According to the most recent statistics, large truck accidents killed 3,986 people in 2016, leaving thousands more seriously injured. The size and weight of large commercial trucks make them extremely dangerous vehicles for other cars on the road, pedestrians, and the truck drivers themselves. Though many truckers are skilled drivers who practice their duty of care while on the road, truck accidents are common and often lead to devastating injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a truck accident in Montana because of the truck driver or another party’s negligence, contact the Great Falls trucking accident lawyer at Kovacich Snipes Johnson, P.C. for help.
In most truck accident cases – especially those involving large trucking companies, defendants will have highly skilled attorneys on their side from the moment the collision occurs. They will do all they can to close the claim without paying you the amount needed to cover all your injuries and other losses. You need an experienced advocate on your side as soon as possible, to gather and preserve evidence, deal with insurance companies and protect your best interests.
Unlike many personal injury cases, multiple parties can be liable in truck accident cases. The liable party could be the truck driver, the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, or several other people and organizations. If you want to receive fair compensation for the damages you suffered, you need to be sure you are filing a case against the responsible party. A Great Falls truck accident attorney can help you determine who the defendant is (who is at fault for your injury).
The trucking industry also has rules and regulations that are specific to the industry. Truck accident cases are different from car accident cases for many reasons, and each state has its own regulations covering truck accidents. It is important that you work with someone who is familiar with the specific legal regulations for the trucking industry.
If you are recovering from a severe injury suffered in an accident, the last thing you want to worry about is navigating the complexities of Montana trucking law and negotiating with insurance companies. Our team is here to take the burden off your shoulders, so you can attend to your principal concern, to recover from your injuries.
Trucking companies can be difficult to fight after an accident. Many companies distance themselves from the truck driver to shift liability onto him or her to avoid paying compensation. Often truck drivers are not technically employees of trucking companies but rather independent contractors. Trucking companies also often rent equipment from another company. If an equipment malfunction caused the incident, the trucking company may argue it does not own the equipment and is therefore not responsible for any malfunctions.
However, federal regulations have made efforts to prevent trucking companies from avoiding responsibility by making any company that has a trucking permit responsible for trucks that they are using, making it more difficult for trucking companies to avoid fault after an accident. In most cases, the trucking company will be vicariously liable for an accident caused by the truck driver.
Many federal regulations cover truckers and attempt to reduce the possibility of accidents. All truck drivers are subject to drug and alcohol tests as part of the hiring process. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous for any driver, but when truckers drive while intoxicated, they can endanger many lives, including their own. Federal regulations take extra precautions to ensure that truck drivers are alert and focused at all times.
There is federal regulation concerning the number of hours that truck drivers can work. Truck drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours a day, but only if they have had 10 consecutive hours off duty. They can never drive more than 14 hours in a row. They also cannot drive more than 60 hours in a week or more than 70 hours in eight days. If a driver reaches the 70-hour maximum, he or she must rest for 34 consecutive hours. Truckers often have demanding schedules, and these regulations are an attempt to make drivers conscious of how many hours they are working and to avoid becoming dangerously fatigued.
Many parties could be liable in a truck accident. The possible parties include:
The court determines who is liable for identifying what caused the accident. For example, if a truck component malfunctioned, the court could find the truck manufacturer at fault for the accident and order it to compensate you. Each person involved in building or operating the truck has a duty to keep the truck, truck driver, and other people on the road reasonably safe. If the accident happened because someone was reckless, irresponsible, or breached his or her duty, the court could find him or her liable for the accident.
Most drivers know to give 18-wheelers room when they encounter them on the highway. Unfortunately, it may not always be possible to get safely out of the way. Not only are the trucks themselves large but when fully loaded, they may weigh up to 80,000 pounds. It isn’t surprising that a loaded truck moving at highway speeds can demolish smaller vehicles and often the driver and passengers in those vehicles.
Jackknifing happens when the trailer of the semi swings around and the truck form a 90-degree angle or V shape. Maintaining traction is extremely important for trailers, and a loss of traction can result in jackknifing. Slippery roads from rain or ice can make it difficult for wheels to maintain adequate traction. If a large truck is traveling at high speeds and the driver for some reason applies the brakes with too much force, the momentum of the vehicle combined with locked wheels could send the truck into a skid and cause the trailer to swing. Jackknifing can also occur if a driver is rounding a curve going too fast and the trailer loses traction.
Not only could jackknifing be fatal for the truck driver, it can do serious damage to any nearby vehicles. Jackknifing trucks are prone to roll over. If a truck flips over, it is highly probable that the driver in the cab will suffer severe injury and possibly death. If the truck happens to roll over on top of other cars, the other drivers are at risk of devastating injuries. Trucks that roll over at speed can also catch fire or spill cargo on the road, another hazard for other motorists.
To avoid jackknifing, a truck driver must frequently check his or her mirrors to see if the trailer is beginning to slide or swing out. If the trailer begins to swing or looks like it is going to jackknife, the driver should release the brake, giving the wheels the opportunity to regain traction and straighten out. It is also important to take turns and curves slowly and to be careful if the roads are slippery.
Recently, there has been speculation that in five to 10 years, driverless trucks will be available. Most truck accidents are the result of human error. Even if a driver is extremely careful, there is a possibility that he or she will make a mistake that causes an accident. The purpose of self-driving trucks is to reduce the number of driving mistakes and create safer roads.
However, with the advent of this technology, new challenges and issues are likely to arise. Software, hardware or other computer errors could lead to serious accidents. Sensors could fail to recognize other vehicles, road curves or other physical inputs that a human driver would see.
One of the potential designs outlines a truck with the computer at the driver’s seat. There are two large buttons to turn off the self-driving software and take control of the vehicle. These advanced trucks still require a human to navigate roads off the highway and to take control in case there is a technical failure or another problem arises. However, the driver would probably have a much less stressful role and would benefit from the safety sensors that enable the autonomous vehicles to navigate most situations safely.
Fatigue is one of the most common causes of truck accidents. Truckers often must drive for many hours at a stretch, and many drivers suffer because their demanding schedules disrupt their sleep cycles. Focusing on the road for hours on end is exhausting and can make it difficult for drivers to remain alert. Being able to take some breaks from intense concentration on the road could reduce accidents caused by driver fatigue. Researchers predict that it will be a long time before designers and manufacturers will be able to create a truck that is completely autonomous and doesn’t require a person on board.
Truck accident cases can be extremely complicated. If a truck accident in Montana injures you because of another person or organization’s negligence, you need an experienced attorney who knows Montana trucking laws. Contact the Montana trucking accident lawyers at Kovacich Snipes Johnson, P.C. for determined and dedicated representation. We will work tirelessly to help you get the compensation that you deserve.