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Truck & Tractor-Trailer Accidents

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Truck Accident Lawyers

Unfortunately, truck accidents are often serious – these massive vehicles are larger and heavier than the average car or SUV. You’ll need experts on your side to fight for your rights.

Negligent Drivers

Commercial truck accidents can be complicated – we can help.

Proactive Investigation

We’ll get to the bottom of what really happened.

Expert Resources

Complicated obstacles require an experienced partner.

Phoenix Truck Accident Lawyers

The Lamber-Goodnow Injury Law Team fights aggressively to provide maximum compensation and closure to victims of trucking accidents and their families in Arizona and throughout the Southwest.

Experienced Phoenix Commercial Truck Accident Lawyers

Our Phoenix truck accident lawyers and our co-counsel attorneys conduct thorough forensic investigations and, in appropriate cases, work with accident reconstructionists to develop legal theories capable of securing the compensation our clients need and deserve. We work with speed and precision to recover all pertinent evidence and witness statements.

Our team has the resources and bandwidth to invest into a full-blown investigation of the crash when warranted. With our no-fee promise, we don’t get paid unless and until you get paid, which allows you and your family to heal and recover as we carry the legal burden.

The Causes of Tractor-Trailer Crashes

Most tractor-trailer accidents are avoidable when the trucking company and its drivers take the proper precautions.  A study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) that reviewed more than 120,000 large truck (trucks with gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds) collisions concluded that 87 percent of the truck crashes were due to negligence of the driver.  These actions included:

  • Recognition: the driver was distracted, inattentive or failed to observe a situation adequately.
  • Decision: the driver followed other vehicles too closely, was driving too fast or misjudged the speed of other vehicles.
  • Performance: the driver exercised poor directional control or panicked and overcompensated.
  • Non-Performance: the driver was disabled by a seizure or heart attack, fell asleep or was physically impaired for another reason.
  • Other associated factors: interruption of the traffic flow, illegal maneuvers, fatigue, illness and unfamiliarity with roadway.

The FMCSA concluded that the remaining 13 percent of factors causing a truck accident were divided into 10 percent maintenance problems, such as worn out tires, and three percent environmental factors, such as bad weather.

Federal Trucking Laws

The FMCSA is the federal agency responsible for devising rules, laws and regulations that govern motor carriers in the United States.  Additionally, the FMCSA has created numerous safety regulations designed to increase the safety of large trucks and other vehicles, drivers and passengers on the roadways.

Under Part 383 of the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”):

  • A truck driver can only operate their vehicle for a maximum of 11 continuous hours in a 14-hour work day. Then they must rest for 10 continuous hours before getting behind the wheel.
  • The operator may not drive after 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days, or after 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days. They may restart the seven or eight-day period only after taking 34 or more hours off duty.
  • Truck drivers are allowed to have one driver’s license, which has been issued to them by their home state. This license (a CPL or CDL) can only be issued after a skills and knowledge test.  Furthermore, hazardous materials (“Hazmat”) carriers must pass additional tests before they are given a license.
  • Truck drivers must pass a physical exam every two years in order to be eligible to drive.
  • No driver may report to work with a blood-alcohol level of 0.02 or more. Additionally, drivers cannot carry any alcohol with them while driving, unless the alcohol is part of their cargo.
  • Drivers must maintain a log book of their time spent behind the wheel.
  • Drivers must follow certain rules (created in January 1, 2004) for tying down cargo and using certain security devices.
  • Trucks are required to display their USDOT number, Hazmat markings and other important information.

In addition to the rules and regulations above, there are many other regulations the FMCSA has created to govern the actions of trucking companies, and Hazmat carriers, including such regulations as: complying with USDOT safety rules, unfit carrier rules, skills requirements, disqualification of drivers, logbook rules for companies, hours of service, Hazmat regulations and how to comply with them and State Hazmat registration procedures.

Arizona Truck Accident Statistics and Laws

According to a report from the Arizona Department of Transportation, ‘Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2016,’ there were 10,873 accidents that involved some type of truck combination.  One hundred and two of the crashes involved fatalities and 2,555 involved serious injury.  A substantial amount of these crashes occurred in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, where businesses are located and interstates converge.  In order to combat these statistics, Arizona has created its own set of laws and regulations.

In addition to following the federal trucking regulations, each state has commercial trucking laws in place to protect commercial drivers and other motorists on the roadways.  In Arizona, there are many laws for commercial truckers and their semi-trucks that are aimed at keeping both truck drivers and other motorists safe on the road. These laws concern the amount of time drivers may spend behind the wheel, the maximum weight the truck may haul, the maximum size of the truck, quality control, commercial licensing, Hazmat and more.  Common Phoenix truck laws include:

Maximum Speed Limit for Large Vehicles and Vehicles with Trailers

Section 28-709:

  1. Unless a lower maximum speed limit is posted or the department designates a greater maximum speed limit pursuant to subsection B of this section, a person shall not drive either of the following on a highway in this state at a speed that is greater than sixty-five miles per hour:
  2. A motor vehicle or vehicle combination with a declared gross weight of more than twenty-six thousand pounds, excluding a motor vehicle designed for carrying sixteen or more passengers, including the driver. For the purposes of this paragraph, “declared gross weight” and “vehicle combination” have the same meaning prescribed in section 28-5431.
  3. A vehicle that is drawing a pole trailer that weighs six thousand or more pounds.

Vehicle Length
Section 28-1095(c):

  1. The length of a semitrailer operating in a truck tractor-semitrailer combination or a truck tractor-semitrailer-forklift combination shall not exceed fifty-seven feet six inches.
  2. The length of a semitrailer or trailer operating in a truck tractor-semitrailer-trailer combination shall not exceed twenty-eight feet six inches.
  3. The length of a trailer operating in a truck-trailer combination shall not exceed twenty-eight feet six inches.
  4. If the length of a semitrailer is more than fifty-three feet, the overall length of a truck tractor-semitrailer combination shall not exceed sixty-five feet on all highways, except for the national intercity truck route network designated by the United States secretary of transportation as required by the surface transportation assistance act of 1982 or on a system of highways that is designated by a local authority. In designating the streets, the local authority shall consider any reasonable restriction including such safety restrictions as structural hazards and street width and any other safety factors identified by the local authority as a hazard to the motoring public.
  5. A vehicle transporter and the semitrailer it draws shall not exceed a length of seventy-five feet.
  6. A truck-semitrailer combination shall not exceed an overall length of sixty-five feet.

If you are interested in learning more about commercial truck regulations or licensing through the Arizona Department of Transportation please visit their website by clicking here, or call 602-712-8851.

FAQs: Truck and Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Truck accidents can be especially dangerous and may result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities.

In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 4,889 commercial trucks and buses were involved in fatal accidents, which was a 9% increase over 2016. During the same year, there were 116,000 injury crashes involving large trucks and buses, which was a 4% increase over the prior year. Large truck crashes may cause more serious injuries than other motor vehicle accidents. When people suffer serious injuries or are killed in accidents involving tractor-trailers, they often have many questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that the attorneys at Lamber Goodnow receive about truck and tractor-trailer accidents.

Q: What should you do if you are involved in a truck accident?

A: If you are involved in a collision with a large truck, there are several things that you should do to protect your rights. Make sure to stay at the scene, and call the police. Check other people for injuries, and give them first aid if you are able to do so. Check yourself for injuries. If you can, take photographs of the damage to your vehicle and to the large truck. You should also photograph any injuries that you have. Take pictures of the larger accident scene to show the relative position of the vehicles. If there are tire skid marks, photograph those. You should also take pictures of other relevant things such as speed limit signs or traffic control devices. Do not apologize, admit any fault, or say that you were not injured. You do not have all of the details of what caused the accident, and claiming that you were at fault would be premature. You also may have suffered internal injuries that you do not immediately recognize. You should always go to a doctor after you have been involved in any accident. When it is an accident involving a large truck, this is even more important. After you have sought medical treatment, contact a personal injury attorney at Lamber Goodnow to schedule a consultation before you agree to give any recorded statements or to sign anything from the insurance company.

Q: Why are tractor-trailer accidents more dangerous than other motor vehicle accidents?

A: Truck accidents are more dangerous than other types of motor vehicle accidents because of the weight and size of the trucks in comparison to passenger vehicles. Large trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds under the law. If they have oversize permits, they can weigh even more. The trucks can also be an average of 70 to 80 feet long. By contrast, the average passenger car weight is a little more than 4,000 pounds. Trucks take 40% more stopping distance than cars. When you take these factors together, you can understand that the forces that are released in a collision with a large truck are much greater than the forces that are released in accidents involving two cars. Because of the size and weight difference, large trucks are much likelier to cause serious injuries and fatalities when they strike other vehicles.

Q: What are some common defense arguments that are made in truck accidents?

A: Multiple parties may be liable to compensate you for your losses in a truck accident. Depending on the cause of your accident, there are several common defense strategies that the defendants might try to raise to deny liability or to reduce the amount that they might be forced to pay you. Under A.R.S. § 12-2505, Arizona follows a legal principle called comparative negligence. Under this statute, your recovery may be reduced if the jury finds that you were partially at fault for causing the accident. Juries assign percentages of fault to the parties. Defendants in truck collision cases often try to argue that the victims were partially or wholly at fault for their accidents. If they succeed, they may be able to reduce the total amount that they will have to pay or to avoid liability altogether. Truck accident defendants may also try to claim that a different driver or party was at fault. This tactic is especially common when there are multiple vehicles involved in a large truck crash. It is also common when there are multiple potentially liable parties. It will be important for you to identify all of the potential defendants and to name them in your lawsuit. If you do not file your lawsuit within the limitations period, the defendants to your lawsuit can ask for your case to be dismissed because of it being time-barred. Under A.R.S. § 12-542, you must file your lawsuit within two years of the date of your injury. If you do not, the defense will likely succeed in getting your case dismissed. Finally, the defendants may argue that you have failed to mitigate your damages. If you do not see a doctor soon after the accident or fail to follow the recommendations that you receive from your doctor, the defendants can argue that it caused your injuries to grow worse.

Q: Who might be liable in a truck accident case?

A: One reason why truck accident claims are complex is that there may be numerous parties that are potentially liable. Some of the potentially liable parties in a truck accident case include the following:

  • The truck driver
  • The trucking company that employs the driver
  • The company that owns or leases the truck
  • A third-party maintenance and repair company
  • The manufacturer or designer of a defective part
  • The distribution company that improperly loaded or secured the load on the truck
  • Governmental departments that failed to maintain the roads
As you can see, truck collisions may be caused by more than negligent drivers. Experienced truck accident lawyers may complete exhaustive investigations to uncover all of the causes that contributed to your accident in order to identify all of the parties that should be listed as defendants to your lawsuit. By identifying all of the potentially liable parties, your lawyer might help you to maximize your recovery amount.

Q: What is a black box, and how might it help me in my truck accident claim?

A: Like airplanes, large trucks also contain black boxes that record important data about the trucks. Recovering information from a truck's black box and its electronic logging device is important. Black boxes and ELDs can provide crucial evidence of negligent drivers and the actions that occurred in the moments leading up to your accident. This data can tell you how fast the truck was going, whether and when the brakes were engaged, the GPS location information, the average speed of the truck and its speed at the time of your collision, whether the driver was wearing a seatbelt, and other important information. Because of the importance of the black box and the ELD, your attorney will likely file a motion asking the court to order that the evidence is preserved. In many cases, this information is recorded over in 30 days. Some unscrupulous companies may also try to erase or alter the information. By getting help quickly after a crash, you may be able to secure this data to help you in your case.

Q: Who might be liable when the brakes of the truck failed and caused my crash?

A: Failing truck brakes are common causes of accidents involving large trucks. If the truck in your case had brakes that failed, you will need to figure out the parties that are liable for the brake failure. The identification of these parties can be complicated because several parties can be at fault. Some of the potentially liable parties in brake failure claims include the following:

  • Truck drivers who failed to properly inspect their trucks before driving them
  • Trucking company that employs the driver
  • The distributor if it overloaded the truck and caused the brakes to overheat
  • Third-party company that is contracted to repair and maintain the truck and its brakes
  • The manufacturer of the brakes if they are defective

Q: Why are truck accident claims more complex than other motor vehicle accidents?

A: There are several reasons why trucking accidents are more complex than other motor vehicle collisions. The injuries in these types of accidents are frequently much more severe, which means your losses may also be more substantial. The insurance policies that are carried by trucking companies also have high policy limits. This means that the companies are much likelier to aggressively defend against claims. There might also be numerous parties who are potentially liable. Finally, the trucking industry is heavily regulated, so your lawyer will need to have a thorough understanding of the applicable regulations to determine if any of them were violated.

Q: What should you do if you were too badly injured to collect information at the accident scene?

A: While it is always a good idea for you to take pictures at an accident scene and to get the contact information for any witnesses, it is sometimes not possible for victims of accidents involving large trucks to do so. If you are badly injured in the accident, you might not be able to gather evidence at the scene. Your first priority should be to get medical attention when you have suffered serious injuries. There are a few things that you can do if you are too injured to take pictures, exchange information, and obtain witness information at the scene of your truck accident. If you are able to talk, ask a friend or family member to take pictures of the accident scene and the damage to your vehicle and to the truck. Your family member can also get the names and contact information of any witnesses and the truck driver for you. Make sure that the police officers who respond create a written accident report, and make certain to follow up so you can get a copy. Finally, contact the attorneys at Lamber Goodnow. We can send investigators to the scene of your crash to gather evidence on your behalf.

Q: I think that the trucking company's insurance carrier is following me. Is that legal?

A: When you have been the victim of an accident that was caused by a commercial truck, you might be disconcerted to learn that someone from the insurance company is following you and conducting surveillance after you have filed your claim against the trucking carrier. Insurance companies commonly engage in surveillance of accident victims in order to try to gather evidence showing that the victims are not as injured as severely as they claim. While surveillance is legal, companies are limited in how they can surveil people. For example, an insurance company is not allowed to look in your windows or tap your phone to gather information. Insurance investigators have a goal to catch you performing activities that you claim your injury prevents you from doing. It is important for you to understand the surveillance strategies that an insurance company might use. The companies are likelier to use surveillance strategies if you suffered severe and permanent injuries than if your injuries were more minor. The investigator might pore through your social media posts to try to find anything that suggests that your injuries are not as serious as you claim. He or she might also take pictures and digital video of your while you are out in public. It is common for insurance investigators to surveil victims immediately before and after their depositions. They might also follow you at other times. If you believe that the insurance company is conducting surveillance of you, talk to your attorney.

Q: How soon should I retain a truck accident attorney?

A: While the statute of limitations for filing an injury claim in Arizona is two years, you should not wait until you are nearing the end of the limitations period to talk to an attorney at Lamber Goodnow. It is best for you to retain a truck accident attorney as soon as possible after your accident. As we previously discussed, evidence from the truck's black box might be overwritten in as little as 30 days. Retaining a lawyer quickly can help you to preserve important evidence and to interview witnesses before they are lost over time. Truck crashes also take a substantial amount of investigation, making it important for you to get help as soon as possible instead of waiting.


Proactive Investigation and Litigation

A commercial truck accident can be more complicated than an accident between a two-person vehicle.  This may be due to the sheer size of the truck, the type of materials the truck may be carrying or the multiple defendants that may be involved.

Potential Defendants

In many cases there are multiple defendants in a truck accident case, including: trucking companies, contractors, drivers, the owner of the trailer, the owner of the truck and the company that owns the cargo.

If there is an employment relationship between the truck driver and the trucking or shipping company, then that company may be held liable under a theory called respondeat superior for the driver’s negligence. In order for the employer to be held liable under the theory respondeat superior, there must be a master-servant relationship.

Usually, in order to create this type of relationship the employee has to have been hired to perform a service at a specified wage and is, or is expected to be, supervised. Once it is determined that an employee-employer relationship exists, the employer becomes liable for the negligence committed by the employee if they are acting within the scope of their employment. For the act to be considered within the scope of employment, it must be connected with the employer’s business and for the purpose of furthering the employer’s interest.

This may become more difficult to prove if the truck driver is an independent contractor.  In this case, Arizona law looks at a variety of factors, including the amount of supervision the company has over the independent contractor.

Occasionally, a manufacturer may be held liable for a faulty part or the shipper of hazardous materials may be held liable for injuries caused by the truck’s cargo.  In this case, the shipper may have a duty to inform the driver and the company of the cargo’s potential dangers.

Arizona Trucking Accident Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum time after an event in which legal proceedings must be initiated.

Arizona Revised Statute Section 12-542 establishes a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims.  If the victim fails to file a lawsuit within this prescribed time period they will be barred from pursuing the wrongdoer for their damages.

Accident Investigation

With so many moving parts it is imperative to have a proactive investigation and litigation approach to truck accidents.  Many times, trucking companies may lose or destroy evidence or valuable leads that would prove their liability and negligence. The Lamber-Goodnow Injury Law Team has experience with commercial trucking accidents and knows the importance of sending investigators and experts to study each facet of the accident in order to find liability.  It is important that all aspects of truck accidents be considered, including:

Drivers earn endorsements to carry loads. This ensures that the driver is trained and certified to pack, load, and move certain types and volumes of cargo. If an accident is caused by improper loading, we can investigate to determine if the driver made an error, or if the company forced the driver to carry the load, knowing that he or she did not have the proper endorsement.

Resources

If you have been involved in a commercial trucking accident in the Phoenix-based area, contact The Lamber-Goodnow Phoenix truck accident lawyers to learn more about your rights and legal options.  It is possible if not likely that you may face obstacles from the insurance companies who insure the trucking companies.  Our Phoenix truck accident attorneys, however,  have successfully prosecuted personal injury and wrongful death claims deriving from trucking accidents in Arizona for decades. Our truck accident attorneys in Phoenix know the law that applies to the commercial truck industry and use it to our clients’ benefit when lawsuits are filed in state and federal court.

Commercial trucking accidents are complicated and it is important that you get assistance from an experienced attorney.  Additionally, you may also click the following links for education resources about commercial trucking:

  • American Trucking Association: serves as an advocate for the trucking industry and provides information and research on the trucking industry.
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, offering regulations, safety programs and facts related to the prevention of commercial trucking fatalities and injuries.
  • Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance: an organization made up of various safety officials from various governmental entities and industry representatives which offer research and suggestions to help standardize truck measures throughout the United States.
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: the “Large Trucks” section features regulatory policies, safety rating, fatality and injury statistics and related safety information.
  • National Safety Council: Safety on the Road: includes general information about focusing on the roadways, defensive driving and other safety considerations.
  • Commercial Motor Vehicle Traffic Enforcement (NHTSA): information about the enforcement of commercial safety laws and regulations.

Contact our Phoenix Truck Accident Lawyers Today

Take advantage of our no-fee promise:

  • We offer free initial consultations.
  • We fully finance all costs of litigation.
  • We do not get paid unless we obtain a favorable verdict or settlement.

To arrange a free initial consultation to discuss a tractor-trailer accident and how our Phoenix truck accident attorneys can fight for justice on your behalf, please contact our law firm today at 602-274-9662 or toll free at 800- 283-2652.

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