Some of the most traumatic and deadly accidents that occur today involve large trucks. Commercial trucking is an important vessel for the fluidity of our economy, and it is necessary, albeit dangerous, to keep them on the road. When passenger vehicles or motorcycles get into collisions with commercial trucks, the injuries tend to be severe and sometimes fatal due to the immense size and weight of trucks.
The emotional, physical, and financial damages suffered by individuals who are victims of a trucking accident can be massive. It is important for victims to retain an attorney to ensure that they are properly compensated for medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage incurred as a result of their injuries. If you or someone you love has been injured in a collision with a truck, call the Chester County truck accident lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000.
Accidents Caused by Truck Driver Negligence
Driving a tractor-trailer, big rig, semi truck, or other commercial vehicle takes an incredible amount of concentration and skill. However, there are many accidents in Chester County, PA that involve these vehicles because the driver did not commit the amount of focus and energy that is required of them. There are a number of errors that truck drivers routinely make that can cause accidents and injuries. Over the past several decades the attorneys of Reiff Law Firm’s Truck Accident Team have seen the following accidents caused by trucker negligence in Chester County:
- Rear-End Collisions – Rear-end collisions are generally defined as when a driver crashes into the back bumper of the vehicle in front of them. The reasons behind a rear-end collision are general because the rear driver was driving too close, too fast for the road conditions, carrying too much weight and cargo for their vehicle, falls asleep, or loses attention. However, while a rear end collision can be minor when there are cars involved when you place a vehicle that substantially outweighs and is several times larger than a standard vehicle, then there is a possibility that the car or SUV will be pushed under the truck.
- Improperly Loaded Trucks – Trucks are designed to carry cargo. However, that does not mean that a driver can just shove anything they want into the back of their trailer and drive away. Drivers and those who load cargo need to pay close attention to how they load the vehicles. Cargo that is not properly placed in the back of a trailer can cause an accident for the driver and for those behind the vehicle. Unsecured cargo can roll in the vehicle causing the tractor-trailer to shift in its lane, jack knife, or even flip. Additionally, if cargo is not properly loaded it can cause cargo to fall out of the vehicle and injure drivers behind the truck.
- Left Hand Turns – Left-hand turns are notoriously difficult for every vehicle to make. This is often because the driver has to pay attention to both directions of traffic. However, larger trucks, semis, big rigs and other commercial vehicles have an increased challenge when they are making a left-hand turn. These vehicles require a larger turn radius. If a driver does not have enough space they can cause their vehicle to jack-knife or may even hit another vehicle in the turn radius. Because these turns take longer to complete all drivers need to be aware when a tractor is turning. If a tractor turns in the line of an oncoming vehicle if can cause the smaller vehicle to be pinched or shoved under the body of the trailer which often results in catastrophic injuries.
- Driving while Fatigued – Truck drivers are under a lot of pressure from their employers and from their customers to get the products to them on time. This often causes drivers to skip out on sleeping and to drive through the day and night to get to their destinations. While there are federally and state enacted laws known as Hours of Service Regulations which are designed to prevent drivers from becoming too fatigued, it is a well-documented fact that drivers do not receive enough sleep and often drive in violation of these provisions.
- Stopping a Truck on a Shoulder or Roadway – You probably have seen drivers on the side of the road, and you probably have seen large tractor trailers on the shoulder. Truckers often pull on the side of the highway when they are too tired to drive any further. However, generally this is not a good practice and drivers are required to place warning markers behind their vehicles that they have pulled on to the side of the road. Despite this requirement, many drivers do not and this has lead to many other vehicles being involved in an accident.
- Traffic Violations – Truck drivers are professional drivers who are expected to not only know the rules of the road but to follow them. However, long hours spent driving and frustration can often cause a driver to become inattentive, fatigued, or even aggressive in their driving. Failing to stop at a traffic signal or light, failure to signal when executing a lane change, speeding, and tailgating have lead to traffic violations and also accidents.
Any of these events can lead to an accident. When a driver does not follow the rules of the road they can be said to be negligent if they cause an accident, and this is the basis for many Chester County, PA truck accident cases.
Common Truck Accident Injuries in Chester County, PA
The model and size of the vehicle or motorcycle that is involved in a collision with a truck will often play a role in what type of injuries are suffered by victims. The speed at which the truck comes into contact with the vehicle as well as the location of impact also plays a role. Below is a list of the most common injuries suffered in this type of collision:
- Broken and fractured bones
- Internal injuries
- Back and neck injuries
- Rib and torso injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Seat belt and airbag injuries
- Head wounds and brain damage
- Amputated limbs or extremities
- Wrongful death
This list is not exhaustive as there are countless ways in which a victim can become injured during a collision with a large truck. In its 2017 Pocket Guide to Large Trucks and Bus Statistics, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that large truck and bus crashes cost about $118 billion per year. Fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses cost $44 billion per year, injury crashes cost $46 billion per year, and property damage only crashes cost $28 billion per year.
It doesn’t take much for a truck accident to occur. A sleepy truck drive slightly swerving into the adjacent lane can cause a butterfly effect of colossal proportions on a major highway. Some of the most common causes of large truck accidents are as follows:
- Brake problems
- Excessive speed in inclement weather conditions
- Unfamiliar roadway
- Prescription drug use
- Inadequate surveillance
- Illegal maneuver
- Tire problems
- Inattentive driving
- External distraction
- Work pressure from carrier
- Internal distraction
- Illegal drugs
- Cargo shift
- Roadway problems
Types of Compensation Available for Chester County Truck Accident Victims
The most common legal theory of liability by which commercial truck accident victims recover is “negligence.” To find that a truck driver is at fault based on a negligence theory, a victim must show:
- The truck driver owed a duty to the victim;
- The truck driver breached the duty owed to the victim; and
- The victim suffered damages as a result of the breach.
Sometimes, a victim will hold multiple individuals liable for injuries sustained in a trucking crash. Potential defendants could include the truck driver’s employer, contractors, insurance companies, and/or manufacturer of the truck or other materials.
There are two types of damages that a victim of a trucking accident can be entitled to – compensatory and punitive. The purpose of compensatory damages is to make the victim “whole”. Compensatory damages are divided into two subcategories – economic damages and noneconomic damages. The types of economic damages that a plaintiff can be compensated for include:
- Present and future medical expenses
- Property damages
- Present and future lost earnings
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Household services
- Wrongful death damages
- Any other calculable and foreseeable economic loss as a result of the accident
Victims can also recover nonmonetary damages although these are more difficult to calculate. Some examples of nonmonetary damages a plaintiff can collect may include:
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
- Emotional distress
In some cases, a plaintiff may also recover punitive damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish and make an example out of the defendant so as to deter others from committing similar acts in the future. They are awarded when the defendant’s conduct is particularly outrageous and egregious. Many states put a cap on the number of punitive damages that may be awarded in a case. Pennsylvania does not have a cap; however, the United States Supreme Court has held that punitive damages cannot exceed a 10:1 ratio. This means that punitive damages cannot be more than ten times the initial award given.
Chester County Truck Accident Lawyer Offering Free Consultations
If you or someone you love was injured in a truck accident in the Chester County, Pennsylvania area, call our truck accident attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will fight tirelessly for you to receive the compensation you deserve. Call (215) 246-9000 today for a free consultation.