For a variety of reasons, accidents that involve commercial trucks can make for some of the most complicated personal injury cases. Frequently there are multiple vehicles involved. There may be as many as a dozen different defendants. Injuries tend to be serious or even fatal. Trucking companies tend to carry large insurance policies (frequently anywhere from a million to ten million in liability coverage) and aggressively fight back against claims to keep payments to a minimum. They may deny any wrongdoing. They may even throw away or alter evidence that proves the company was negligent.
What are the main causes of truck crashes?
A trucking company investigation will scrutinize the cause of the accident. An experienced attorney knows some of the common reasons behind crashes. They include:
- Poor maintenance of the truck: Big rigs often log tens of thousands of miles a year, which puts wear and tear on the engine, brakes, transmission, wheels and other truck parts and components. Trucking companies might neglect to maintain a truck to save money.
- Hiring inexperienced or dangerous drivers: Companies sometimes hire a driver quickly and fail to conduct a thorough background check. The driver may lack experience or training. In some cases, the driver may have a history of moving violations or substance abuse problems, including DUIs. There are even cases of hiring drivers who don’t have valid commercial driver’s licenses.
- Overloaded trailers: Weight limits are in place for safety. An 18-wheeler that exceeds the weight limit is in danger of jackknifing, tipping over or experiencing tire failure. Overloaded trucks also can damage roads and bridges.
- Pressure on drivers: While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has rules in place to limit hours for drivers, companies sometimes pressure employees to break the rules in order to make delivery deadlines on time. The drivers might exceed the hours and push themselves to extreme fatigue, which can lead to impaired judgment or falling asleep behind the wheel.
- Lack of training: Trucking companies should require drivers to attend regular safety training. Even experienced drivers need refresher courses that promote safety. The government periodically changes requirements to address new technology. Drivers should obtain the most up-to-date training related to hazardous situations or road emergencies. However, trucking companies sometimes put their desire to boost profits over safety. They push drivers to stay on the road and skip important safety training.
How an attorney can help investigate a trucking company
After the accident, you may be contacted by the insurance company for the trucking company. Don’t speak to them. Talk to an attorney first. The insurance company will use anything you say to reduce your compensation. They may even attempt to discourage you from hiring a lawyer. They would rather offer a lowball settlement and tell you legal action is not worth the hassle. Meanwhile, they already have conducted their own investigation to protect the trucking company from accusations of negligence.
Keep in mind that your claim may be worth much more than the insurance company is letting on. An attorney can conduct a comprehensive investigation to determine the cause of the accident and build a strong case on your behalf. An investigation might consist of the following (among other actions):
- Examine personnel files, driver logs and “black box” electronic data
- Scrutinize maintenance records
- Gather statements from eyewitnesses, pictures and videos, as well as the police report
- Hire an accident reconstructionist
You’ll know you have an experienced and aggressive advocate fighting for you when you hire The Scott Law Firm, PLLC, serving Vancouver and Southwest Washington. Contact our law office today for a free consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay absolutely no fees unless we recover.