When truckers, trucking companies, or other parties slip up, the Birmingham attorneys at Drake Law Firm step in. If you’ve suffered injuries in a collision with an 18-wheeler, big rig, tractor-trailer, delivery truck, or other commercial truck in Birmingham, contact Drake Law Firm for assistance litigating a personal injury claim against a local or national trucking company. Call (205) 970-0800 today.
Truck accidents are often catastrophic, taking thousands of lives each year. In Alabama alone, 8,484 crashes involving large trucks in 2015 took 118 lives and injured 2,367 more. There is no room for driver negligence in the trucking industry. With vehicles that can reach more than 20 times the weight of the average passenger car, commercial truck drivers must use the highest standards of care to avoid collisions. When they don’t, victims have the right to file lawsuits.
Why Do You Need an Attorney?
When we receive phone calls from truck accident survivors, they often wonder whether it’s worth it to spend the money on an attorney. The answer is yes. Only an attorney can aggressively negotiate with prominent trucking companies and their corporate insurers in a way that will convince them to offer greater compensation amounts. Only an attorney can make the filing process seamless, simple, and stress-free for accident victims. Only an attorney can act as your confidant and advocate for your rights throughout the entire legal process.
Hiring an attorney takes the burden to prove your case off of your shoulders. Since Alabama is a fault state, crash victims have to prove the other driver’s fault for the collision to qualify for insurance benefits. This can take an in-depth investigation of the truck accident, access to the truck’s black box or electronic logging device, review of federal and state trucking laws, analysis of police reports, interviews with witnesses, and crash re-creation – most of which are beyond the average client’s scope of abilities.
Instead of spearheading your claim on your own, trust a firm with proven results. Partnering with the right lawyer can mean elevating your claim beyond the level of an average conversation with an insurance agent. It means safeguarding your rights in the face of a major trucking company that may try to convince the courts of your contributory negligence. In Alabama, any amount of fault on your part can completely eliminate your chances of recovering damages. Don’t take this risk when you’re facing a mountain of medical bills and lost wages. Protect your rights by retaining an attorney from Drake Law Firm.
About Truck Accident Lawsuits in Alabama
Truck accident claims are unique and do not obey the same laws or rules as typical car accident claims. Commercial trucks are common carriers with federal laws they must obey on top of state-specific laws. Commercial drivers have a host of responsibilities that other drivers do not, including lower minimum blood alcohol concentration levels and training requirements. Hours of service rules, cargo loading regulations, fleet maintenance expectations, and dozens of other laws may apply to a trucking accident claim in Alabama. Breaking any of these laws and causing a truck wreck could lead to company liability.
In 2011, there were several thousand truck accidents in Alabama, with well over a thousand people injured and 92 killed. Nationwide in 2012, 3,921 people were killed in truck accidents, and another 104,000 injured. The dead and injured were four times as likely to be occupants of another vehicle as they were to be occupants of the truck.
Large trucks are particularly prone to involvement in accidents for at least three reasons:
- The trucks have limited visibility (large blind spots)
- They take longer to stop because of their weight; at 55 miles an hour, the stopping distance of a typical semi truck is more than twice the stopping distance of a passenger vehicle
- They are less maneuverable; in fact, big rigs typically begin a left turn by swinging wide to the right to get a better angle for the turn
Drifting in the opposite direction of the intended turn has lured many an impatient car driver into trying to pass on the side to which the truck suddenly turns.
A collision between a huge semi truck and a passenger vehicle is always a mismatch, likely to cause extensive injuries to the passenger vehicle occupants. It’s even worse if the truck is fully loaded and travelling at a high speed. To minimize the problem, federal law requires big rig drivers to get special licenses and special training, puts strict limits on their hours, requires a large insurance policies, and holds them to a higher standard than ordinary drivers.
Types of Truck Accidents
The broad phrase “truck accidents” covers a lot of different situations. The nature of the accident often affects who gets injured, how severe the injury is, and who might be legally responsible for the damage. Many types of accidents occur only when there is more than one vehicle involved; others may involve other vehicles, or not.
Recognized types of truck accidents include:
- Head on collisions occur when the truck strikes another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction; these accidents involve tremendous forces and frequently cause severe injuries and death to occupants of both vehicles. Many accidents of this type involve drivers who are distracted, impaired, tired, or actually asleep.
- Rear end collisions occur when the truck crashes into the back of another vehicle; these accidents tend to cause significant damage to the front vehicle, especially if the truck is fully loaded. Rear impact collisions tend to be caused by the inattention or negligence of the truck driver, or by sudden stops or cut-ins by the driver of another vehicle.
- Underride collisions occur when a smaller vehicle crashes into the rear of the truck, and the smaller vehicle rides under the trailer. Injuries to people in the smaller car may be extensive and severe, especially to the head. Causes tend to be similar to rear end accidents, with the roles of the truck and the other vehicle reversed. Underride guards on trucks can prevent this type of accident.
- Side collisions occur when the truck crashes into another vehicles side, or another vehicle crashes into the side of the truck. These tend to be caused by one vehicle turning across the path of the other, failure of one vehicle to stop at a light or stop sign, and sudden and sharp lane changes.
- Truck rollovers occur when the balance of the truck is upset by other forces. Many are single vehicle accidents in which the truck rolls over because the center of gravity is outside the wheel base, but rollovers also occur as a consequence of other types of accidents upsetting the vehicle’s balance
- Collisions between the truck and something other than another moving vehicle. These accidents tend to be single vehicle collisions that occur when the truck collides with fixed objects, people or animals. They typically involve guard rails, buildings, poles, pedestrians, and animals. Most accidents of this type are caused by the truck driver losing control of the vehicle for any number of reasons, with a smaller number caused by failure to see the object or person that is struck.
Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents may result from mechanical problems, driver error and/or impairment, anything that causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle, including load shifts, and any number of obstacles and conditions on the road. Among the most common causes of truck accidents are:
- Driver fatigue, exhaustion, distraction, or impairment
- Driver inexperience, lack of sufficient training, or incompetence
- Speeding and other unsafe practices
- Brake, tire or mechanical failure
- Debris or material in the road
- Load shifting
Federal and other Government Regulations and Truck Accidents
In addition to Alabama’s extensive regulations governing the use of trucks, trailers, and semitrailers, the federal government’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) provide extensive requirements that apply to trucks used in interstate commerce. Among the many, many subjects of regulation, the FMCSR set out minimum standards for:
- Vehicle safety and maintenance
- Driver qualifications and limits on driver hours of operation
- Financial responsibility
- Licensing requirements for motor carriers, brokers and freight forwarders
Violating these regulations amounts to negligence and can be the basis for recovering damages for injuries caused by a truck accident if the violation can be shown to have caused the accident. As a result, any lawsuit to recover for injuries in a truck accident may involve detailed analysis of the regulations in addition to the usual concerns like the speed of the vehicles in the accident, whether one vehicle was following another too closely, whether proper signals were used before turning, and the like.
Who is Responsible?
Any person, company, or other organization whose conduct cause an accident can be held liable for the injuries (and deaths) that result. That sounds simple, but it means that the cause of the accident has to be determined before making any final decision on who may be liable. The value of getting an experienced Alabama truck accident lawyer involved early in the case can’t be overstated.
Because the commercial trucking industry itself has complicated relationships, it can take time to figure out who was responsible for the truck’s operation at the time of the accident. Some trucks are owned by the same company that owns the cargo, with the driver simply an employee of that company (imagine a local furniture store delivery truck). Trucks may be owned by the driver, whom a shipper hires, or owned (or leased) by a trucking company, with the driver merely hired to haul the load, which a shipper has hired the trucking company to transport.
The driver of the truck or other vehicle involved in the accident, the trucking company and the truck manufacturer are obvious candidates for legal responsibility, but there are virtually no limits to what other entities may end up being held responsible for a truck accident. Blown tires may implicate the tire retailer or manufacturer. Defective brakes may implicate the manufacturer or the repair shop that installed them. Defects in road design or maintenance may implicate a governmental entity responsible for those functions. Even the shipper may have liability if the cargo required specific warnings to the trucker, which weren’t given.
Despite many truck drivers being independent contractors, federal law holds trucking companies vicariously responsible for the actions of drivers. If a distracted, drowsy, drunk, or otherwise negligent trucker caused your crash, you could have grounds to seek damages from the company itself. Our attorneys can help you with these types of claims, making sure you adhere to filing requirements and Alabama’s two-year deadline. We’ll make sure your case has everything it needs for the very best chances of success.
Get Experienced Help Early On
Many of the entities that may be liable for a truck accident are large, wealthy companies (and their insurers), with every incentive to fight the claim vigorously. It takes determination and a lot of experience to successfully take them on. Drake Law Firm has been successfully handling injury cases, including truck accidents, for a quarter of a century. We only handle injury cases, and we handle them thoroughly, with a success rate approaching 99 percent.
To discuss your Birmingham truck accident case with an attorney, contact Drake Law Firm for a free consultation. We’re happy to meet with you in person to talk about your recent crash and the potential legal actions you could take in pursuit of full damage recovery. Call (205) 970-0800 today for more information.