted driving is a leading cause of big-rig accidents. The primary culprit is using a cellphone while driving, including answering calls, making calls, texting, answering, or reading emails, watching videos, and other phone activities.

    Using a dispatching device while driving is akin to texting for truck drivers. These devices help drivers communicate, navigate, and keep logs. They are sometimes called mobile or portable data terminals, and they can be distracting to a driver. That is why many trucking companies have policies against engaging with the device while driving. Some devices even automatically lock when the truck is in motion.

    Generally, anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off driving is a distraction, such as:

    • Watching videos.
    • Eating and drinking.
    • Loud or constant chatter on the in-cab radio.
    • High volume on the radio.
    • Glancing down at a GPS system or dispatching device.
    • Looking at roadside attractions.
    • Talking with a passenger.

    Impaired Driving

    Some truck drivers will take stimulants or other drugs to keep awake. Others may drink alcohol while behind the wheel. Even an over the counter or prescription drug can affect a driver’s ability to focus and operate the vehicle. Just like passenger car drivers, truckers should never drive under the influence of an intoxicating substance.

    Improper Training or Licensing

    Although this can also be the company’s fault that hired them, a truck driver who is not licensed and trained to drive a large commercial truck is a liability. Driving trucks that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds takes skill and experience, as well as a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Truckers who get behind the wheel without training and licensing are putting their and others’ lives at risk.

    Reckless Driving

    Many times, truck drivers are working under tight schedules and with inadequate breaks. Sometimes, they are distracted.  This can lead to reckless driving, like:

    • Speeding.
    • Tailgating.
    • Changing lanes abruptly.
    • Aggressive driving.
    • Not leaving enough room to stop.
    • Not taking extra caution with what is happening in their blind spot.

    Disregarding Adverse Weather Conditions

    Sometimes, heavy rain, snow, ice, or other weather events will cause roads to be slick or otherwise unsafe. A truck driver who does not slow down or use extra caution with dangerous weather and road conditions is a hazard to everyone.

    Some truck drivers may think they are immune to weather and road conditions because they are in large, heavy vehicles, but that is wrong. They may be even more susceptible because commercial trucks are unwieldy by their very nature.

    What Are Trucking Company Errors?

    In some cases, the company that owns or manages the truck can also be held liable. It is not uncommon for a trucking company to have policies, rules, and even incentives that do not make for the safe operation of their trucks, including the following:

    • Irregular or missing inspections: Government regulations call for periodic inspections of commercial trucks. These inspections are designed to find issues that could lead to unsafe driving. Some trucking companies forego or reduce the inspections or have unkept records. The result can be a trucker driving a faulty truck that could be a hazard on the roadway.
    • Lack of maintenance: Along with inspections, commercial trucks need to undergo periodic maintenance. Maintenance can ensure that the truck’s tires and parts run smoothly to keep the driver and other motorists safe from harm. When companies fail to maintain their trucks consistently or when problems occur, they open themselves up to liability.
    • Inexperienced, untrained, or unlicensed drivers: Trucking companies often have a difficult time finding drivers. They may be desperate enough to hire drivers who do not have the proper training, experience, or license. Truckers are required to have a special CDL. A company that employs drivers without this license could be held liable in an accident.
    • Inadequate training and testing: Some companies are so anxious to get drivers on the road that they fail to fully train them or test them. They may also not require periodic follow-up training and testing, which could help ensure that truckers continue to drive safely.
    • Incentive policies: Some companies provide financial incentives to drivers who make their deliveries early. Although this could be seen as a perk, some drivers may speed, forego breaks, or drive recklessly to get to their destination before the deadline, a risky endeavor for them and Drivers who share the road with them.
    • Unrealistic deadlines: Trucking companies may require extremely tight delivery deadlines for their truck drivers. This puts the driver in a position to potentially drive recklessly without breaks to make the deadline, especially if they have been held up by traffic jams, construction delays, or adverse weather.
    • Disregard of driver logs: Truck drivers must keep logs of actual driving versus break or sleep times. Many of these are electronic logs that automatically register data when the truck is moving versus idle. Some companies may not thoroughly check these logs to ensure their drivers follow regulations for safety.

    What Are Manufacturing and Other Common Errors?

    In addition to driver and trucking company errors, there are other reasons a trucker may get into a tractor-trailer or semi-truck accident. These include but are not limited to the following:

    • Faulty tires: Tire blowouts are a considerable concern for truck drivers. Everyone has seen pieces of tread from a large tire on the roadway. A blowout makes the truck extremely difficult to control. Braking and steering are both affected. When a tire blows because of a design or manufacturing defect, the tire manufacturer could be liable for a semi-truck or tractor-trailer accident.truck accidents
    • Failed parts: Sometimes, a critical component of the truck will fail from lack of inspection and maintenance or because the truck manufacturer produced a faulty part. Failed parts can occur in the engine, steering or braking systems, the drive train, or anywhere else on a large truck. In some cases, a trailer will even become detached from the cab. With so many parts that could fail, a serious tractor-trailer accident could happen quickly.
    • Improperly loaded cargo: A cargo loader, such as a parts manufacturer, distributor, logistics company, or warehouser, must adhere to certain rules when loading a commercial truck. When a tractor-trailer is improperly loaded, cargo can shift, causing the truck to jackknife, roll over, or veer out of control. Any of these situations could be deadly to the driver and other motorists.
    • Badly maintained roads: The road’s owners, such as a government municipality, county, or state, are responsible for ensuring the roadways are always in good condition. That includes everything from signage and safe placement of orange barrels during construction to everyday pothole maintenance. When roads are not kept in good working order, truck drivers could lose control and cause a bad accident.

    What Are the Different Types of Truck Accidents?

    Every year, thousands of truck accidents cause serious and fatal injuries. An injury from a truck accident is often permanent, changing the driver’s life forever. If you are involved in a truck accident, contact an experienced lawyer to understand your legal options.

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

    • Jackknifes: A jackknife is when a truck with a cab and a trailer fold in on itself at the point of separation, forming a 90-degree angle V-shape. The effect resembles a pocketknife blade folding into its handle while closing. The cause is usually the driver stopping or turning too fast, which forces the trailer’s weight to push forward.
    • Rollovers: When a truck travels along a curve or turn, centrifugal force causes it to lean away from the direction of the curve. The result can be a rollover in which the truck overturns. Tractor-trailers are particularly vulnerable because of their high center of gravity and frequently unstable loads. Most rollovers occur when an inattentive or inexperienced truck driver fails to adjust their speed to compensate for a sharp turn or curve or to avoid an accident.
    • Tire blowouts: Tire blowouts are particularly dangerous for trucks, given their tires’ sizes and importance in supporting the cab or trailer. Blowouts can quickly cause the driver to lose control. At the same time, rubber shrapnel from the blowout can hit other cars or force vehicles to swerve, causing an accident.
    • Wide turns. To make a right turn, a truck driver must first swing to the left. If the trucker is not paying attention to their surroundings, this maneuver can be tricky and cause an accident.
    • Blind-spot accidents: Commercial trucks have significant blind spots, and changing lanes is a particularly hazardous maneuver. A sudden or inattentive lane change could result in another vehicle being hit, crushed, or forced off the road.
    • Rear-end accidents: Trucks cannot stop as quickly as cars, owing to their sheer weight and size. If they hit a passenger vehicle from behind, serious injury or even death could result. Rear-end accidents can be caused by speeding, aggressive driving, or distracted and drowsy driving. They could also happen due to poor maintenance or faulty braking systems.
    • Underride accidents: When a truck stops short, a car may be unable to stop in time and could become lodged under the truck’s trailer. Trucks that weigh more than 10,000 pounds must have a guard installed to prevent underride accidents.
    • Lost loads: When cargo is improperly loaded onto a truck, it runs the risk of becoming loose and falling onto the road, causing havoc for traffic to maneuver around the obstacles. Also, poorly packed cargo can cause weight distribution problems and result in a rollover tractor-trailer accident.
    Galfand Berger Icon It is always best to give trucks space to avoid a major accident when driving on the road. However, many accidents are unavoidable because of the carelessness of the truck driver, an improperly loaded trailer, or defects in the truck or its parts.

    Why Should I Speak to a Lawyer After a Tractor-Trailer or Semi-Truck Accident?

    If you are involved in a tractor-trailer or semi-truck accident, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible to launch an investigation into the possible cause of the accident.

    A lawyer will collect evidence and build a strong case that proves all four of the essential elements of a truck accident negligence claim:

    • Duty of reasonable care: Defendant had a duty to conduct themselves safely and lawfully.
    • Breach of duty: Defendant breached that duty of care by not conducting themselves safely and lawfully.
    • Causation: Defendant’s breach of duty caused the other party’s injuries.
    • Damages: That party’s injuries resulted in damages.

    The injured party may be able to seek compensation for economic damages, such as:

    • Medical expenses.
    • Lost earnings and wages.
    • Property damage.

    Also, non-economic damages can be pursued, such as:

    • Pain and suffering.
    • Emotional distress.
    • Loss of consortium.

    Philadelphia Tractor-Trailer Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Assist Individuals Injured in Truck Accidents

    If you have been injured in an accident involving a semi-truck or tractor-trailer, reach out to our Philadelphia tractor-trailer accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. Our experienced legal team will protect your rights. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.