Philadelphia Truck Accident Lawyer
As a nation, we depend heavily on trucks to distribute our products. According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), trucks move almost 70% of freight goods in the United States. There are 26.4 million trucks registered for business purposes, not including those used for agriculture or government work. This number is poised to increase even further, as the ATA predicts that the trucking industry will hire approximately 89,000 new truck drivers a year for the next 10 years.
Although they serve a necessary function, the vast numbers of trucks on the road have the unfortunate consequence of increasing the incidence of truck accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that 327,000 truck accidents occurred in 2013 (latest data available). While only 1% of these accidents caused fatalities, 21% resulted in injury. That means truck accidents caused 68,670 injuries in 2013 alone. Truck accidents can be especially damaging to other vehicles and pedestrians because of their comparatively heavy weight and larger size.
If you have experienced a truck accident, there are unique considerations you should understand. Seek legal counsel who has experience with truck accidents, so you know your options. Ciccarelli Law Offices can provide expert legal advice and representation to determine if you are due damages.
Causes of Truck Accidents
Accidents can happen for many reasons, but there are some frequent considerations in truck accidents:
- Driver fatigue: While recent regulations attempt to limit the number of consecutive hours truck drivers can work, long-distance drivers often still work long hours, driving as much as 11 hours a day and 70 hours a week. Fatigue can be more dangerous than drug and alcohol impairment and carries less social stigma. Many people who would never drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol don’t think twice about driving while tired.
- Lack of training: Driving a big vehicle takes special skills and a lot of practice. In the rush to get on the road, some companies don’t provide truck drivers with thorough training or sufficient experience. A lack of training and experience may mean drivers have difficulty navigating the dynamics of a large vehicle, especially on rural areas and poorly lit areas.
- Bad road conditions: Trucks are often required to navigate deteriorated roads and roads under construction. Businesses expect work trucks to be on the road in all weather conditions, increasing the possibility of a truck accident resulting from poor visibility or slick road conditions. Long-distance trucks also encounter rapid changes in weather conditions as they move across the country.
- Poor vehicle maintenance: Vehicle maintenance is especially important for a large commercial vehicle that moves heavy goods over a great number of miles – especially considering the varying conditions of highways. Vehicle maintenance may be the responsibility of the truck’s owner or others in charge of a fleet.
- Difficulty braking: Large trucks require much more space to brake than other vehicles. At 60 miles per hour, a tractor-trailer needs 250 feet to stop. Trucks therefore can’t react as quickly to sudden changes in the road ahead.
- Driver distraction: Because of the special requirements trucks have to make a stop safely, distraction can be especially dangerous. If a driver takes his eyes off the road for even a moment, it may be too late to brake effectively. For long-distance drivers, distractions can take the form of eating while driving, looking at the radio to change channels, or looking at a GPS or mobile device.
- Inadequately secured cargo: If a truck is carrying a top-heavy load, it’s more likely to overbalance and tip over on a curve. Additionally, cargo moorings may be worn and in need of replacement.
- Drug or alcohol impairment: Despite attempts to ensure the sobriety of commercial vehicle operators, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that 67% of truck drivers fatally injured in a truck accident were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Unique Factors in Truck Accidents
Due to the size and weight of commercial trucks, truck accidents can have severe consequences, especially when a truck collides with a passenger vehicle, cyclist, or pedestrian. There are many kinds of commercial trucks, but all of them are significantly heavier than the average car.
The average car weighs about 4,000 pounds. Medium weight trucks, such as flatbeds and box trucks, weigh 14,000 to 26,000 pounds. Heavy trucks, such as long-distance trucks or big rigs, as well as some garbage and refrigerator trucks, weigh 26,001 to 33,000 pounds. A commercial truck is therefore three to nine times heavier than a car. Heavier vehicles may be safer for those inside the vehicle, but they’re much more dangerous for those in other vehicles, as their impact means greater force from a great height.
Along with heavier weight, trucks are often much taller than passenger vehicles. An ordinary car can actually slide under a truck – an underride accident. Underride accidents can crush a passenger vehicle or tear off its roof. Other kinds of truck accidents are:
- Rollover accidents – a truck destabilizes and turns over.
- Lost load accidents – cargo comes detached from the truck and causes a road hazard for the truck and other vehicles
- Jackknife accidents – a truck’s trailer swings forward and folds into the cab, jamming the truck and causing difficulty steering or braking.
Common physical repercussions of truck accidents include:
- Paralysis: Severe impact from a truck accident can damage or sever the spinal cord, causing partial or total paralysis.
- Broken bones: Due to the heavy weight of the vehicle, bones may be more likely to fracture during a truck accident.
- Internal injury: Damage to the kidneys, liver, spleen, or other internal organs is more likely in a truck accident where the force of impact from the crash is greater. Internal injuries may not have immediate symptoms and can therefore be especially dangerous.
- Back injury: While back injuries are common in many types of vehicle accidents, the extra force involved in a truck accident can increase trauma to the back and neck, increasing the odds of chronic debilitating pain.
- Wrongful death: In the case of a truck accident fatality, the driver of a truck is least likely to die. Sixty-eight percent of truck accident fatalities are people in passenger vehicles, and 15% are pedestrians and cyclists. The truck driver, the company for which they drive, or the truck manufacturer may be liable if a truck accident kills someone you love.
Along with the potential for serious injury resulting from a larger, heavier vehicle, truck accidents can be emotionally difficult. The impact can be more violent, triggering severe psychological responses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, which can impede a person’s ability to work and function normally, causing further damage because of the accident.
Another unique consideration in a truck accident is the issue of liability. Because many truck drivers are working for a company, the company may have liability for the condition of the vehicle or other circumstances that affected the accident. Determining who is at fault can be more complicated scenario than with a passenger vehicle collision. It requires a careful assessment of all parties involved:
- The actions of the truck driver
- The responsibility of the truck owner in the vehicle condition and driver’s schedule, among other factors
- The manufacturer of the truck or its components
- A number of other issues unique to the trucking industry
Successful Legal Outcome in PA Truck Accident Suit
A recent truck accident in Pennsylvania illustrates common injuries caused by truck accidents, as well as the importance of hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. A woman and her child were driving in Chester County when a Mack truck carrying concrete waste tipped over and skidded into the woman’s car. The driver was speeding and had attempted to make a turn, causing the truck to tip.
Thankfully, the woman’s child was unharmed. The woman, however, suffered serious physical and emotional injuries. The accident caused a number of crippling back problems, including sciatica, cervicalgia, lumbar sprain, and bulging discs. Just as damaging, the shock of the heavy truck hitting her vehicle with her child in the car caused a number of emotional and psychological issues. Physicians diagnosed her with PTSD, anxiety, and depression along with the physical injuries.
Fortunately, personal injury attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices were able to get the victim a monetary settlement that covered her medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and emotional adversity. While nothing can take away the pain and difficulty of an experience like this, compensation can reduce financial worries and help a person focus on recovering.
What to Do If You Experience a Truck Accident
If you experience a truck accident, seek immediate medical attention for any serious injuries. Even if you don’t believe you’ve sustained a major injury, it’s important to see a doctor after a truck accident, because many injuries take time for symptoms to develop. You may have internal bleeding or other latent issues. A doctor will diagnose injuries and provide documentation so that you have a record for any subsequent legal action. Other important steps to take:
- Call the police. File an accident report even if you don’t think you’ve sustained an injury and you think your vehicle is undamaged. Pennsylvania law requires that all parties involved file an accident report. Furthermore, it can be helpful as evidence if you pursue legal action.
- Document the circumstances. If you aren’t seriously injured, collect as much information as possible about the circumstances of the accident, including the exact location and the time. Write down all of the truck driver’s information. Be sure to note any witnesses to the accident, as their testimonies may prove valuable. Use your phone to take pictures of the location and any damages.
- File a report with your insurance company. Along with determining whether your insurance will cover some or all of the damages, an insurance report can help your case.
- Don’t admit fault. Accidents are confusing. It can be tempting to say something apparently harmless about your part in a truck accident, but someone can use these kinds of statements against you. Document the facts of the accident as thoroughly as you can, but avoid saying anything extraneous to anyone, including your insurance provider.
- Contact an accident lawyer who has experience dealing with the unique factors involved in truck accidents. Truck accidents may involve complex liability concerns. It’s best to seek counsel who can help you navigate these unique issues.
Ciccarelli Law Offices has helped victims of truck accidents get appropriate compensation for medical bills, physical damage, and psychological injuries. If you have been involved in a truck accident, contact our Philadelphia accident attorneys today for expert help.