Commercial trucks have a higher center of gravity, potentially dangerous cargo, and weight that can exceed 80,000 pounds, which are all contributing factors to the tragedy that can occur if they are involved in an accident. When a passenger vehicle is involved in a truck accident, not only is the car catastrophically damaged but those inside are often critically injured or killed.
If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, your family may be dealing with:
- Hospital bills
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Lost wages and income
- Lifestyle modifications to cope with disability
- Diminished quality of life
- Pain and suffering
Truck accident cases are more complex than the common car accident, having their own set of state and federal regulations. If you were injured or have experienced the loss of a loved one in truck accident in the North Texas area, our Dallas lawyers can help you hold the negligent parties responsible.
For a free case evaluation, contact the Dallas truck accident attorneys at Polewski & Associates by calling 972-230-6200. We are committed to helping victims recover the financial compensation that they rightfully deserve.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents cause nearly 90,000 injuries and 5,000 deaths per year in the United States. While there a number of scenarios which can result in a truck accident, there are some that are more common than others.
Some of the most common causes of truck accidents we tend to see include:
- Driver fatigue: Truck driver fatigue is perhaps the most common cause of truck accidents in America. While federal regulations mandate that truck drivers have minimum amounts of rest and time off, drivers and employers often ignore these safety rules in an effort to make more money. When drowsy truck drivers become inattentive behind the wheel, your safety is jeopardized.
- Drug use: Often when a truck driver is driving under the influence, the cause of impairment is not alcohol but amphetamines. Generally they are used with the intent of keeping drivers awake, but this can put both the truck driver and other motorists in danger.
- Oversized loads or improperly secured cargo: Sometimes the storage compartments of commercial trucks are overloaded to meet supply demands, but this can throw off a truck's balance and center of gravity, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
- Reckless driving: While all truck drivers should adhere strictly to safety guidelines, sometimes the pressure to meet deadlines can affect their judgment in driving.
- Distracted driving: Drivers who are texting while driving, fiddling with GPS devices, or engaging in other activities pose a threat on the roads.
An overloaded truck leads to more accidents and increases the probability of an accident occurring due to the following issues:
- Increased stopping time and distance
- Greater risk of tire blowout
- Increased downhill speed
- Greater risk of rollover accident
- Risk of bridge and overpass collapse
If one of these occurs while passenger vehicles are nearby, the outcome could be catastrophic. Injuries are typically severe, and could lead to disability, disfigurement or amputation. Tragically, accidents involving tractor trailers often result in the wrongful death of one or more individuals involved.
In an override accident, the front end of a large truck runs over a smaller vehicle, such as a passenger car or a motorcycle. There are many potential causes of override accidents, including:
- Brake failure on the truck
- Truck driver fatigue
- Tire blowout
- Improper truck maintenance
- Reckless driving
- Trucker tailgating
- Adverse weather conditions
Underride accidents occur when a smaller vehicle such as a car or motorcycle crashes into a truck and slides beneath the truck’s undercarriage. In most underride accidents, the roof of the car is either crushed or ripped off, causing severe injuries to the vehicle’s passengers such as:
Underride accidents can occur from both rear-end collisions and collisions with the side of a truck’s trailer. Rear-end underride accidents are often caused by a truck stopping short when a vehicle is traveling too close behind. Side collision underride accidents often occur when a truck is backing out of a driveway into a road containing a steady flow of traffic.
In these cases, the drivers of passenger vehicles often do not see the truck backing out until it is too late to stop in time. These accidents are more likely to occur at night when it is difficult to see a truck’s trailer backing into the street due to poor lighting.
Truck Driver Fatigue
In an ongoing effort to improve highway safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the number of hours truck drivers may operate to ensure that they are not driving while fatigued. Approximately 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year and driver fatigue is considered to be the leading factor.
The FMCSA has enacted “hours of service” laws for truck drivers in order to help put an end to fatigued driving. These laws include:
- Drivers must take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of their shift in order to stay alert.
- Drivers are required to take rest periods and are not permitted to drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Truckers may not drive more than 60 hours in a 7 day period, or 70 hours in an 8 day period.
Research on the matter demonstrates that extensive work hours without sufficient recovery time actually leads to reduced sleep and chronic fatigue. In turn, drivers tend to have slower reaction times and a reduced ability to assess situations quickly due to their fatigue.
Like most people, truck drivers are often unable to assess their own fatigue levels and evaluate their performance on the roads accurately. Though these rules set forth by FMCSA have been challenged in court by those who felt they weren't restrictive enough and others who found it too restrictive, the court ruled in favor of the FMCSA and the rules that have been put in place.
The rule still allows for FMCSA to grant waivers to industries or companies for specific reasons determined on a case-by-case basis.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
The unfortunate reality is that in many cases, some of the most devastating truck accidents on our Dallas roadways and across the nation are ones that could have been prevented.
In these cases, some of the most common truck accident injuries we tend to see include:
- Spinal injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Burn Injuries
What to Do After a Truck Accident
If involved in a truck accident, you may feel at a loss as to what steps should be taken. If you are not severely injured, there are certain steps that should be taken immediately after the accident. These steps include:
- Call 911
- Request a medical evaluation when emergency responders arrive
- Answer police officers' questions truthfully
- Provide the police with the facts, but do not speculate or say you caused the accident
- Use your phone to take photos of your car, the truck, and your injuries
Your medical evaluation is important to determine the extent of your injuries. In the days after the truck accident, you should make a visit to your doctor for a comprehensive exam, as you may have injuries that you may not have immediately felt and were not detected by emergency responders at the time. It's essential to have any physical harm documented, as it could be a critical component in your accident claim.
When police officers arrive at the accident scene, it is their job to file a police report, which is an accurate and unbiased account of what took place. Answer their questions honestly, but do not offer any guesses about how the accident was caused and whether you were at fault, as this can be used against you.
You should also ask for the contact and insurance information of the truck driver, and any other drivers involved if applicable. If there were witnesses present at the scene, you should ask for their contact information as well.
Determining who should be held responsible for damages in a truck accident claim is crucial to the success of your case. Unfortunately, it is rarely an easy task. At Polewski & Associates we have years of experience handling complicated cases like these, and we make a commitment to understanding the needs of each client so we can pursue your claim accordingly.
In many cases, there are a number of potentially liable parties our Dallas truck accident attorneys may need to investigate including:
- The driver of the truck
- The trucking agencies and cargo companies
- The manufacturers of the truck and/or its parts
- Government road authorities (if the accident was due to road design defects or disrepair)
Our investigations will vary depending on your individual circumstances, but we can help you understand the process by answering any truck accident questions you may have and offering you expertise and advice every step of the way.
Unfortunately though, even when you have identified all of the potentially liable parties, determining who should actually be held responsible for the damages and proving their fault can be incredibly difficult.
In order to prove legal liability in a truck-related accident, there is a substantial amount of important documentation that will need to be recovered and analyzed. Some of the evidence that may be required includes:
- Police report
- Truck driver's travel log, fuel receipts and driving record
- Maintenance and federal/state compliance records
- ECM or "black box" data
Gathering evidence is a crucial step for determining liability in your case, and it should not be left to chance. The experienced truck accident lawyers at Polewski & Associates know how to get the information you need when you need it and we know how to use it.
Contact a Dallas Truck Accident Lawyer at Polewski & Associates
If you have suffered a personal injury due to a commercial truck collision that may have been caused by negligence or misconduct, and you are ready to pursue the justice and compensation you deserve, contact Polewski & Associates 972-230-6200 to schedule a free consultation with a Dallas truck accident attorney today.