Truck Accident Attorneys in Birmingham, Alabama
When a collision happens between a passenger vehicle and a semi truck, it’s nearly always the smaller vehicle that suffers the most damage. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), approximately 90,000 large trucks are involved in injury crashes each year and close to 4,000 lives are lost in these tragic accidents. Unfortunately, too many of these accidents are caused by the negligence of trucking companies or truck drivers.
If you have been injured in a truck accident or a loved one killed, the Alabama truck accident attorneys at Burge & Burge, PC will fight for the care and compensation you deserve.
The Most Common Types of Trucking Accidents
The trucking industry is a $725 billion industry in the U.S. There are currently more than 31 million trucks operating in this country, over 3 million of which are large tractor trailers. These trucks log close to 280 billion miles on our nation’s roads each year, so it’s not surprising that accidents occur with increasing frequency. The most common types of trucking accidents that we see include:
- Rear-end collisions
- Jackknife accidents
- Head-on collisions
- Underride accidents
- Blind spot accidents
Major Causes of Alabama Truck Accidents
The sheer number of trucks on the roadways contribute to these dangerous accidents, as do the unreasonable demands of trucking companies and the lack of standards for truck drivers. Some of the most common causes of Alabama truck accidents include:
- Drunk or drugged driving
- Excessive speed
- Tire, brake, or other equipment problems
- Driver fatigue
- Roadway issues
- Following too closely
- Lack of familiarity with roadways
- Tire problems
- Unstable cargo
There are few things as dangerous as an 18-wheeler or tractor-trailer that is driving too fast or even out of control. The NHTSA reports that one-third of fatal accidents were either caused by speed or had excessive speed as a contributing factor.
The way that truck drivers are compensated has a lot to do with this pervasive problem. Instead of being paid by the hour, truck drivers are paid by the mile. So, instead of using caution and care to protect the lives of others on the road, they speed from one destination to the next so that they can make as much money as possible. There may also be factors beyond their control, such as traffic jams or slow loading times, that put them even further behind schedule. These excessive speeds can lead to dangerous and deadly truck accidents that will have a severe impact on victims and their families.
Devastating Injuries From Large Truck Accidents
A typical tractor trailer weighs 80,000 pounds when completely empty and is a tremendous force when involved in an accident. When a truck accident occurs, particularly with a standard motor vehicle, the extreme weight of the truck is a key factor in the catastrophic nature of the resulting injuries. Common truck accident injuries include:
- Broken and fracture bones
- Back and neck injuries
- Brain injury
- Loss of limbs
- Severe burns
If you’re involved in a trucking accident, you might be entitled to damages for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, permanent disability, and pain and suffering.
Who is to Blame When a Truck Accident Occurs?
Although we refer to these truck crashes as “accidents,” few collisions involving large trucks are truly accidental. Someone is usually at fault when an enormous truck crashes into a car, person, train, or business and causes catastrophic property damage, injury, or death.
In the past, many trucking companies required that truck drivers sign on as independent contractors so that they could minimize their liability and their costs. This is no longer permitted, so pursuing a trucking company in one of these cases is more straightforward. Truck companies now pour their resources into hiring top defense attorneys to minimize damages and vigorously defend these cases. This is why it’s more important than ever to have a reputable Alabama truck lawyer in your corner.
A trucking company can be held liable for failing to maintain their trucks, not hiring trained or competent drivers, and allowing cargo to be loaded improperly. A truck driver might be held liable for driving under the influence, driving aggressively, or for ignoring other rules and regulations. There may also be negligence on the part of a tire, brake, or other parts manufacturer if failure caused an accident.
Liability for a Truck Accident Case: Determining Duty of Care and Negligence
The first element of a truck accident that you will need to establish is who should be held liable for the accident and related damages. Liability is based on two elements: duty of care and negligence.
A “duty of care” refers to either a legal or a moral obligation to ensure others are reasonably safe from harm, and is a duty that all drivers on the roads of Alabama possess. Truck drivers and drivers of commercial vehicles have an even higher duty of care, and are bound to act in a manner that is reasonable and attentive. Other parties in a truck accident, such as the manufacturer of the truck’s tires, or the trucking company responsible for hiring the driver, also have a duty of care.
Negligence means that the duty of care owed by a party was breached. A truck driver operating their vehicle while intoxicated, or a trucking company forcing a driver to drive more than allowed under the law, are both examples of negligence. Proving negligence can be complicated, and may require hiring accident reconstruction experts and forensic specialists who can evaluate the trucking crash and what caused it. Witness testimony, a truck’s black box data, and driver’s logs will all prove critical, too.
If the truck accident took place in Alabama, there is another hurdle that must be overcome in order to win your truck accident claim. Alabama is one of just a handful of states that applies the “contributory negligence” legal doctrine to personal injury claims. This means that if an injured party is found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident (even 1%), they may be barred from recovering damages.
You can be absolutely certain that the other side will do everything possible to try to pin at least some of the blame (for the accident) on you, so they can avoid paying out damages. This is another good reason why it is important to get an attorney involved right away. Otherwise, you may jeopardize your legal right to recover just compensation for your injuries.
Drowsy Driving in the Trucking Industry
Those who work in the trucking industry are among the most likely to be driving while drowsy or fatigued. Truckers put in long hours during the week, and much of this time is spent driving during the evening and overnight hours. A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study also found that nearly one-third of commercial truck drivers suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea. The study went on to say that those with untreated sleep apnea have a harder time staying awake, focusing your eyes, and reacting properly while driving.
How Truck Accidents Differ From Car Accidents
Truck accidents are only similar to car accidents in a few ways. When you get into an accident with a truck, you will need to show that the other driver was negligent (at fault) and that their negligence caused your injuries. Unfortunately, truck accident cases are complex, and this is where the similarities end.
Because the trucking industry is federally-regulated, there are additional rules in place that require more evidence and investigation when these accidents occur. A trucking accident investigation will review:
- The truck driver’s log book, which shows how long they were on the road in the past 24 hours
- The truck driver’s medical certificate showing that they are cleared to drive
- The truck’s on-board computer, which will reveal key data about the crash and the events leading up to the accident.
While these pieces of evidence can help prove that the truck driver or trucking company were negligent in the accident, they could be lost forever if immediate steps aren’t taken to preserve evidence. An experienced truck accident attorney understands the process necessary to gather evidence and investigate these complicated incidents.
How to Avoid an Accident with a Big Rig
Stay Out of “No Zones”
Most people understand that all vehicles, but especially large trucks, have blind spots, and that staying out of these blind spots is an important safety element. However, not all drivers may understand just how expansive these blind spots, also called “no zones” really are, or where they are located.
A great graphic provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) displays that “no zones” for a large truck are:
- 20 feet in front of the large truck;
- Two lanes to the right of the large truck;
- 30 feet directly behind the vehicle; and
- One lange directly to the left of the large truck.
While the graphic explains that the area behind the truck and to the left (i.e. back left corner of the truck) is “OK,” drivers should avoid staying so close to a large truck regardless, as entering no zones is more likely.
If you’re not sure whether you’re in a “no zone,” ask yourself if you can see the truck driver using the large truck’s side mirror. If you cannot, you should assume that the truck driver cannot see you.
Know How to Pass a Big Rig
Another important thing to know when driving around large trucks is how to safely pass a truck. Not only do trucks have huge blind spots, but they also require a lot more distance for braking than do regular vehicles, which can put them in a precarious position if drivers cut in front of them too closely. Tips for safe passing include:
- Always pass on the left;
- Always signal and allow the truck driver plenty of time to see your intent to pass prior to moving your vehicle;
- Never pass on a downgrade, as this is where large trucks pick up speed;
- Don’t spend too much time in a blind spot – after your intent to pass has been made clear, move into the left lane, and accelerate quickly to pass the truck; and
- Give plenty of room if transitioning back to the same lane of the truck – never cut a large truck off.
Watch out for wide turns
Many drivers fail to recognize that large trucks require more room to maneuver and turn. For example, truckers may have to swing their vehicles wide to the left in order to make right-hand turns. Thus, it is recommended that people refrain from trying to squeeze next to or pass tractor trailers that are turning right. Truckers may not see them and, as a result, their vehicles may get hit or become trapped.
According to the Alabama Driver Manual, it may take fully loaded semitrailers up to 430 feet to stop safely when they are traveling at 55 mph. Consequently, truckers may be unable to stop in time to avoid a collision if motorists cut in front of them and have to stop or slow suddenly.
What to Do If You’re Involved in a Truck Accident
If you’re involved in a truck accident, call the police immediately so that you have official documentation of the incident. Seek medical care for your injuries. Take photos of the accident scene, or ask someone else to do this on your behalf. Gather as much information as you can about the truck, its driver, and any witnesses.
Avoid giving statements to insurance or trucking company representatives. Despite their claims, these people do not have your best interests in mind. Their job is to save the trucking or insurance company as much money as possible. Instead, contact a truck accident lawyer who can give you sound advice.
Truck Accidents Require the Assistance of an Attorney
If you have been injured in an accident involving a heavy truck such as a tractor trailer, semi-trailer, 18-wheeler, construction truck, or dump truck, seek the assistance of an experienced and reputable Alabama truck accident lawyer. Our aggressive and caring attorneys can explain your legal options and work to pursue the highest level of financial compensation possible for your injuries. Contact our skilled accident lawyer team today at 205-545-8291 or 877-388-3749 for a free consultation.
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