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Arizona’s roads, highways, and interstates are frequently traversed by large commercial trucks. These vehicles are significantly larger and heavier than passenger vehicles and can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds under the weight rules contained in ARS 28-1100. By contrast, the average weight of passenger vehicles is 4,166 pounds, which is around 1/20th of the weight of some large trucks.

Trucks are also much larger and taller than passenger vehicles, The size and weight differences between big rigs vs. passenger cars make truck collisions much more dangerous than other types of accidents. When large trucks crash into passenger vehicles, the risk of serious injuries and fatalities to the passenger vehicle occupants is high. In situations in which the truck driver caused a crash, the seriously injured victims or the families of people who were killed in the accident are legally allowed to file lawsuits to recover damages for the losses and harm they have suffered.

Working with a Gilbert truck accident lawyer at Lamber Goodnow when you have been injured or have lost your loved one in a large truck crash can greatly improve your chances of winning your claim and recovering fair compensation. While you might think that your case is straightforward, insurance companies and trucking carriers aggressively defend against truck accident claims. The required insurance policies for trucking companies are much higher than they are for other types of cars, and the companies work hard to defend against valid claims because of the substantial amounts of money that typically might be involved. By retaining an experienced attorney, you will be on a much more even footing in your case than if you try to take on a team of aggressive defense lawyers and large corporations on your own.

Our team of Gilbert truck accident attorneys has years of experience handling complex truck collision claims. We thoroughly investigate every accident to identify all of the factors that contributed to its occurrence. Our careful, thorough approach frequently helps us secure full settlements that fairly compensate our clients for all of their losses. When an insurance company or trucking carrier balks at settling a claim, we also are willing to fight for justice for our clients at a trial before a jury or judge to secure the compensation to which they should be entitled.

Trucking Collision Statistics

In 2020, an estimated 146,900 people were injured in U.S. truck collisions, and another 4,965 were killed per data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In Arizona alone, 10,713 truck accidents were reported in which 2,423 people suffered injuries and 105 died during that year.

As this data shows, large truck crashes are often catastrophic. As a result, both Arizona and the federal government heavily regulate the trucking industry to try to prevent these types of accidents from occurring.

What Causes Trucks to Crash?

The agency that regulates the trucking industry at the federal level is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA promulgates and enforces regulations that govern both how trucking carriers operate and how truck drivers perform their jobs. The FMCSA conducted a large study in which it reviewed accident data from 120,000 truck collisions that were investigated by law enforcement to determine the common causes of these types of accidents. Out of all of the crashes included in the study, the FMCSA determined that 87% resulted from driver errors.

The following driving behaviors were found to have been common contributors to the large truck collisions included in the study:

  • Distracted driving
  • Drowsy or fatigued driving
  • Poor surveillance
  • Speeding
  • Misjudgment of the speed of other motorists
  • Impaired driving
  • Following others too closely
  • Overcorrecting
  • Illegal maneuvers
  • Lack of familiarity with the roads
  • Failing to control the direction of the truck

Other factors that were found to have contributed to truck accidents include medical issues, poor road conditions, defective parts, bad weather, and lack of maintenance.

Federal Rules for Truck Drivers

49 CFR Part 383 of the Code of Federal Regulations includes many of the regulations that govern truck drivers.

The following are a few of the important driver rules found in the regulations:

  • Drivers can drive no more than 11 hours per day out of a total of 14 work hours. After a driver has reached the maximum daily hours, they must be off from work for at least 10 hours before returning.
  • Drivers have maximum hours per workweek cycle of 60 hours worked over seven days in a row or 70 hours in eight days in a row. Once a driver has reached their maximum hours for the cycle they follow, they must then be off from work for a minimum of 34 hours before returning to work to complete a new cycle.
  • Truck drivers only have one driving license, which is a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This license must be issued by the state’s licensing authority after the driver passes tests of their knowledge and skills. Drivers that will transport hazardous materials (HAZMAT) are required to get a HAZMAT endorsement, which requires additional testing.
  • Drivers can’t drive their trucks when they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02% or higher. They also can’t have alcohol in their trucks unless it is their cargo.
  • All trucks must have electronic logging devices (ELDs) installed. These devices track how much time drivers spend behind the wheel and other information.
  • Drivers must follow special rules for loading cargo, unloading cargo, and securing cargo.
  • Specific markings must be affixed to the vehicle to provide information to other motorists, including the DOT number, any HAZMAT markings, and others.

This is only a small sampling of the numerous regulations governing truck drivers and trucking companies. There are also disqualification rules, what a company must do when a driver is unfit, and more.

Arizona Laws Commonly Arising in Truck Accident Cases

Multiple laws in Arizona also commonly arise in truck accident cases, including those discussed below.

Maximum Speed Limit

Under ARS 28-709, truck drivers are restricted to driving their trucks at a maximum of 65 mph other than when the state has posted a higher or lower maximum speed limit. The maximum speed law doesn’t apply to buses designed to transport 16+ passengers. However, it does cover trucks and truck combinations weighing more than 26,000 pounds and trucks towing trailers weighing 6,000 or more pounds.

Maximum Length Rules

Under ARS 28-1095(c), Arizona has established the following maximum lengths for trucks and truck combinations:

  • Maximum of 57.5 feet – Semitrailer-tractor and semitrailer-tractor-forklift combinations
  • Maximum of 28.5 feet – Tractor-semitrailer combinations
  • Maximum of 28.5 feet – Truck-trailer combinations
  • Maximum of 65 feet – Tractor-semitrailer combinations with semitrailers that are more than 53 feet long other than when traveling on a road designated as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s national truck route by local or state authorities
  • Maximum of 75 feet – Vehicle transporter-semitrailer combinations

Potential Liability in Truck Accidents

One of the reasons why truck accidents are often more complex than other types of vehicle collisions is the number of parties that might be potentially liable. Truck accidents also involve insurance policies with high liability limits and often involve extensive injuries.

When a Gilbert truck accident attorney at Lamber Goodnow receives a truck accident case, they will thoroughly investigate what happened to identify all of the causes and parties that contributed to it. The following are a few of the parties that might be liable in a truck accident case:

  • Driver of the truck
  • Driver of the other involved vehicle
  • Trucking company
  • Third-party leasing company that owns the truck
  • Truck owner/operator
  • Shipper
  • Entity responsible for road maintenance
  • All parties involved in the chain of distribution of a defective truck part
  • Third-party repair garage

Identifying all of the parties that contributed fault in a truck collision is critical for maximizing the recovery of compensation by the victims.

An important factor in large truck crashes is the potential vicarious liability of the trucking company. When a trucking carrier employs the truck driver, it derives benefits from its employee’s work. Because of this, trucking companies are vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees while they are working. If a driver is employed by the trucking company as an employee when the accident occurs, vicarious liability means the trucking company’s insurance policy will be the source of recovery. Trucking companies are required to carry liability insurance with high policy limits, so insurance companies typically fight truck accident claims to try to avoid paying.

Trucking companies sometimes claim that their drivers are independent contractors instead of employees. They might do this to try to avoid having to pay payroll taxes or liability when an accident is caused by one of their drivers. Trucking companies are not vicariously liable for the actions of independent contractors since contractors are not considered employees. In that type of situation, a Gilbert car accident lawyer at Lamber Goodnow will carefully review the driver’s employment records to determine whether they have been misclassified and should instead be treated as an employee.

Even when a driver is an independent contractor instead of an employee, there are still some situations in which the trucking company might still be liable. A trucking carrier can be directly liable if it negligently contracts with an incompetent driver that the company knew or should know was unfit to drive. For example, if a truck company contracts with a driver who lacks the appropriate endorsements or has a string of DUIs on their record, the truck company might be directly liable and forced to pay damages to a victim who is subsequently injured in an accident with the driver while they are on duty.

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FAQs: Gilbert Truck Accident Lawsuits

Being involved in a truck collision can be overwhelming and lead to numerous questions. To help you understand your potential claim, we’ve gathered a few of the most common questions we are asked about truck collision lawsuits.

Q: Can I File a Lawsuit if a Family Member Died in a Truck Collision?

A: Whether you can file a lawsuit because of your family member’s death depends on your relationship with the victim. Under ARS 12-612, the following are the only parties with the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • The victim’s spouse
  • The victim’s children
  • The victim’s parent(s) or guardian
  • Estate executor/administrator

If you are not one of the above-listed parties, you can’t file a wrongful death lawsuit. If your family member didn’t leave behind a spouse, child, parent, or guardian, the executor or administrator of their estate can file a lawsuit. Any money recovered will then be paid into the estate and distributed to the victim’s will beneficiaries or heirs.

Q: The Truck Driver Was Cited by the Police. Since They Were Clearly at Fault, Do I Need an Attorney?

A: Some people think that they don’t need to hire an attorney when the liability of the truck driver is clear. However, insurance companies and trucking carriers take all steps possible to try to reduce how much they might have to pay or avoid paying out money on claims altogether. While you are not required to hire a lawyer to represent you in your case, doing so will make it much likelier that you will be successful and will recover enough compensation to pay for all of your losses.

Q: Can I Recover Compensation if I Was Also at Fault?

A: Under ARS 12-2505, Arizona follows a pure comparative fault rule. This means that every party is responsible for their negligence. If you shared fault for your accident with the truck driver and/or other parties, that won’t bar you from recovering compensation. However, any compensation you receive will be reduced by the degree of fault you contributed. For example, if a jury returns a verdict in your favor for $500,000 but also finds that you were 10% at fault, your award will be reduced by 10% for a net verdict of $450,000.

Q: How Much Is My Truck Accident Claim Worth?

A: As an initial matter, an attorney can’t quote you a value of what they can recover for you in a truck accident case. Instead, how much your claim might be worth will depend on several factors specific to your case, including whether you shared responsibility, the nature and severity of your injuries, available recovery sources, and others.

Most truck accident claims seek compensatory damages, which are monetary amounts that are meant to compensate you for the following types of losses:

  • Past/future medical expenses
  • Past/future wage losses
  • Lost inheritance rights in wrongful death claims
  • Funeral/burial costs in wrongful death claims
  • Property losses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Psychological trauma/mental anguish
  • Disability
  • Loss of the ability to enjoy life
  • Grief
  • Loss of consortium/guidance in wrongful death claims

If the defendant’s actions were especially outrageous, punitive damages, which are payable on top of the compensatory damages award, might also be available. When you meet with your attorney, they will analyze your case and calculate its possible value as a range within which you might anticipate a fair settlement to fall.

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