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Tucson Truck and Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorneys

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Tucson Truck and Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorneys

Collisions with commercial trucks can be especially catastrophic. Commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which may make it much more difficult for them to brake in time to avoid accidents.[1] When they collide with passenger vehicles, substantial physical forces are released because of their sheer sizes and weights. Trucking carriers must carry minimum liability amounts that are extremely high, and their insurance companies often fight claims quite aggressively because of the amounts that are involved. The Tucson tractor-trailer accident lawyers at Lamber Goodnow have years of experience fighting for the victims of truck accidents. We understand the tactics that are often used by defense lawyers and how to build strong claims for our clients.

Truck accident statistics

In 2016, the Arizona Department of Transportation states that 11,991 commercial truck and bus crashes occurred, representing 4.85 percent of the total number of accidents. One hundred and two of these collisions were fatal and 2,880 resulted in injuries.[2] According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is responsible for regulating trucks at the federal level, 4,311 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2015, which was an increase of 8 percent over the number of fatal crashes in 2014. There were 87,000 injury accidents involving commercial trucks and buses in 2015 across the country.[3] Many of these accidents result from the negligence of the drivers and the companies for whom they work.

Tucson Truck and Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorneys

Causes of large truck accidents

In its Large Truck Crash Causation Study, the FMCSA identified multiple causes of the collisions. It also found that truck driver factors accounted for 33 percent of the fatal crashes while passenger car driver factors accounted for 57 percent.[4] Some of the most common causes of these accidents include the following:

  • Speeding
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Driver inattention
  • Driver distraction
  • Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol
  • Obstructed view
  • Driving while fatigued
  • Improperly secured loads
  • Failing to stay within a lane
  • Careless or reckless driving
  • Inadequately trained drivers

Other factors that contribute to accidents include slick roads and poorly maintained or defective truck parts. The Tucson truck accident attorneys at Lamber Goodnow may thoroughly investigate truck accident claims in order to determine all of the potential causes.

Common types of tractor-trailer crashes

There are several common types of tractor-trailer accidents that can occur. Commercial trucks have several large blind spots around them, and the drivers must rely on their side mirrors in order to see. Many accidents happen when truck drivers are unable to see cars behind or beside them and change lanes, colliding with the smaller vehicles.

Other common types of accidents occur when the trucks jackknife. In this type of accident, the rear of the truck swings out of the front tractor’s control. If the driver is unable to regain control of the trailer, then the whole truck can go out of control. Jackknifing often happens when the brakes are suddenly applied.

Some accidents happen when smaller vehicles go underneath the back or side of the large trucks. These collisions are called underride collisions, and they may shear off the top part of the smaller vehicles and cause fatalities. Tire blowouts can cause the large trucks to go out of control, and they may also cause accidents to vehicles around them when the debris hits their windshields.

Trucks may also turn over when they are speeding, are driving in high winds or when they have loads that shift. When trucks overturn, other vehicles may crash into them.

Trucking regulations and laws

In order to help reduce the number of accidents that may be caused by drowsiness, the FMCSA has hours-of-service rules in place for commercial trucks that weigh more than 10,000 pounds.[5] The following rules apply to commercial drivers of trucks that carry property:

  • Drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after they have had 10 consecutive hours off.
  • Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th hour after they have come on duty following a 10-hour off period.
  • Drivers may not driver after 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days and must take at least 34 hours off before restarting.
  • Drivers who use sleeper births must take eight hours in their berths along with an additional two hours off duty or in their births.

Drivers must keep logbooks that they must produce for inspection when asked. Because of problems with drivers manipulating their logbooks, the FMCSA passed the ELD mandate, which is a new rule that will go into effect at the end of 2017. It will track all of the miles and hours that are driven electronically in order to prevent logbook fraud.[6]

Liability in large truck collisions

There are multiple parties that might be liable in large truck crashes, including the following:

  • The truck driver
  • The truck driver’s employer
  • The company that leased the truck from its owner
  • The manufacturer of any defective parts
  • The loading or shipping company in cases involving improper loading

The employers of truck drivers may be liable in tractor-trailer crashes that are caused by the negligence of the drivers through a principle called respondeat superior, which means in Latin “let the master answer for the servant.” Under this theory, employers may be liable for the harms caused to others by the negligence of their employees. In cases in which several parties share fault, the juries will determine the percentage of fault that each party holds and the defendants will be responsible for paying their respective portions of the damages. If the plaintiff also shares fault, his or her award will be reduced by the percentage of fault that he or she is determined to have.

Damages in large truck accidents

The damages that might be available in crashes involving large trucks will depend on the facts of the case, the extent of the injuries and the amount of the losses. Damages are divided into two categories, including special damages and general damages. Special damages include the economic losses that people might suffer, including past and future medical losses, past and future income losses and property losses. General damages include noneconomic losses, including pain and suffering, disfigurement, emotional distress and others. In cases involving wrongful deaths, the families may also recover funeral and burial costs, lost inheritance rights and losses of consortium for the spouses.

FAQs: Truck Accidents Tucson

When commercial truck accidents happen in or around Tucson, Arizona, they frequently involve deaths or serious injuries. Commercial trucks are much larger and heavier than passenger vehicles and might carry flammable or hazardous materials. Because of the greater risks posed by commercial trucks in accidents, manufacturers, trucking carriers, and truck drivers are held to higher standards and more regulations than others. The tractor-trailer accident attorneys at Lamber Goodnow often receive many questions about these types of accidents from people in Tucson. Here are some of the frequently asked questions we receive to help you to evaluate your claim.

 

Q: What is a commercial truck?

A: A commercial truck is a type of heavy vehicle that is used to transport goods in the normal course of business. These trucks generally weigh much more than passenger vehicles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates commercial trucks that have gross vehicle weights of 10,001 pounds or more. Combination trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.

There are many different types of commercial trucks, including the following:

  • 18-wheelers
  • Tanker trucks
  • Dump trucks
  • Freightliners
  • Tractor-trailers
  • Cement trucks
  • Delivery trucks

While some companies use pickup trucks for business activities, a commercial truck generally refers to much larger trucks that require drivers to hold commercial drivers’ licenses before they can operate them.

Q: Why do truck accidents frequently involve more serious injuries than other types of motor vehicle accidents?

A: As previously noted, commercial trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. By contrast, the average passenger car weighs around 3,500 pounds. When a commercial truck collides with a passenger vehicle, the large disparity in size and weight makes the physical forces involved much more powerful.

Commercial trucks also have much greater braking distances because of their weight and may not come to full stops in time to avoid accidents. Some trucks also transport hazardous materials that increase the dangers to others involved in accidents with them. For example, a tanker truck might haul flammable or explosive liquids that could cause injuries and explosions beyond those sustained in the collision itself.

The size differences, weight differences, braking distance differences, and hazardous loads all can make it likelier that passenger vehicle occupants will suffer catastrophic injuries or be killed in accidents involving commercial trucks. Because of these risks, trucking carriers are required to carry insurance policies with high liability limits to cover the losses of people who are seriously injured because of the negligence of truck drivers and trucking companies.

Q: What are the most common causes of commercial truck accidents?

A: Most accidents involving commercial trucks result from a combination of factors. Trucks have different limitations for acceleration, visibility, and braking than passenger vehicles, and some passenger car drivers are unfamiliar with these differences. For example, commercial trucks have large blind spots on all four sides that make it difficult for the drivers to see motorists who are driving in them. In addition to the unique limitations of large trucks, many accidents also involve driver errors. Some of the most common types of driver errors that can result in commercial truck accidents include the following:

  • Truck driver fatigue
  • Distracted driving
  • Inattentive driving
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Improperly changing lanes
  • Improper merging
  • Speeding
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Failing to apply brakes in time

The causes of truck accidents are not limited to mistakes made by truck drivers. Passenger vehicle drivers also can cause truck accidents when they are negligent. Other causes might also be involved in a trucking accident Tucson, including improper loading, poor maintenance, negligent training and supervision, poor road conditions, and other issues. The truck accident lawyers at Lamber Goodnow carefully investigate truck collisions to identify all of the causes that contributed to them.

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

A: One difference between commercial truck accidents and other types of motor vehicle accidents is the number of parties that may be potentially liable. When determining fault in a truck accident case, the answer of liability may not be straightforward.

The determination of liability in a truck accident claim will depend on the facts of what happened. In some cases, multiple parties may be liable for causing an accident, including the following:

  • Truck driver
  • Trucking carrier
  • Leasing company that owns the truck
  • Third-party maintenance and repair companies
  • Freight loader
  • Manufacturer of defective parts
  • Other motorists
  • Entities responsible for maintaining the roads

Depending on what happened, several parties could share liability for your injuries and losses. The tractor-trailer accident attorneys at Lamber Goodnow can help to figure out what happened in your case so that all of the at-fault parties can be held accountable for the actions that led to your accident.

Q: How long will it take to resolve my truck accident claim?

A: A truck accident lawyer cannot give you a guarantee about how long it might take to settle your truck accident claim. Truck accident cases can take months or years to resolve, depending on whether they go to trial or settle out of court.

Most truck accident claims reach negotiated settlements because insurance companies understand that going to trial involves more risk and greater expense. It is in the best interests of the insurance company to settle your claim before going to trial.

Even if your claim ultimately ends up settling, you should expect that the negotiations will continue for a lengthy period. Getting an insurance company to understand the risks of a trial and offer a fair settlement will require an in-depth investigation. Truck accidents frequently involve substantial losses and high dollar amounts. For these reasons, many truck accident claims do not settle until right before the start of a trial.

Q: What are the blind spots around a commercial truck?

A: The blind spots around a commercial truck are commonly referred to as its “No-zone.” While most people are aware that trucks have larger blind spots than cars, they might not realize exactly how large these blind spots are.

The blind spots of a commercial truck extend on all four sides. On the left side of a large truck, the blind spot extends from the cab’s driver-side mirror across one lane of traffic. In the truck’s rear, a truck driver cannot see you if you are within 30 feet of the back of its trailer. A general rule of thumb is that you should not drive close enough to a truck that you cannot see the driver’s reflection in his or her side mirror.

Many motorists are unaware that trucks have blind spots in front of their vehicles. The front blind spot extends approximately 20 feet in front of the cab. This makes it important for you to give a truck plenty of room after passing before merging back into its lane. Finally, the blind spot on the truck’s right is the largest and extends across two full lanes of traffic. You should never try to pass a tractor-trailer on the right.

Q: Who is responsible for paying my settlement?

A: The parties that will be responsible for paying your settlement will depend on who is determined to be liable. Even if your accident solely resulted from the truck driver’s error, the trucking company’s insurance company will likely be responsible for paying your settlement.

Trucking companies are vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their drivers. Since the companies benefit from the work provided by their employees, they are considered to be liable when their workers negligently cause injury accidents while they are working within the scope of their jobs.

Some trucking companies claim that their drivers are independent contractors and not employees to try to avoid vicarious liability. However, truck drivers who drive in interstate commerce are deemed to be employees for liability purposes. Even if the driver who caused your accident is an independent contractor who only drives intrastate, the company may still be liable if it negligently hired, retained, or supervised an incompetent driver.

Q: What should I do immediately after a truck accident?

A:  Immediately after a truck accident, there are several steps that you should take to protect your rights and your health. Call the police to report the accident and to summon help. You should always remain at the accident scene until the police arrive. While you are waiting, check yourself and others for injuries. Give first aid to anyone else who is injured and needs help.

If you can, take as many photographs as possible of the damage to the truck, the damage to your vehicle, and the entire accident scene. Make sure to get pictures of the weather and road conditions, nearby speed limit signs, and any traffic control devices that may have played a role in your accident. Take pictures of any visible injuries that you have or ask someone else to photograph your injuries for you.

Gather contact information for anyone who saw what happened, including their names, email addresses, phone numbers, and physical addresses. Finding independent witnesses can be important evidence to support your claim.

Finally, your biggest priority after your truck accident is to see a doctor. Some injuries can have a delayed onset of symptoms. If you wait to see your doctor, the insurance company might try to deny your claim by claiming your injuries were caused by an intervening or earlier event.

Q: What do I do if I am contacted by the trucking company's insurance provider?

A: The trucking carrier’s insurance company will likely contact you as soon as it learns about your accident and injuries. While the insurance adjuster might seem like he or she has your best interests at heart, you should remember that the adjuster works for the insurance company and not for you. His or her priorities will be to protect the insurance company’s bottom line by reducing the amount that it might have to pay to you for your claim.

You do not have an obligation to explain what happened to the trucking company’s insurance carrier. Do not agree to submit a recorded statement about what happened. You should also avoid signing a medical authorization to allow the company to access your medical records. Instead, you should politely tell the insurance company’s representative that you want to talk to an attorney after your trucking accident Tucson before you will talk or sign anything. The truck accident lawyers at Lamber Goodnow can handle the communication with the insurance company for you once you retain our firm.

Q: Can I recover anything if I shared fault for my trucking accident?

A: Arizona does not prevent plaintiffs from recovering compensation when they are partially at fault. If you are determined to be partly to blame, the judge or jury will decide the percentage of fault that you had. Any verdict that you receive will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is attributed to you.

For example, if your gross verdict is $800,000 when your fault is determined to be 30%, your net award will be reduced by 30% for a net recovery of $560,000. If multiple parties are determined to be liable, each responsible party will be responsible for its proportionate share of fault. This makes it very important to identify all of the parties that are potentially liable before you file your claim to help to ensure that you will recover all of the damages to which you should be entitled.


 

Contact the Tucson truck accident lawyers at Lamber Goodnow

If you have suffered serious injuries in a truck crash or your loved one has been killed, you may benefit from seeking legal help. The Tucson tractor-trailer accident attorneys at the truck accident law firm of Lamber Goodnow might help you to recover damages for your losses. Contact our office today to learn more about how we might be able to help you to assert your rights.

Sources

1. https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/sw/overview/index.htm
2. https://www.azdot.gov/docs/default-source/mvd-services/2016-crash-facts.pdf?sfvrsn=4
3. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2015
4. Id.
5. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/summary-hours-service-regulations

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