Truck Accident Attorney in Montgomery, Alabama
Trucks. They are a necessity for our economy. Up and down the highways and interstates, you can see them. Some of you as kids may have stuck your hand out the window and waved in the hopes the driver of a big semi-truck would honk his horn, and smile ear to ear when the truck driver would oblige.
But trucks also spread havoc on our interstates and highways. They are big, cumbersome, dangerous, and come in all shapes and sizes. A truck is an umbrella term for a range of different trucks and commercial vehicles. Truck is defined as a vehicle heavier than a light truck or SUV, but does not include a bus of any type. The following is a list of trucks that would likely fall under this category.
Kinds of Trucks Involved in Accidents
- 18 Wheelers
- Tractor Trailers
- Bucket Trucks
- Commercial Trucks
- Delivery Trucks
- Dump Trucks
- Fire Trucks
- Garbage Trucks
- Tanker Trucks
- Utility Trucks
- 15-Passenger Vans
ALABAMA TRUCK ACCIDENT STATISTICS
Alabama’s highways are loaded with trucks and other commercial trucks. Some can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and can be as long as 70-80 feet. An average passenger car or small SUV, on the other hand, weighs 3,000 – 5,000 pounds. If there’s a collision between a passenger vehicle and a vehicle that weighs 20 times as much, injuries can only be devastating and life-altering, or fatal. The dead and injured are 4 times as likely to be passengers in the smaller vehicle than the drivers of these big trucks. To make it worse, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck drivers are more than 55 percent at fault for these accidents.
In 2014, Alabama Department of Transportation reports that there were 7,782 accidents involved trucks, with 2,184 injuries and 89 deaths. Though still too high, as just one injury and death is too high, the number of fatalities decreased by 23% from 2013. There was, however, a 10 percent increase in injuries from 2013 to 2014.
To be expected, most crashes were located on interstates and highways throughout Alabama. The following is a breakdown of those rates.
|Road Type & Truck Crashes|
As one can see, interstates and highways are the primary location for crashes as opposed to county and city roads.
CAUSES OF MONTGOMERY TRUCK ACCIDENTS
Driving large trucks require training and skill. They are more demanding to maneuver, or in other words, less maneuverable, than smaller vehicles and the potential of crashing into other smaller vehicles is intensified by their wide blind spots and longer distances required to stop. Like car accidents, human error is the primary cause of truck accidents. Unlike car accidents, vehicle malfunction, mechanical problems and employer neglect also contribute to a great number of the crashes.
Truck Driver Contributions to Accidents
- Driver fatigue, exhaustion, inattention, distraction, or impairment
- Driver inexperience, insufficient training, or incompetence
- Speeding, aggressive driving, following too close, and other unsafe practices
- Paying inadequate attention to traffic, road and weather conditions
- Failing to secure loads, check lights, brakes and undertake other maintenance matters
- Overloaded and/or overweight trucks
- Brake problems
- Tire or mechanical failure
Employer or Manufacturer Failures
- Negligent design, construction and/or maintenance of the trucks
- Negligent hiring, training and/or supervision of truck drivers
- Negligent truck maintenance and negligent loading (overloaded trucks are harder to stop and improperly distributed weight makes trucks more likely to rollover)
- Failure to prevent driver fatigue, according to law
Environmental & Other Issues
- Debris or material in the road
- Load shifting
TYPES OF TRUCK ACCIDENTS IN ALABAMA
To some extent, the types of truck accidents are the same as car and other automobile accidents. What differentiates them is the severe force of the collision and tremendous impact that trucks have on another vehicle, which is more than likely a passenger car or small SUV.
- Head-on Collisions. These types of accidents happen when the truck strikes another vehicle that was approaching from the opposite direction. The force of these accidents is catastrophic and cause severe injuries and/or death to the drivers and passengers of both vehicles. Oftentimes, the driver of one of the vehicles is tired, distracted, or impaired.
- Rear-end Collisions. These types of accidents happen when the truck slams into the vehicle in front of it. The force of these accidents also tends to be catastrophic and cause severe injuries and/or death to the drivers and passengers of both vehicles. Generally speaking, the truck driver is usually and presumably negligent in these cases, but the driver of the other vehicle may have contributed by coming to a sudden stop or cutting in.
- Under-ride Collisions. In these accidents, it is the smaller vehicle that slams into the rear of the truck, and the smaller vehicle is trapped under the trailer. These accidents are horrific and have serious consequences for head trauma, even decapitation. Because of the severity of this type of accident, many trucks now have underride guards, which help prevent the severity of the injuries. Oftentimes, the cause is the same: distracted, sleepy, impaired, and/or, among other causes, misjudging stopping distance.
- Side Collisions. These types of accidents occur when a truck crashes into the side of another vehicle, or likewise, the other vehicle crashes into the truck. If it’s the truck crashing into the smaller vehicle, injuries are usually serious. Oftentimes, these accidents occur when one driver turns left at an intersection, fails to stop at a traffic light or stop sign, or changes lane suddenly and improperly.
- Truck Rollovers. These accidents happen when the truck loses its balance. Most often these are single vehicle accidents and occur because the truck driver loses control of the truck for some reason.
- Other Collisions. Most other collisions occur between the truck and something else that is not a moving vehicle. Like rollovers, these accidents almost always are single vehicle accidents. The truck either strikes a fixed object, such as a pole, building, guard rail, or an animate object, such as an animal(s) or pedestrian(s). The driver may have lost control of the truck for any number of reasons or else he likely didn’t see the object, animal or person.
DETERMINING PARTIES & LIABILITY IN A TRUCK ACCIDENT
Complicated relationships within the trucking industry makes truck accident uniquely difficult. There are the truck manufacturers, trucking companies, trailer owners, truck owners, government and private company relationships, among many other relationships. There is also often more than one contributing factor to the accident and almost always one or more of the said parties responsible for it. To make it more complex, each of those parties may have different insurers.
Potentially responsible parties for truck accidents, if the accident was caused by the truck, include any or all of the following:
- Truck Driver/Owner. The truck driver always has a legal duty to inspect and maintain his truck to ensure it is safe to drive on Alabama roads. Regular inspection will uncover any defective brakes, poor tire conditions, or any other maintenance issue.
- Trailer Owner. Truck drivers that tow trailers often tow trailers that are owners by another person or company. The trailer owner has a duty to maintain, inspect and properly load the trailers.
- Truck/Trailer Leasing Company. A company that leases trucks and/or trailers is responsible to maintain, inspect the trucks, trailers, and any other leasing equipment.
- Cargo Shipper, Truck Loaders. A shipper or truck loader has a duty to properly load cargo to make sure the cargo is properly secured, properly balanced and not overweight.
- Truck & Parts Manufacturers. Manufacturers are responsible if there is a defective design or part.
- Road Authorities. The relevant federal, state or local road authorities are responsible to make sure that the design, construction and maintenance of roads are proper and safe.
Because of these complicated relationships and possibilities, it can be difficult to identify all the causes and all the responsible parties. It requires excellent investigation skills, timely evidence gathering, and detailed analysis, all of which will be conducted by or through experienced truck accident attorneys. Consider two examples: (1) driver fatigue; and (2) improper maintenance.
Driver Fatigue. In so many cases truck drivers are tired or asleep when they cause an accident. Federal laws are in place just for this reason. Oftentimes, drivers make more money the quicker they complete jobs. To get the job done faster, the obvious shortcut is ignoring the law and skipping required breaks. Truck companies, too, benefit if jobs are done faster because deliveries arrive sooner. Sometimes, truck companies encourage this kind of negligent behavior. Maybe, too, because the driver was tired, he didn’t notice a shift in the cargo load, weight from one side to the other, and the truck rolls over, striking another small vehicle in the process. Timely investigative work and evidence gathering will ensure all evidence is preserved, including logs that drivers use to record their breaks, and the kind of culture truck companies are nurturing, and in doing so, liability can be rightly placed on all parties responsible.
Improper Maintenance. Oftentimes, truck accidents happen because truck drivers and/or truck companies have failed to conduct safety measures and to follow federally-mandated maintenance standards. The truck owner may not have noticed the tread on the tires while the trailer owner loaded the cargo improperly. Timely investigative work and evidence gathering will ensure all evidence is preserved, including keeping trucks at the post-accident condition, and in doing so, liability can, again, be rightly placed on all parties responsible.
FEDERAL & OTHER GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS AND TRUCK ACCIDENTS
As already mentioned, collisions between truck, particularly heavy ones, and passenger vehicles are always lop-sided and prone to causing extensive, even catastrophic injuries to the occupants in the smaller vehicle. The scenario is worse if the truck is fully loaded, at maximum capacity, and travelling on the interstate or highway at a high speed.
To address the problem and regulate whose employing and driving these trucks, federal law, implemented through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), requires truck drivers to obtain special licenses and training. The federal government also places strict limits on work hours, requires truck drivers and trucking companies to hold large insurance policies, and overall holds truck drivers to a higher standard than ordinary drivers.
FMCSA has strict and specific regulations on the amount of on-duty driving allowed. For instance, under FMCSA, commercial truck drivers can only drive for a period of 11 hours at a time with 10 consecutive hours off-duty, and must take a 30 minute-break after 8 hours of driving. Also, commercial truck drivers may not exceed 60 or 70 hours of on-duty driving within a period of 7 or 8 consecutive days, respectively. Truck drivers or trucking companies that violate FMCSA laws could face serious consequences.
Overall, the trucking industry is governed by the federal government because it deals with interstate travel. Therefore, any intrastate operations are still subject to federal rules, including commercial driver licenses (CDL). But states can still have their own intrastate regulations.
Alabama has implemented regulations that closely mirror federal regulations, including accident reporting requirements. For instance, if there’s been an accident, a truck company must report it to local law enforcement immediately. If there’s been a death, it must be reported to Alabama’s Public Safety Commission within 24 hours, and if no death involved, then it must be reported to the same entity within 15 days. Additionally, Alabama extended the period for log and record book retention to 12 months from the federally required 6 months.
We, at The Vance Law Firm, know the law, all its complexities and nuances. If you or a loved one has been injured from an accident related to a truck, don’t try to conquer the truck company on your own. There are multiple factors at play, and an inexperienced person is bound to be overwhelmed by the intricacies of it all.
SPECIAL MATTER: CONSTRUCTION ZONES & WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
If you work in construction and were injured in a truck accident while on the job, you have legal rights, but you may not know exactly what all those legal rights entail, and your employer likely isn’t going to be giddy to explain it to you. There is often confusion if a construction worker has a liability claim or a workers’ compensation claim, or if it’s possible to have both. And again, there’s also the question of who the defendants are, or the liable parties. Oftentimes, there are subcontractors or another party who is neither your employer or employee. In such cases, there might be a third-party claim against the latter party.
Generally, third party claims can well exceed workers’ compensation claims. The latter can assist you with immediate financial matters while the former can reimburse you for all your damages, including pain and suffering. You, as the employer, may not know who to turn to, and your employer may push you to workers’ compensation and fail to advise you on a third-party claim. You need a tractor-trailer accident lawyer, or rather a law firm and all its resources, to advocate for you.
WHAT OUR TRUCK ACCIDENT LAWYER WILL DO FOR YOU
As already mentioned, if you are injured from an accident involving a truck (even if you are the truck driver) truck companies, their insurance adjusters and their lawyers are going to be aggressive almost immediately. Their job is to protect their profits and their interests, which means their primary goal is to minimize the exposure of company liability. The means to fulfill that goal is to reduce the value of your claim.
First and foremost, you must know on the outset that you should never give a trucking company’s lawyers and/or insurance adjusters, or other potential party, any kind of information or statement. They will use it against you. Something you think is innocent enough to say, they will manipulate it. Second, you need to contact us.
Accidents involving trucks require a thorough investigation. We, at The Vance Law Firm, are well-informed about federal and state regulations. We also know the process, what evidence to look for, and we act quickly to preserve and retrieve it. But remember: truck companies act fast, too, and if you wait too long to contact our office, evidence may be lost.
Our legal team will advocate on your behalf and act fast. In sum, we will provide the following services:
- Identification of all potential at-fault parties;
- Preservation and collection of evidence of negligence;
- Investigation of the accident and hiring, if necessary, of experts for specific matters, including traffic reconstruction reports;
- Collaboration with economists to evaluate certain complex financial and medical matters;
- Aggressive advocacy and negotiation of your claim; and, among other services,
- Trial preparation, if necessary.
If the insurance company or any of the parties are reluctant to provide the compensation you deserve, the truck accident lawyer at The Vance Law Firm is prepared to fight for your rights in court. We are not purely truck accident lawyers, but trial lawyers, and we have a strong record that testifies to our capabilities.
If you have been involved in a truck accident in Montgomery, Alabama, and it was caused by someone else’s careless, negligent or reckless conduct and you are seeking a truck accident lawyer, contact The Vance Law Firm.