Any automobile accident can be a harrowing experience, but when an 80,000 pound tractor trailer is involved, the laws of physics dictate that the consequences are likely to be much more severe.
According to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles yearly crash statistics, accidents involving a semi-trailer are about 4 times as likely to end in a fatality than crashes with regular passenger vehicles.
Truck Drivers and Duty of Care
Every driver on the road has a certain duty of care to other drivers. This essentially means we must comply with all traffic laws and use all means a normal person under similar circumstances would use to avoid an accident.
Due to the potentially devastating consequences of tractor trailer accidents, the court system expects a higher duty of care for commercial truck drivers. In addition to following basic traffic laws, truck drivers must adhere to other state and federal regulations which are strictly enforced.
To get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) drivers must demonstrate a high level of proficiency in:
- Turning, backing up, parking, braking, and other advanced serpentine driving maneuvers
- Maintaining and inspecting trucks engine, tires, lights, brakes, fasteners, etc
- Procedures and regulations for transporting hazardous materials (HAZMATS)
A drug test and physical examination are also part of the licensing process.
On the job, commercial semi drivers must keep a logbook detailing their activities. They must record the dates and times of pickup and delivery, the weight of the truck before and after delivery, the number of hours they drive each day, and the number of hours of rest they get in between.
These regulations are put in place to make our roadways safer.
Proving Negligence in a Truck Accident Lawsuit
When a truck accident occurs and state or federal regulations are being violated at the time, these violations can serve as very strong indication of negligence. As with any injury case, proving negligence and proximate cause is a key factor in your claim.
Sometimes these violations may be accidental, and sometimes truck companies willingly violate the law. If the violations are flagrant enough to be considered criminal, they may potentially result in punitive damages beyond what could be recovered for expenses, pain, and suffering.
Gathering Evidence in a Truck Accident Lawsuit
Our experienced truck accident lawyers can subpoena the necessary evidence to discover if any laws were violated. We can gain access to:
- The driver’s logbook, including rest and driving time, cargo load, and intended route
- CDL records
- Drug test records
- Criminal Background records
- Prior Tickets
- Driver’s financial background
Things like a driver’s finances may seem irrelevant to an accident at first glance, but it could be relevant if a driver is pulling extra long hours to get out of debt. Truck drivers are often paid by the mile, which might entice someone to work longer than is legally allowed.
Evidence: Moving Violations
Regulation violations aren’t the only way to prove negligence, of course. Like any other kind of automobile accident, most accidents are caused by some sort of moving violation such as:
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Failure to yield right-of-way
- Failure to use turn signals
- Failure to maintain an assured clear distance ahead (ACDA)
- Failure to properly secure the load
- Illegal window tints or other view obstructions
- Crossing over center line
- Distracted Driving
Steps You Can Take to Gather Evidence After an 18 Wheeler Collision
If you are in accident with a tractor trailer, the first thing you need to do is get out of harm’s way. Once in a safe place, it is very important to call the police.
The police report contains a lot of important information and can be a crucial piece of evidence. It will include contact information for the parties involved in the crash, the insurance companies involved, as well as any witnesses. Other details such as weather conditions and a diagram of the accident scene will also be included.
These things are easily forgotten as time passes, so the next important thing to do is take pictures. Photographs of the accident scene are the best way to gather evidence of what happened.
A skid mark of a certain length may be a good indication of speeding. A rear end collision may be a good indication of failing to leave enough distance. Injuries should be documented with photos as well, since they heal and disappear over time.
In addition to pictures, written notes can be immensely helpful when trying to recall the accident in the future. They can also help you keep your story straight. When it comes time for trial, you can be 100% honest and accidentally contradict some detail of the crash. Your opponent’s lawyers are experts at framing your contradiction as evidence that you are not telling the truth.
Seek medical attention right away. This is a fairly obvious thing to do if you have broken bones or other catastrophic injuries, but other “soft tissue” injuries like 1403]whiplash[/link] may not immediately manifest themselves.
You are only eligible to receive compensation for the injuries that you document. You can’t wait to say that your neck hurt until the trial. A paper trail from medical professionals is crucial. Documents your doctor visits, and keep a detailed pain log to help you remember how you felt day to day.
Determining Who is Liable in a Tractor Trailer Crash
Determining liability in accidents involving a tractor trailer can be more complicated than determining liability in a normal passenger car accident. In a non-commercial passenger car collision, your claim will generally be against the driver at fault and their insurance company.
In an 18 wheeler accident, your claim may be against a number of different parties. First of all, it is unlikely that the driver involved in the crash owns his or her own truck. That means the trucking company is usually going to be involved in the claim.
While the driver of the truck may be the one who committed a violation such as speeding or driving too many hours, the trucking company’s policies might have encouraged the behavior. When companies neglect safety in the name of higher profits, it puts innocent drivers in danger.
In the case of mechanical failures, there could be other 3rd parties held liable. These may include the truck manufacturer, mechanics who recently worked on the truck, workers who improperly fastened loads, or shippers who loaded hazardous materials without proper precautions. The list goes on.
Never Give a Recorded Statement to the Other Insurance Company
No matter what the insurance agent on the phone may lead you to believe, recorded statements in auto accident cases are optional. You are under no obligation whatsoever to give a recorded statement, and doing so helps no one but the insurance company.
The insurance adjuster on the other end of the phone has one job. It is to get you to discuss your accident and injuries in a way that is damaging to your case, and they are experts at this.
Get the Compensation You Deserve For Your Injuries
Compared to $30,000 for a typical car, the minimum liability coverage for a tractor trailer in North Carolina is $750,000. There is a lot at stake. You may be able to receive compensation for:
- Medical Expenses and Ongoing Treatment
- Lost Earnings, Past and Future
- Property Damage
- Pain, suffering, and emotional trauma
- Punitive damages in the case of gross negligence
Hiring an experienced truck accident lawyer in Cary for a complicated case such as this is important to receiving the compensation you deserve. We serve clients across Wake County including Cary, Wake Forest, Raleigh, Durham, Rolesville, and Garner.