According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were 368,000 tractor trailer crashes in 2006 alone. Out of those 368,000 crashes, 77,000 people were injured and 4,321 people were killed. As the interstates and highways continue to become more populated, we can expect a rise in tractor trailer wrecks.
When a wreck occurs between a tractor trailer and a passenger vehicle the damage is almost always devastating. To make matters worse, the truck driver (at the instruction of his trucking company) almost always refuses to admit liability at the scene of the accident regardless of fault. Often times, the truck driver will even claim that you, the injury victim, caused the wreck. When this occurs, the insurance company who insures the truck driver may refuse to pay your medical bills and other accident related damages.
There are several common causes of accidents between tractor trailer trucks and passenger vehicles which consistently occur. For victims who have been injured after being struck by a semi-truck, knowing these common causes may assist you in determining which truck accident attorney to hire. Some of the primary causes of truck wrecks include:
1. Driver Fatigue
Driver fatigue is a leading cause of truck accidents. The effects of fatigued driving (such as impaired decision making, lack of alertness and slow reacting time) are similar to driving while intoxicated. In fact, 19 hours without sleep is similar to a BAC of .05% and 24 hours without sleep is similar to a BAC of .10%.
Both federal and state law regulate the number of hours a driver can drive in a given day and week. The driver's time is split between off-duty time, driving time and on-duty time. Off-duty time must be at least 10 consecutive hours. Driving time cannot exceed 11 hours following 10 or more consecutive hours of being off-duty. On-duty time cannot be greater than 14 consecutive hours after coming on-duty.
For example: If a truck driver was off duty for 10 consecutive hours and started driving again at 8:00 a.m., he is not allowed to drive his truck after 10:00 p.m. that evening.
A driver also cannot be on-duty more than 60 hours in a seven day period or more than 70 hours in an eight day period. In order to ensure that drivers are following these rules, they are required to keep a log book in which his/her on-duty and off-duty time is recorded. A skilled truck accident attorney will review the log book to determine whether these regulations have been met.
2. Drugs and Alcohol
Due to fatigue, boredom and long hours some truck drivers turn to illicit drugs to stay awake or to relax while on the road. Federal law requires trucking companies to make a mandatory substance abuse screening when each driver is hired. During their employment, truck drivers are also required to undergo regular screening or monitoring for substance abuse. If an accident occurs, the truck driver involved is required to take a drug and alcohol test immediately after the wreck.
Truck drivers are usually paid by the mile. As a result, the faster they drive, the longer they can drive, and the more money they make. Trucks are particularly dangerous when driven at a high rate of speed given their weight and size. Most trucks are now equipped with electronic monitoring systems which can record the speed of the truck immediately before an accident. By obtaining this information from the trucking company before it is erased or destroyed, an attorney can establish an immense amount of data that can be used to recreate how the accident occurred and to determine who was at fault.
4. Failing to Maintain and Inspect the Truck
Trucking carriers and their drivers are legally and ethically obligated to look for any known hazards and dangerous conditions on their trucks. At a minimum, this involves appropriate maintenance of the tractor and trailer as well as a pre-trip inspection performed by the semi truck driver at every stop.
5. Failing to Secure the Load
To often trucking companies are in a hurry to gets loads from point A to point B. In doing so, they often fail to load their trailers properly. Poor loading of the trailer can affect the ability to control the truck and keep it under control. The weight of the trailer at the time of impact as well as the type of material being hauled must be considered when investigating the cause of a semi truck wreck.
6. Over Loading the Trailer
In order to make more money, semi truck drivers sometimes try to overload their trailers in order to carry more of the shipment. Because of the excess load, the driver may not be able to safely stop his tractor and trailer to prevent an accident.
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Determining the cause of your tractor trailer accident is an important step in pursuing a personal injury claim. At The Sanders Law Firm, we have the skills and resources to ensure that the negligent driver is held responsible for your accident related injuries. To schedule a free consultation call us today at 859-491-3000.