Truck accidents are terrifying and often life-changing experiences for victims. Commercial truck drivers operate huge vehicles that dwarf passenger cars and SUVs. When a semi-truck crashes into a small vehicle, the smaller vehicle’s occupants often suffer severe injuries and losses.
Because of the potential devastation of a commercial truck accident, truck drivers must abide by a high standard of care. First, they must always have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) appropriate for the vehicle they will be operating.
Drivers must requalify to renew a CDL every five years (or possibly eight, depending on the state). Some vehicles, such as hazardous material (HAZMAT) trucks, require additional training and license endorsements.
At a minimum, a trucking company should always ensure every driver has a currently valid CDL. If a driver does not have a CDL, they are not qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. Even if a driver has a CDL, they still might be unqualified to drive a truck under certain circumstances.
When a driver does not have proper licenses and qualifications, they risk making mistakes and causing accidents. Accident victims can suffer life-changing injuries, and they should recover financially from the truck driver and the trucking company that allowed the driver to be on the road. Anyone in this situation should consult with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Mistakes That Unqualified Drivers Might Make
Even highly trained and experienced commercial drivers make mistakes and act negligently behind the wheel. When drivers are not qualified, they are more likely to make dangerous or even deadly mistakes.
The following are only some examples of truck driver mistakes. If you suffered injuries in a truck accident, you should discuss the cause and your legal rights with a truck accident attorney.
#1. Violating Traffic Laws or Trucking Regulations
Like the operators of passenger vehicles, the drivers of large trucks are responsible for following all traffic laws and rules, including speed limits. When drivers are in a hurry and violate traffic laws, they might strike another vehicle or a pedestrian nearby, causing them to suffer serious injuries.
Common road rule violations include:
- Tailgating other vehicles
- Failing to use signals
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Failing to yield the right-of-way at traffic intersections
- Improper lane changes
- Driving too fast for conditions
In addition to regular state traffic laws, commercial drivers must comply with many trucking regulations specific to the motor carrier industry. Motor carrier regulations aim to ensure the safe operation of large trucks on busy roads and highways. When truck drivers and trucking companies violate these regulations, accidents can occur.
Unqualified truck drivers might not know all the regulations they need to follow. They also might feel overwhelmed by the requirements of truck operation, and they might forget specific requirements and violate safety regulations.
For example, drivers must perform pre and post-trip inspections and ensure that all overhead and undercarriage lights are in proper working order. They must also abide by cargo weight limits on various roads and properly secure their cargo on the truck bed or inside a trailer. Failing to do so might cause the load to roll off the truck when the vehicle is in motion, causing a car to collide with the fallen cargo in the middle of the roadway.
#2. Fatigued Driving
Another way that large truck and tractor-trailer drivers are negligent is when they engage in fatigued driving. Trucking companies sometimes offer drivers incentives to deliver their cargo to their final destinations ahead of schedule. As a result, drivers may operate their vehicles for long hours, often without sleep.
Fatigued driving can slow down a driver’s reaction time, and the driver might even fall asleep at the wheel, resulting in a severe collision. At other times, truck drivers might resort to illegal substances to keep them awake for long hours. However, these drugs sometimes have the opposite effect and cause drivers to become fatigued while behind the wheel.
#3. Distracted Driving
A truck driver engages in distracted driving when they direct their attention away from the roadway, even for a short time. For example, the driver might be using a cellular device or tablet or programming a GPS device while they should be paying attention to the roadway. When a truck driver does not focus their attention directly on the road, they might miss an oncoming motor vehicle or pedestrian, resulting in a serious collision.
#4. Intoxicated Truck Operation
Like the operators of passenger vehicles, commercial truck drivers must refrain from intoxicated driving. The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) standards are stricter for commercial drivers. When a truck driver operates their vehicle while impaired or intoxicated, they can face criminal penalties and civil liability if they cause an accident that leads to injuries.
Drug and alcohol intoxication can seriously impact a truck driver’s ability to operate their vehicle safely. The driver might experience blurred vision and other physical symptoms. Moreover, they might not maintain control over their large, heavy vehicle and inadvertently cause the vehicle to veer off the road. Finally, the driver might experience delayed reaction time, preventing them from stopping in time to avoid impacting another vehicle.
Since truck drivers are commercial drivers who operate vehicles for a living, the law holds them to a high standard of care. When truck drivers operate their vehicles in a reckless, careless, or negligent manner, they can cause an accident that leads to serious and sometimes permanent injuries for other drivers and their passengers. If a truck accident injured you or a person you care about, you want help from a truck accident lawyer who can identify an unqualified or negligent truck driver.
When you retain the right lawyer to represent you in your case, they can begin investigating the circumstances behind your accident. If necessary, they can retain an accident reconstructionist to determine what occurred. This can involve reviewing driver records and files of the trucking company to determine whether the driver was unqualified. If so, they can then help you file a claim or lawsuit that seeks monetary compensation for the Injuries you sustained in your accident.
Can I Hold a Trucking Company Responsible for a Truck Collision?
Some trucking companies categorize drivers as employees, while others define drivers as independent contractors. In the past, companies used contractors to try to avoid liability for the negligence of employees. However, changes to the law made trucking companies liable for the conduct of anyone operating their vehicles, even if they are technically contractors. This means you can hold trucking companies liable for the negligence of a truck driver, whether the driver was qualified or not.
In addition, trucking companies are responsible for employing safe and careful drivers who have good driving records. If a trucking company employs or retains a driver with a known record of prior moving violations, the trucking company can be responsible for an accident involving that driver.
Likewise, trucking companies can be responsible for negligently supervising a truck driver who causes an accident. Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring their employees comply with all required certifications and continuing education requirements. Companies can be legally responsible when they fail to see that their drivers fulfill these requirements and a collision occurs.
Most truck drivers and employer trucking companies have insurance through the same company. However, trucking companies usually have much higher policy limits than individual truck drivers. If you have serious injuries, identifying trucking company liability can help ensure enough insurance coverage for your total losses.
When identifying liable parties, always put the task in the hands of an experienced truck accident attorney.
Which Common Injuries That Unqualified Truck Drivers Might Cause?
Injuries to truck accident victims can be severe. This is especially true if the accident involves a head-on collision or occurs at high speed. When a large, multi-ton big rig or 18-wheeler collides with a small sedan or another passenger vehicle, the smaller vehicle occupants can suffer multiple traumatic and life-changing injuries.
Victims of Fresno truck accidents can suffer traumatic head injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, and soft tissue injuries. If you have suffered any of these injuries in a truck collision, you should seek immediate medical treatment as soon as possible after your accident. If you wait too long to seek this treatment, a minor injury or medical complication can turn much more serious.
At a hospital emergency room or urgent care center, the nurse or doctor on duty can examine you and undertake the necessary imaging studies, such as MRIs, x-rays, and brain scans, to determine the full extent of your condition. If you require emergency treatment, such as surgery to correct a broken bone, the healthcare provider on duty can make the necessary arrangements. Moreover, the provider can recommend follow-up medical treatment through your primary care doctor or a medical specialist.
Always follow through with all recommended medical treatments for your injuries. Otherwise, the insurance company for the at-fault driver might assume that your injuries were not that severe or that you did not take your medical treatment seriously. While you focus all of your attention on making a full recovery from your truck accident injuries, your truck accident attorney can begin protecting your legal rights.
Specifically, your lawyer can request lost wage documentation, photographs of your injuries, police reports, and medical records to prepare a settlement demand package to forward to the insurance company of the liable parties. They can then negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and work to get you the monetary compensation that you need.
Potential Damages in a Truck Accident Case
Not all truck accidents are the same. Consequently, the damages that victims of one truck accident recover may be different from victims of another truck accident. This is largely because of differences regarding the extent of injuries, the severity of impact, and the cost of the medical treatment that accident victims underwent. Generally speaking, the more serious the injuries or the costly the medical treatment, the higher the compensation an accident victim can recover as part of their truck accident claim.
A truck accident lawyer should always calculate your losses, as victims often grossly underestimate the value of their claims. You can seek different damages for your losses. Your lawyer can incorporate all applicable damages into your insurance demand.
Victims of truck accidents can first pursue their out-of-pocket losses, including compensation for related medical expenses and wage losses. In addition, they might recover noneconomic damages for their inconvenience, suffering, pain, and emotional distress. If their accident caused a permanent injury, they can recover damages for their loss of life enjoyment and the ability to use a body part, such as after a spinal cord or paralysis injury.
An experienced truck accident lawyer will aggressively advocate for your legal interests during settlement negotiations and, if necessary, in court. They will explain all of your legal options to you and help you decide whether you should accept a pending settlement offer or take your case to trial or an alternative dispute resolution proceeding, such as mediation or binding arbitration.
Speak With a Truck Accident Lawyer About Your Rights
Never allow an unqualified truck driver and their trucking company employer to ruin your life physically, mentally, and financially. Stand up for the justice and compensation you deserve with help from an experienced truck accident attorney.
The right lawyer will know how to hold trucking companies liable for allowing unqualified drivers to get behind the wheel and cause crashes and injuries. They will know how to deal with insurance companies while letting you focus on your treatment and recovery process.
Never wait to begin standing up for your legal rights. Even if you are unsure what caused your truck crash, a law firm can investigate the matter for you. Seek a free case evaluation with a trusted attorney today.