Although they are an essential part of our transportation infrastructure, large cargo trucks can pose a significant hazard to other motorists. Whether through poor maintenance, driver error or improper loading and routing, these vehicles frequently cause accidents that result in life-altering injuries and even fatalities. For these reasons, truck accident litigation poses several special issues above and beyond those typical to car accident cases.
According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, 3,757 people died in accidents involving large trucks in the United States in 2011. Approximately 88,000 people were injured. Of those fatalities, 72 percent were occupants of the smaller involved vehicles. Although the truck driver was not necessarily at fault in all these accidents, attorneys should consider the following factors in every truck-involved case:
Driver fatigue — Driver fatigue can be as dangerous as intoxication. Truck drivers work under tight schedules and may push their limits to make their deliveries on time. Federal regulations limit the amount of time truckers can be on the road and require them to keep logbooks to record their compliance.
Vehicle maintenance — Trucks are mechanically more complex and operate under greater strain than passenger vehicles. As a result, they need frequent maintenance and inspection — by both owners and operators—to remain safe.
Supervision and hiring — Although most truckers are consummate professionals and proven skilled drivers, some trucking firms cut costs by hiring individuals who lack the proper training, experience or record to be entrusted with a rig weighing 25,000 pounds or more.