Semi-Truck Accidents FAQ
How Do Trucking Accidents Differ from Passenger Vehicle Accidents?
From the perspective of an Illinois personal injury attorney practicing in Bloomington, Illinois, accidents involving trucks/tractor trailers differ from accidents involving passenger vehicles largely because the severity of the injuries are often greater. Injuries can be more catastrophic or fatal when semis are involved in accidents on the roadway. The sheer size of these semis alone makes them more prone to cause severe damage when one crashes into a smaller passenger vehicle. Basic physics tells us that force equals mass times acceleration. As Newton’s Second Law teaches us, the larger an item is and the faster it is travelling will determine how much damage will be done.
Another difference between accidents involving commercial motor vehicles and accidents involving non-commercial vehicles is the extra labor involved in obtaining the entire relevant discovery.
As previously mentioned elsewhere in the site, sometimes it may be necessary to obtain the driver’s log books, the service records of the tractor-trailer involved, GPS information, event data recorder (EDR) or electronic control module (ECM), also known as the “black box”. The attorney may want to send a preservation letter or schedule an inspection of the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) or other vehicles involved. An accident reconstructionist also might be necessary to retain soon after the automobile accident.
What Are the Severe Injuries Sustained in A Trucking Accident?
As a personal injury lawyer in Bloomington, Illinois, who handles traffic accident cases, I am not aware of any studies that identify correlation between the number of severe or fatal traffic accidents in large truck accidents when compared to traffic accidents involving personal vehicles. That being said, obviously the sure mass of semis and other commercial motor vehicles (CMV’s) can lead to catastrophic injuries, including death. Some of the more severe injuries I’ve seen as a personal injury attorney include death, disfigurement, paralysis and other spinal cord injuries. Additionally I have seen closed brain injuries as well as catastrophic brain injuries, and other types of injuries to the head and neck, broken bones, torn muscles, damage to tendons and ligaments, and a great deal of soft-tissue cases.
What Is the Time Frame I Have to File a Suit?
In Illinois the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit involving personal injuries received in an automobile accident is 2 years. That being said, in cases involving semis or tractor-trailers and other commercial motor vehicles, it is extremely important that the injured party or their loved ones hire an experienced Illinois personal injury lawyer right away. Evidence in these types of cases is extremely important and is more likely to disappear than in other types of cases; this is especially true in cases that result in death or serious injury.
As discussed elsewhere on our law firm’s website, sometimes it may be necessary to obtain the driver’s log books or the service records of the tractor-trailer involved. It might also be important to obtain electronic data such as GPS information or data from the event data recorder (EDR) or electronic control module (ECM), also known as the “black box”. This data can be overwritten or destroyed if not sought in a timely manner.
The attorney may want to send a preservation letter so that electronic data or physical evidence isn’t destroyed. The attorney may want to schedule an inspection of the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) or other vehicles involved. If such an inspection is not scheduled soon after the accident or a preservation letter is not sent, the physical evidence or even the vehicles themselves may be destroyed.
An accident reconstructionist also might be necessary, and it might be necessary to retain one soon after the automobile accident; again, because physical evidence may disappear or be destroyed, including the motor vehicles involved in the accident. If too much time passes, the vehicles involved in the accident might be repaired or destroyed.
The Illinois attorney and/or accident reconstructionist may also want to visit the scene of the accident before too much of the scene is tainted, altered, or destroyed. Obtaining pictures of the scene as close in time to the accident is also important.
Cases are won and lost on evidence, and if the types of evidence identified above is not obtained or secured, the case might be more difficult than it needs to be or you may lose the case altogether.
What Are the State and Federal Regulations Most Frequently Violated?
According to a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) the most frequently violated federal regulations applicable to Commercial Motor Vehicles during roadside inspection were
The commercial driver’s inability to speak and write the English language sufficiently enough to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records
Exceeding allowable hours of service
Seat belt violations.
The most frequent vehicle violations discovered during roadside inspection was improper lighting, meaning that the Commercial Motor Vehicle did not have the required number of operable lamps. The other top violations included the failure of brakes and tires meeting minimum standards.
What Are the Common Causes of Accidents Involving Semi-Tractor Trailers?
Studies conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggest that the most common causes of traffic accidents involving semi-tractor trailers are driver related. The most common driver related reason (the failure leading to a critical event) for large truck crashes involve decisions of the driver, which include such things as: driving too fast for conditions, misjudging the speed of other vehicles, or following other vehicles too closely.
The second most common reason for large truck crashes was identified as recognition related, which the “Large Truck Crash Causation Study” identified as: inattentiveness, distraction inside or outside the vehicle, or failure to observe the situation adequately enough for some other reason.
Some of the most common factors associated with the vehicle accidents the “Large Truck Crash Causation Study” analyzed included: brake problems, traffic flow interruption (congestion, previous crash), prescription drug use, traveling too fast for conditions, unfamiliarity with the roadway, roadway problems, required to stop before crash (traffic control devices, crosswalk), over-the-counter drug use, inadequate surveillance, and fatigue.
Obviously, as the studies suggest, multiple factors often contribute to any given motor vehicle accident. Fatigue, drinking alcohol, and speeding are major factors in motor vehicle crashes overall. While their presence does not always result in a crash, those three factors, as well as other drivers, vehicles, and environmental factors, can increase the likelihood that a crash will occur.
What Evidence Is Important to Preserve in Trucking Accident Cases?
When involved in any automobile accident, regardless of whether or not a semi or other Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) is involved, evidence is crucial to the success of the lawsuit. If serious injuries are involved, it’s best to locate an Illinois Personal Injury Lawyer who focuses on auto accidents as soon as practical. The reason this is so important is because most people are not aware of what evidence is important, how to preserve it, and how to obtain it. Photographs should be taken.
At a minimum these photographs should include photographs of the scene, including approaches from all angles; the roadway; tire marks; damage to any automobiles or structures involved; debris from the motor vehicles involved; road signs; injuries; etc. Applicable electronic data should also be collected. This data could include GPS information or data from the event data recorder (EDR) or electronic control module (ECM), also known as the “black box.”
Sometimes it might be important to do an inspection of the at fault party’s vehicle. If an inspection is not in the very foreseeable future, a preservation letter should be sent immediately. The reason a preservation letter is so important is because insurers often scrap or sell damaged vehicles fairly quickly. The vehicle might also be repaired or data lost as a result of being driven. This is another important example identifying why it is so imperative to seek an experienced Illinois personal injury attorney shortly after the accident. If the evidence is no longer available, it isn’t of any use.
An opposing party also isn’t going to simply let you conduct an investigation of their vehicle — you’re going to have to go through the proper channels.
How Important Are Witnesses in Trucking Accident Cases?
Witnesses are important in any Illinois personal injury case, but are that much more important in cases involving Commercial Motor Vehicles, including semis and tractor-trailers (CMVs). The reason for this is fairly obvious, the risk of injuries increases exponentially in motor vehicle accidents involving big rigs, possibly resulting in more severe catastrophic injuries.
As a personal injury lawyer in Bloomington, Illinois focusing on automobile accidents, it is my customary and usual practice to visit the scene of a motor vehicle accident personally. There are many reasons for this, but wanting to have a better understanding of the layout of the scene is a primary one. This enables me to be better able to describe a scene for a jury. It also assists me in being able to communicate my general knowledge of the case to them and any involved individuals. Involved individuals could include investigating officers, opposing parties, adjusters, experts, etc. Sometimes visiting the scene may yield additional evidence (perhaps something someone missed) or the discovery of other possible witnesses. For instance, a nearby video camera might be discovered that others investigating the accident scene overlooked. Maybe a nearby structure played a part in the accident or the road was not designed according to applicable regulations. Another example might be an important detail that one of the reporting officers missed.
You just never know what you’re going to learn when you visit the scene of an accident as the injured party’s lawyer. I can recall an instance when I decided to investigate a decorative wall erected by a business owner near the scene of an accident to determine whether or not the wall was erected according to city code.
Obviously, the sooner my office is retained, the greater chance there is for the discovery of witnesses or other key pieces of evidence.
Get Information about Evidence In Trucking Accident Cases or call Dodds Law Office, PC.
How Important Are Accident Reconstructionists in Trucking Accident Cases?
Accident reconstructionists are sometimes consulted in all types of automobile accidents, not just motor vehicle accidents involving semi-trucks or tractor-trailers. Accident reconstructionists are typically secured when there are severe injuries, when a defendant or his insurer is contesting liability, or when an attorney is searching for potential other liable parties. Say for instance there is a severe accident in or near a construction zone on an Illinois State Highway or one of our interstate highways.
An accident reconstructionist might be called upon to determine if negligence by one of the contractors or subcontractors working on that stretch of highway played a role in causing the accident. In the past, I have tried to meet my retained reconstructionist at the scene where the accident occurred. This has proven beneficial in many ways. I have found that I always learn something; that doing so establishes better rapport with your expert; I walk away with a better understanding of the procedure and the thought process of my expert; my observations might trigger something additional for the expert to contemplate.
Typically though accident reconstructionists are only going to be consulted in larger cases involving more serious injuries.
How Does One Begin the Claims Process?
Typically, the claim process in an automobile accident, including cases involving commercial motor vehicles (ordinarily semis or tractor-trailers, but can also include buses) is going to start with the defendant notifying his automobile insurance carrier. At this point, the insurer for the responsible party will contact the injured party in an effort to obtain information relating to the extent of the injuries and possibly a recorded statement. Those injured in automobile accidents should not speak directly to the representative of the insurance company.
The injured party should instruct the insurer that they intend on hiring counsel and request that they call back at a later date so that the injured party can provide the agent with the attorney’s name and contact information. The reason it is so important that the injured party not provide a statement is because any such statement is an admission that can later be used against them. Another possible way the claim process begins is by the party retaining an Illinois Personal Injury Lawyer.
Once the injured party has retained a personal injury lawyer, the attorney will typically forward a letter of representation informing the representative for the liable insurance company that the attorney has been retained and to cease and desist with any further communication with the client. Once the liable insurance company has been put on notice of the representation, communication with the client should stop. Once the injured party is done treating, a demand is then made and settlement negotiations will commence. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, the case will then need to be filed in an Illinois court. At this point litigation begins.
Once litigation starts, discovery will begin, including Interrogatories, Request to Produce, Requests to Admit, and depositions. Of course along the way, disputes about the pleadings might be argued. It can be a very long process, sometimes lasting years.
Get Information about Accident Reconstructionist In A Trucking Accident or call Dodds Law Office, PC.