An 18-wheeler accident can result in catastrophic injuries and tremendous financial losses. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, it is critical that you retain an experienced 18-wheeler accident lawyer to protect your rights and help you pursue maximum compensation. Here is an overview of how to find and choose the best 18 wheeler accident lawyer for your case:
Do Your Research to Find the Top Truck Accident Lawyers in Your Area
The first step is to research and make a list of the top truck accident lawyers in your city or state. Look for attorneys and law firms that specialize in handling 18-wheeler accident and personal injury cases. Opt for a lawyer that has extensive experience litigating against major trucking companies and insurance carriers. Also consider lawyers that have achieved record settlements and verdicts in past truck accident cases. Online legal directories and state bar association referral services can help you find reputable truck accident attorneys in your region.
Look for an Attorney With Resources to Take on Large Trucking Companies
Successfully litigating against a major trucking company requires substantial financial resources and access to expert witnesses. Make sure to choose a law firm with the money and experts to fully investigate your accident, prove liability, and maximize your compensation. Large law firms with dozens of attorneys and in-house medical experts are best equipped to handle the complexity of a truck accident case and go up against trucking company defense lawyers.
Choose a Lawyer Known for Taking Cases to Trial
Many truck crash cases settle out of court. However, you need a lawyer that is not afraid to take your case to trial if the trucking company does not offer full and fair compensation. Look for an attorney with a proven track record of obtaining jury verdicts and settlements in excess of $1 million in past truck accident cases. The defendants need to know your lawyer is willing to go to trial if needed to get justice.
Make Sure the Lawyer Will Personally Handle Your Case
You want an attorney that will provide individual attention and truly fight for you and your family. Beware of law firms that will pass your case down to lower-level associates. The best 18-wheeler accident lawyers will be personally involved and available throughout the litigation process. Schedule an initial consultation to meet the attorney, ask questions, and make sure they have time to dedicate to your truck accident case.
Select an Attorney You Feel Comfortable With
Since you will be dealing closely together, it is crucial to choose an 18-wheeler accident lawyer with a personality and communication style you are comfortable with. Look for attorneys known for treating clients compassionately and keeping them informed. Truck crash cases can drag on, so make sure to choose a lawyer you genuinely feel at ease with.
Federal Regulations for Commercial Trucks and Driver Safety
There are stringent federal regulations in place to promote truck safety and reduce large truck crashes on U.S. highways. The primary agencies overseeing commercial trucks and drivers are the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Here are some key federal regulations related to 18-wheelers and tractor trailers:
Hours of Service Rules
To prevent driver fatigue, the FMCSA restricts the hours of service for property-carrying commercial vehicle drivers. Drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving time within a 14-hour period after coming on duty. They must then rest for 10 consecutive hours.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
The FMCSA mandates drug and alcohol testing for commercial truck drivers, including pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, random, and post-accident testing. Having detectable alcohol or testing positive for drugs can result in driver disqualification.
Traffic Violations and Driver Safety Monitoring
The FMCSA monitors commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) for traffic violations like speeding, reckless driving, and failure to stop. CDL holders are disqualified after multiple serious violations. Trucking companies are also required to monitor drivers for safety performance.
Vehicle Maintenance and Inspection
Trucking companies must systematically inspect, repair, and maintain all their commercial vehicles. Vehicles that do not meet safety standards must be removed from service. Drivers must also conduct pre-trip and post-trip vehicle inspections.
Load Securement Rules
Federal regulations contain specifications on properly securing cargo to prevent dangerous shifting loads and spills. All cargo must be contained, immobilized or secured to prevent contents loss and hazards.
Common Causes of 18-Wheeler Accidents
Unfortunately, truck crashes are still all too frequent, often due to factors like:
Drowsy or asleep driving is a major contributor to tractor-trailer collisions. Rigorous schedules can lead to accumulated driver fatigue. Driving long distances without adequate rest periods increases accident risk.
Speeding and Aggressive Driving
Excess speeding is common with truck drivers trying to meet tight delivery windows. High speeds reduce a truck driver’s ability to avoid crashes in emergencies. Aggressive driving behaviors like tailgating also raise accident risks.
Distractions like cell phones and electronics draw the driver’s eyes and attention away from the road. Reaching for objects, eating, or being otherwise distracted leads to large trucks drifting lanes or rear-ending other vehicles.
Drug or alcohol impairment slows driver reactions and decreases alertness. Prescription drugs for conditions like back pain can also impair trucker driving abilities, especially when combined with lack of sleep.
Improperly Loaded Cargo
Incorrect cargo load distribution can make trucks top-heavy and prone to rollovers. Unsecured cargo that shifts during transport also causes loss of control. Debris or cargo falling from trucks is another major hazard.
Poorly Maintained Vehicles
Brake defects, balding tires, steering issues and other truck equipment failures often result in catastrophic 18-wheeler collisions. Lack of routine inspections and repairs endangers everyone sharing the road.
Typical Injuries Sustained in an 18-Wheeler Accident
Due to their massive size and weight, 18-wheelers can inflict traumatic injuries during an accident:
Traumatic Brain Injuries
The tremendous forces in a truck collision frequently cause brain injuries like concussions, contusions, and intracranial hemorrhages. These head injuries lead to extended hospitalization and long-term cognitive deficits.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord trauma is common in truck crashes causing partial or total paralysis of the body below the site of injury. Spinal cord rehabilitation is complex and total recovery is rare.
Extremity amputations often occur when arms or legs are crushed beneath the truck’s weight. Even with prosthetic limbs, amputees face permanent lifestyle changes.
The impact of a semi-truck can shatter bones throughout the body. Compound fractures with protruding bones frequently necessitate multiple surgeries and extended casts or traction.
Internal Organ Damage
Massive blunt force trauma to the chest or abdomen ruptures or lacerates organs like the lungs, liver, kidneys or spleen. This internal damage is extremely life-threatening.
Severe Burn Injuries
Burns frequently result when 18-wheelers burst into flames post-crash. Disfiguring burns require months of excruciating treatments and skin graft surgeries.
Who May Be Liable in an 18-Wheeler Accident?
Determining all liable parties is crucial to obtain full compensation. Those potentially responsible include:
The Truck Driver
The conduct of the truck driver must be investigated. Possible driver negligence like DUI, speeding, or disregarding trucking regulations makes the driver liable.
The Trucking Company
The trucking company may be liable for negligence in driver hiring/training, vehicle maintenance, or load securing procedures. Disregard of federal safety rules also constitutes negligence.
If an defective tire, brake or other truck part contributed to the crash, the parts maker can share liability. Products liability laws apply to dangerously defective truck parts.
Third-party contractors that improperly loaded, secured, or unloaded the truck’s cargo could be considered negligent and added as defendants.
More Liable Parties
Other potential defendants depending on accident specifics include construction companies, vehicle repair shops, hazardous materials handlers, and more. An experienced attorney will identify all liable parties.
Why Hire an 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer?
Trying to handle a truck accident claim yourself is extremely unwise. An qualified 18-wheeler accident lawyer will:
- Thoroughly investigate the accident to prove truck driver negligence
- File claims correctly under strict time limits
- Determine all liable defendants and legal claims
- Hire expert witnesses like accident reconstructionists
- Calculate and fully substantiate your damages
- Negotiate aggressively with insurers on your behalf
- Take the case to trial if fair compensation is not offered
- Reduce stress during the claims process
With so much at stake, retain an 18-wheeler accident attorney to get justice. Discuss your legal options during a free consultation. An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you recover damages for injuries, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. Do not delay in getting the strong legal representation you need.