What Injury Victims Need to Know about Trucking Accidents
While any motor vehicle collision can cause permanent life-altering injuries or fatalities, crashes that involve a large truck pose special risks. The heightened danger presented by collisions involving tractor-trailers is a function of a number of factors that include the vehicle's massive bulk. A fully loaded semi-truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds and reach lengths of between 55-60 feet depending on state law and the vehicle configuration. The massive size and weight of a large truck means the vehicles are slow in performing emergency maneuvers and generate enormous force during a collision. Trucking accidents also pose unique issues for injury and fatality victims seeking financial compensation.
The Disproportionate Impact of Trucking Accidents
Because a large truck might outweigh a typical passenger car by 25 times or more, passenger vehicle occupants are most likely to suffer catastrophic injuries or fatalities in collisions involving a semi-truck and a sedan. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 73 percent of fatalities in trucking accidents involve an occupant of the non-truck while another 10 percent are non-vehicle occupants. Further, the NHTSA also makes clear that the number of families touched by crashes involving large trucks is substantial because 104,000 people were injured and another 3,291 individuals died in trucking accidents during a recent one-year period. Although large trucks account for only 4 percent of registered vehicles, they account for 8 percent of traffic fatalities.
Knowledge of Vast Trucking Laws, Regulations, and Industry Practices
The trucking industry is subject to an extensive regulatory framework that includes many safety rules designed to mitigate the danger posed by semis. When pursuing a legal claim for financial damages related to injuries or the loss of a family member in a big-rig collision, an exhaustive knowledge of the vast array of trucking laws, regulations, and industry practices is essential. A deviation from these legal standards and established safety practices often constitutes the grounds for imposing liability on commercial carriers, commercial drivers, big-rig manufacturers, and independent maintenance companies.
The specific rules that apply often depend on the type of trucking firm. If the trucking company operates across state lines, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will be the principle regulatory agency though other vehicle safety entities also are involved in enacting regulations and establishing trucking industry safety standards. Trucking companies that operate entirely within the state are governed primarily by the Arizona Department of Transportation.
The complex array of trucking industry regulations and industry practices cover many safety issues including:
- Anti-fatigue regulations referred to as “Hours of Service” (HOS) rules
- Mandatory drug and alcohol testing requirements
- Pre-hiring background investigations
- Maximum load requirements
- Requirements for securing and transporting cargo
- Inspection and maintenance standards
- Limits on weight and length
- Safety protocols for transportation of hazardous materials
- Distracted driving restrictions
These are just a few examples of the types of regulatory violations that often constitute the basis of liability. Our Arizona Trucking Accident Lawyers conduct investigations frequently with the assistance of industry experts, so we can identify violations of applicable law, regulations, and standard practices.
Spoliation of Evidence Issues in Tractor-Trailer Accident Lawsuits
In the wake of a semi crash, trucking companies routinely dispatch rapid investigation teams to the scene of the collision within minutes. These trucking industry investigators begin examining evidence and developing a defense strategy even before authorities have completed their official investigation of the crash. Since commercial carriers immediately begin crafting a strategy to avoid liability or mitigate damages, personal injury and wrongful death victims should seek legal advice promptly. Some of the critical evidence that might disappear or be altered includes:
- Information stored in the big-rig's event data recorder (“black box”)
- Driver log books tracking HOS
- Physical damage to the tractor-trailer
- Fuel receipts, tire purchase invoices, lodging records, email correspondence between the driver and trucking company
Our Trucking Accident attorneys recognize the importance of taking prompt action to prevent valuable evidence regarding negligent acts or omissions by potentially responsible parties. While commercial truck operators are required to keep log books, many drivers keep “dual books” or falsify log entries. The industry practice of manipulating this information is so rampant that many truck drivers refer to these records as “lie books.”
Efforts to preserve evidence are important because commercial carriers have a reputation for “spoliation” of evidence. This practice essentially refers to destroying or manipulating evidence relevant to anticipated or pending litigation. If a damaged semi-truck is repaired and promptly returned to service, vehicle damage that could have been used by an accident reconstruction expert might be lost. Further, black box data might be erased because the devices are only equipped with a limited amount of storage. If you are involved in an accident, one of the first things we will do is direct the trucking company to preserve the black box and big-rig unchanged because it is the subject of litigation.
Time is of the essence in seeking legal representation if you or someone you love is injured in a trucking accident anywhere in Arizona. Our Arizona accident lawyers understand the devastating emotional, physical, and financial hardships experienced by victims of trucking collisions.
Call or email us today for a free case evaluation.