Our Devotion To Truck Accident Victims
Big trucks cause big injuries. If you were hurt in a truck accident, you may now be facing catastrophic or life-changing injuries. Because commercial trucks can cause so much more harm than other vehicles on the road, commercial truck drivers are required to undergo specialized training and licensing. In addition, commercial truck companies are subjected to highly regulated federal and state laws intended to govern their conduct and eliminate preventable accidents. Unfortunately, all too often commercial truck operators skirt the regulations or just outright disobey them, leading to serious harm.
Federal Regulations for Truck Drivers and Companies
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations governs the actions of interstate truck drivers and companies. These robust set of rules set out guidelines for trucking companies regarding many aspects of their operations, including:
- Speed limits
- Licensing requirements for drivers
- Vehicle maintenance and inspection requirements
- Drug and alcohol testing
- Electronic recordkeeping
- Hours of service
- Cargo securing processes and devices
Truck drivers of companies that violate these rules and cause accidents because of such violations can be found negligent and financially responsible for the harm they cause. Violations can also result in monetary fines and the loss of driving privileges. Our team of Chicago-based truck accident lawyers can evaluate your case and determine if these rules were violated and how that might impact your case.
In addition to our lawyer team, we have on standby certified accident reconstructionist engineers and former police officers ready to be dispatched when appropriate to document forensic evidence and download vehicle event data recorders (EDRs). These EDRs, similar to a “black box” from an airplane, are usually triggered by a sudden event and have collected a significant amount of data regarding the final moments before a crash. Oftentimes, this data can prove exactly what happened leading up to a commercial truck crash.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents in Chicago
Trucking accidents can occur for a variety of reasons. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 12,040 accidents that involved commercial motor vehicles in Illinois in 2021, which included 1,946 injury crashes and 117 fatal crashes. Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:
Commercial truck drivers often travel hundreds of miles while driving many hours each day. This means that many truck drivers are too tired to safely operate their vehicles. For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has instituted the Hours of Service rules, which limit the amount of time that a driver can operate their truck before they are required to take mandatory breaks.
These rules generally require property-carrying truck drivers to:
- Take a break of at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty after driving up to 11 hours
- Not drive past the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty after their 10-hour off-duty time (on-duty time includes driving and non-driving activities like loading cargo, completing paperwork, etc.)
- Not drive after 60 hours on duty in seven days in a row unless the driver restarts the week by taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty
- Not drive after 70 hours on duty in eight days in a row unless the driver restarts the week by taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty
- Take a 30-minute break after driving for eight hours
Truck driving can be extremely tedious, leading to boredom and inattention. Truck drivers, like all other drivers, may be distracted by:
- Interacting with infotainment or navigation systems
- Talking on cell phones or radios
- Turning on/off or adjusting the radio
- Eating or drinking
- Reaching for dropped objects
Drugs and Alcohol
Truck drivers may contend with mental exhaustion, loneliness, relationship problems, and substantial time away from home because of their job. These factors could influence them to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. While drinking or doing drugs can be dangerous for any driver, these intoxicants can be particularly dangerous for drivers in charge of metal machines weighing upwards of 80,000 pounds.
Many drivers feel the pressure of meeting strict deadlines. Also, they are often paid by the load, so there is a financial incentive for them to make deliveries faster. These factors often motivate truckers to speed or drive too fast for conditions. When truck drivers operate their vehicles at unsafe speeds, they are more likely to cause catastrophic accidents.
Handling a large commercial truck can be difficult. Unfortunately, even with a proper license, truck drivers can still be inexperienced. It can be difficult to maintain drivers in this demanding industry, so some of the drivers currently behind the wheel may simply lack the experience to safely operate vehicles. Inexperienced truck drivers may make errors, such as:
- Making too-wide turns
- Inadequate surveillance
- Not checking blind spots
- Not signaling
- Driving too fast for road conditions
- Following too closely
- Overcorrecting after a driving mistake
Commercial vehicles and their trailers consist of thousands of parts. If these parts are defective or not properly maintained, accidents can ensue. Some common mechanical components that can cause accidents when they are not in good condition include:
- Steering systems
- Electric systems
- Trailer hitches
Cargo that exceeds the weight limits on trucks or that is not properly secured can cause the cargo to shift during transit, fall out the back of the vehicle, or make the truck jack-knife.
Who Is Responsible for Truck Accidents?
The trucking industry consists of many different parties, so it can be difficult to know immediately who is responsible for an accident. Some of the parties who may be responsible for a truck accident include:
Truck drivers are responsible for following all local, state, and federal laws that apply to the safe operation of the vehicle. If a truck driver breaks traffic rules and causes an accident, they should be responsible for the accident.
Truck companies that hire drivers are generally responsible for the actions of these drivers because of the legal concept of vicarious liability, which holds employers responsible for the actions of their employees. Additionally, truck companies can be held financially responsible for accidents caused by their own negligence, such as:
- Negligent hiring
- Negligent supervision
- Failing to test drivers for alcohol or drugs when required
- Encouraging drivers to violate Hours of Service rules
- Violating trucking laws that contribute to the accident
Some truck owners lease their trucks to truck drivers or companies. They may be responsible for ensuring the truck is in good working order and can be held responsible if they do not meet this duty.
Sometimes, the trucking company may outsource maintenance of its fleet to a third party. If that company performed poor repairs or did not properly maintain the trucks, it may be responsible for the accident.
Manufacturer of the Truck or Component Parts
Trucking accidents may also have a product liability component, and under those circumstances, manufacturers of the truck or its component parts can be held responsible for accidents.
A third-party cargo-loading company may be responsible for accidents caused by their failure to properly inspect or secure cargo.
How Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Prove Who Is Responsible for the Accident?
Establishing fault can be one of the most challenging aspects to prove in a truck accident case. An experienced lawyer can conduct a thorough investigation to identify potential causes of the accident. Through an in-depth investigation and the discovery process, they may be able to obtain compelling evidence to establish your claim, including:
- Police report and reconstruction reports prepared by independent agencies
- Damaged property, tire treads, skid marks, and other forensic evidence
- Event Data Recorders (EDRs) from the involved vehicles
- Photos of the accident scene and your injuries
- Video footage and surveillance of the accident
- Drone footage obtained after the accident from above the scene
- Statements from witnesses who observed the accident or actions that related to the accident
- Medical records
- Personnel records
- Truck maintenance and inspection records
- Drug and alcohol test results
- Reports of trucking company violations
Our truck accident lawyers have successfully proven complex truck accident cases and fought for our clients to recover fair compensation.
Contact an Experienced Chicago-based Truck Accident Lawyer
If you were injured in a truck accident, do not hesitate to reach out to our team of experienced truck accident lawyers. You have a limited amount of time to take action, so it is critical that you contact a qualified lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can handle all the legal aspects of your claim while you focus on your recovery.
Related: Delivery Truck Accidents