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What You Should Know About Semi-Truck Crash Injuries And Deaths

A fully loaded semi-truck is over 60 feet long and weighs up to 80,000 pounds. They are far less maneuverable than passenger vehicles, and they take much longer to stop. When they impact with a passenger vehicle, the likelihood of catastrophic injuries or deaths increase significantly. Most accidents involving big rigs are the result of truck driver error or carelessness. Some are partially attributable to employers pushing drivers to drive too hard, too long and too far without adequate rest.

Common causes of truck accidents

Nearly all semi-truck accidents are preventable. Common causes of accidents caused by these tractor-trailers include but are not limited to:

  • Driver distraction from using a cellular or navigational device
  • Violations of state traffic laws and federal regulations
  • Distracted driving
  • Falling asleep at the wheel
  • Driving too fast for traffic or weather conditions

Proving liability in truck accident cases
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)is a federal agency charged with reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities arising from commercial truck and bus accidents. A knowledgeable and experienced semi truck accident attorney will evaluate a potential injury case and focus on any FMCSA regulations and state statutes that he or she believes were violated and were a cause of the crash. Common FMCSA violations that are consistently tied into truck accident cases are:

  • Hours of service regulations that contribute to driver fatigue
  • Operating unsafe vehicles
  • Worn tires and brakes needing servicing
  • Load or weight violations
  • Improper or inadequate driver training

Violations of state statutes can be a causal connection to a truck accident too. State and federal trucking safety laws sometimes overlap, but FMCSA violations are not intended to preempt state trucking laws. Violations of state laws include but are not limited to:

  • Following too closely
  • Driving too fast for traffic or weather conditions
  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Proving the case against the truck driver and/or the truck driver’s employer
Almost all truck accident cases are decided by using the law of negligence. To prove negligence, an injured person must prove the following elements:

  • That a duty was owed to him or her the by the trucker or the trucker’s employer
  • That any duty to the injured person was breached
  • That the breach of the duty caused their injury
  • That he or she suffered legally recognized damages

The party claiming injury is required to prove each and every one of these elements. Should he or she fail to prove any single element, their case falls in its entirety.

Damages in truck accident cases

Given the weight of a semi-truck, its size and the speed that it travels at, when it crashes into a passenger car, damages are usually far in excess than if it collided with a larger vehicle. The law generally recognizes these forms of damages:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Past and future earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of a normal life
  • Any permanent disfigurement
  • Any permanent disability

If somebody in your family was killed as a result of the fault of somebody else in a semi-truck accident, a wrongful death suit can be filed that seeks additional damages.

Comparative negligence 

In efforts to reduce the amount of damages that they will be paying, insurers of trucking companies will try to shift at least some of the blame for an accident onto the victim. That involves the law of comparative negligence. If you or your family member who was involved in the accident was partially responsible for it, damages will be reduced by any percentage of negligence attributable to you or your family member. For example, if a jury awarded $100,000 and you or your family member was deemed to be 20 percent at fault for the accident, the total damages you or your family receive will be $80,000.

Do not give a statement

Never give a statement to the opposing insurer in any personal injury case. You will be giving up rights that you are unlikely to get back. Questions asked of you will be leading and loaded and never permitted in a court of law. Your answers to those questions will only be used against you in the future. The law requires you to eventually give a statement, but your car accident attorney will tell you when and where you will give it. He or she will also prepare you for it and be present to protect your rights when you give it.

Given the fact that both state and federal laws apply to semi-truck accidents and the damages issues that spin off of these types of cases, semi-truck accidents involve highly complex litigation. After any semi-truck accident, you should contact a knowledgeable and experienced truck accident attorney for a free consultation and case evaluation. Do not sit on your rights. Evidence and witnesses can disappear. Strict time limitations also apply to all semi-truck accident claims.

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About the Author

The Ascent Law. provides legal representation for Business law, personal injury and family law cases in Utah.