Fatal commercial vehicles accidents are on the rise across the nation. According to cumulative data compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 10 percent of all highway deaths in the United States involve large trucks.
Recent statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) underscore the prevalence of big rig collisions and some of the most common reasons why heavily-loaded tractor trailers are involved in accidents.
- 22 percent more Americans were killed in large truck accidents in 2015 compared to 2009
- 3,852 people died in accidents involving big rigs, 18 wheelers or large commercial vehicles in 2015
- 69 percent of 2015 truck fatalities were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, while 15 percent were motorcyclists, pedestrians or bicyclists
- In 2015, 64 percent of all fatal vehicle accidents in Louisiana involved tractor trailers
The average semi truck weighs nearly 30 times as much as passenger vehicle, making smaller cars and their occupants particularly vulnerable to catastrophic harm in the event of a collision. In order to identify risk factors and reduce highway deaths, the FMCSA conducted a Large Truck Crash Causation Study, which shed light on some of the leading causes of these life-altering accidents.
3 common causes of truck accidents
Traffic safety officials looked at data from 967 commercial vehicle accidents, finding that poor driver decisions and reckless behavior was a contributing factor in the majority of crashes.
- Substance abuse – According to the data, use of prescription medications was a contributing factor in 26.3 percent of the truck accidents. By contrast, only 17.3 percent of crashes were attributed to over-the-counter drug use.
- Aggressive behavior/driving too fast for conditions – In almost 23 percent of the large truck accidents, truck operators were driving at unsafe speeds. Reckless and aggressive driving behaviors such as tail gaiting caused more than 6 percent of accidents.
- Driver fatigue or distraction – 13 percent of the accidents were caused by fatigue or drowsiness. Surveys indicate that many truck drivers violate FMCSA “hours of service” ( the number of consecutive driving hours allowed between rest periods)in order to meet tight deadlines. Distracted driving or truck driver inattention played a role in 8.5 percent of the crashes studied.
The causation study found that more than a quarter of all large truck accidents involved vehicle problems, including equipment malfunction or brake failure. In some of these scenarios, liability could be attributed to poor maintenance, defective vehicle parts, improper loading or even unsafe driving behaviors.
Legal assistance after a truck accident in Louisiana
These statistics and findings suggest that many commercial vehicle accidents are caused by poor decisions or wrongdoing, and completely preventable. When truck drivers or their employers are negligent in their duties and serious personal injury results, victims have a right to seek compensation. If you or someone you love were harmed in a truck accident in Louisiana, attorney Bart Bernard has the experience, resources and skill to demand justice from liable parties. Plaintiffs can seek monetary damages to account for lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical expenses, rehabilitation and ongoing care costs.
To learn more about your legal remedies and rights, speak to a Louisiana truck accident lawyer with a proven track record. There is no fee unless we win or settle your claim! Call today to schedule a free consultation in Lafayette or Baton Rouge.
Additional Louisiana Truck Accident Resources:
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Large Trucks Fatality Facts http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks
- FMCSA, The Large Truck Crash Causation Study https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief
- FMCSA, Truck Hours of Service https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-of-service
Recent statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety underscore the alarming frequency of truck accidents in Louisiana and across the nation, which cause thousands of deaths each year. According to 2015 statistics, 69 percent of all truck accident fatalities were occupants of passenger vehicles.
Commercial trucks weigh up to 30 times more than passenger vehicles when fully loaded with cargo. 18-wheelers and tractor trailers take 40 percent longer to stop compared to cars and are harder to brake on wet or slippery surfaces. Due to the discrepancy in size and weight between big trucks and cars, passenger vehicle drivers and occupants are incredibly vulnerable to traumatic and life-threatening injuries.
Like all personal injury claims arising from traffic collisions, victims of trucking accidents must prove that the operator of the truck or another party was negligent and that this negligence caused or contributed to the crash.
Why you need a truck accident attorney
Liable parties may include any individual or entity that caused the crash including: the commercial truck operator, the company that employed the driver, or a manufacturer in the case of a defective tire or vehicle component.
In order to recover compensation in a Louisiana truck accident case, your lawyer must gather and present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that wrongdoing occurred. This evidence may show that the truck’s cargo was improperly loaded, the driver was traveling too fast for road or weather conditions or failed to take a mandatory rest period as required by law.
Keep in mind that trucking companies will begin their own investigation into who was to blame. In some cases, vital evidence – like log books—can disappear, putting victims at a distinct disadvantage. For this reason, it’s imperative to enlist the aid of an experienced truck accident attorney who can begin investigations and gather important evidence necessary to demonstrate fault and win your case.
Evidence needed to prove fault in truck crashes
The following are some examples of the types of evidence needed to help prove fault in a commercial vehicle accident case:
- Black box recordings – Most commercial vehicles have a data recorder installed that monitors how the vehicle is operated. This black box can show the speed at the time of the accident and whether the brakes were applied before the crash.
- In-truck camera footage – If the tractor trailer had cameras installed, this video footage can be reviewed to see if the driver was tail gaiting or engaging in other dangerous behavior
- Log books – Whether written or digital, log books contain valuable insight into the driver’s hours logged on the road, rest periods, pre-trip inspections and other work activities. These log books may show evidence of FMSCA trucking industry violations.
- Drug and alcohol tests – Truck drivers are required by law to undergo drug/alcohol screening after any accident that results in serious personal injury or death.
- Eyewitness accounts – Individuals who saw the accident unfold and are willing to provide a written statement or testimony can bolster your claims and corroborate allegations that a truck driver was negligent.
- Expert testimony from crash reconstructionists – Many law firms utilize expert accident reconstructionists, who use photographs and evidence from the scene, in addition to data recordings to help establish the sequence of events, and which party is to blame in the accident.
Protect your rights to fair compensation
Bart Bernard is a dedicated truck accident lawyer Louisiana trusts to recover fair compensation for personal injury, medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, property damage and pain and suffering caused by another party’s negligence. Over the past decade, he has secured millions of dollars in jury verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients throughout Lafayette, Baton Rouge and surrounding communities.
If you or a loved one were hurt in a trucking accident, you want an attorney who is renowned for his integrity, professionalism and commitment to getting results. Put experience to work for you by scheduling a free case evaluation with attorney Bart Bernard. Don’t delay in seeking legal counsel. Louisiana allows just one year from the date of the injury to bring a lawsuit.
Additional Truck Accident Lawsuit Resources:
- FMCSA, Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Large Truck Fatality Facts http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks
18-wheelers and commercial rigs haul heavy and sometimes hazardous cargo across Louisiana every day. These big rigs are moving everything from loose gravel and lumber to toxic chemicals. According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, failure to adequately secure cargo is one of the most common violations for commercial truckers, who must follow federal guidelines for the loading and securement of all cargo. There are Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations designed to prevent fallen debris accidents, which claim dozens of lives each year.
If you’ve been injured because of fallen debris or loose cargo that fell off a big rig, human error is likely to blame. A properly loaded and secured item doesn’t randomly fall into the highway. In many cases, a careless driver may have forgotten to double-check tie downs, or make adjustments to ensure the cargo was well-balanced. Other times, they may have used old or damaged bungee cords, chains, winches or other securement devices that were not strong enough for the job at hand.
Louisiana residents need to understand potential dangers of fallen debris caused by unsecured cargo. Considering the hundreds of tractor trailers on our state’s freeways and roads, they are much like ticking time bombs.
What to do after a fallen debris accident
After any type of injury-causing crash involving loose or fallen cargo, it’s critical to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as a police report is filed and you’ve sought medical attention. Whether a steal beam rolled off and struck your vehicle, or you were forced to swerve because of gravel that spilled off a big rig, you need to call 911 and report the accident immediately. Since pictures of the fallen debris and crash scene are valuable evidence, taking photos or video with your cell phone is highly recommended. However, do not attempt to move the debris yourself. The sooner you retain legal counsel, the quicker your attorney can begin investigations into which party or parties may be held liable in a court of law. A personal injury claim can seek reparations for medical bills, lost wages, repair costs, out-of- pocket expenses and other monetary damages that were sustained in the accident.
Investigating liable parties
There are strict regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding the safe and proper securement of heavy cargo on large trucks. These guidelines are designed to ensure weight loads are balanced, and to keep cargo from shifting while in transit. Within Louisiana, commercial vehicle drivers must obey state laws on load weights determined by the number of axles. If investigations uncover that the tractor trailer did not comply with state or federal safety regulations, a number of parties may be held legally responsible. A competent lawyer will be able to ascribe liability to the negligent parties, which may be the commercial vehicle driver, the company that employs the driver, or even a third-party loading company.
An attorney who is skilled in handling commercial vehicle and trucking accidents will work with accident reconstruction experts to determine if the trucker followed state and federal transportation standards.
Free case review in Louisiana
Lafayette truck accident attorney Bart Bernard is well-versed in trucking industry rules and regulations regarding the securement and transportation of cargo for inter and intra state travel. If you or a loved one was injured in a loose debris or cargo spill accident, please call our Lafayette or Baton Rouge offices for a free consultation.
Additional Loose Cargo Truck Accident Resources:
- Truckinginfo.com, Top 5 Cargo Securement Violations http://www.truckinginfo.com/article/story/2012/02/top-5-cargo-securement-violations.aspx
- FMCSA, Truck Cargo Securement Rules https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/cargo-securement/cargo-securement-rules
- National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Large Truck Crash Causation Study http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810646.pdf
Nearly half of all commercial truck drivers admit to “drifting off” while driving a long-haul route. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 13 percent of commercial truck drivers were fatigued at the time of their crash. The sheer size and weight of the vehicles they’re driving puts truckers at increased risk of causing serious bodily injury and fatalities when an accident occurs. Fatigued truck drivers account for approximately 750 deaths and 20,000 serious injuries every year, according to the FMCSA. In 98 percent of fatal truck accidents, the victim was riding in the passenger car.
Reasons why truck drivers fall asleep at the wheel
A trucker’s log book can contain much evidence pointing to the likelihood of drowsy driving. Drivers are more likely to fall asleep on the road when one or more of the following conditions are met:
- Driving long shifts – By law, truckers can drive for 11 hours straight before they are required to take a break.
- Not taking breaks – Truckers must take 10 consecutive hours off after driving for 11 hours.
- Driving over their allotted amount of hours – Truckers cannot drive beyond 60 hours in a week.
- Taking medication – Pills for allergies, pain, depression, anxiety, and blood pressure can make a person sleepy.
- Driving overnight – Lane deviations, longer blink duration, and slow eye movements have been observed.
Unfortunately, not all truck drivers follow the rules or report their activities honestly. Often, we can root out dishonesty by cross-referencing the loads delivered. Driving while intoxicated and driving with sleep apnea (which could be as high as 28%, according to the FMCSA) are other factors that may contribute to a trucker falling asleep on the road.
How a Lafayette personal injury lawyer proves a truck driver was asleep at the wheel
You might think there is a lot of “he said / she said” in these cases where very little is known about the moments before a crash. However, Lafayette personal injury attorney Bart Bernard knows that there is more evidence and testimony than meets the eye.
Your lawyer will first seek to prove that the sleeping truck driver failed to provide a standard “legal duty of care” to ensure the safety and well-being of others – by speeding, ignoring traffic signs or signals, or taking reckless maneuvers. Police reports, witness statements, and past history of traffic citations can all be sources of crucial evidence.
Whenever possible, Bart Bernard calls in accident reconstructionists to examine the accident scene. When a driver has fallen asleep, there are no braking skid marks. Damaged barricades, trees, or fences may indicate a certain speed. Most modern commercial trucks are equipped with black box recorders and/or cameras that capture information such as braking and acceleration patterns prior to the crash.
Who is liable when a truck driver falls asleep while driving?
The truck driver seems like the most logical defendant, but other negligent parties may include:
- Hiring managers who fail to conduct background checks and verify licensing information prior to hiring the driver
- Supervisors who turn a blind eye to violations of federal regulations or company protocol
- Companies who put pressure on drivers to break the law in order to make deliveries quicker
Need a Lafayette or Baton Rouge personal injury attorney?
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed in a truck accident in Lafayette or Baton Rouge, Louisiana, seek the best possible legal representation from Bart Bernard, who has secured millions of dollars for his clients. All legal services are free unless Bart Bernard wins money on your behalf, so there is nothing to lose by calling today.
Additional “truck drivers asleep at the wheel” resources:
- Grandparents.com – 6 Medications That Make You Too Drowsy To Drive http://www.grandparents.com/health-and-wellbeing/health/medication-side-effects
- FMCSA – CMV Driving Tips – Driver Fatigue https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/driver-safety/cmv-driving-tips-driver-fatigue
- Injury Claim Coach – Asleep at the Wheel http://www.injuryclaimcoach.com/asleep-at-the-wheel.html#
- CDC – Drowsy Driving https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowsydriving/
The sheer size and massive weight of tractor-trailer trucks makes them especially dangerous to other vehicles sharing the roads. Among the worst accident scenarios involving trucks are those involving a “jack knife”, in which a cab and trailer are sent into different directions to form a 90-degree angle.
In “jack knife” accidents, the trailer often ends up careening across the roadway, striking whatever may be in its path. This can prove devastating to anyone in a nearby lane of traffic. It is important for victims of such crashes to understand how liability for their injuries can be assessed in pursuit of fair compensation.
How jack knife truck accidents happen
In most cases, the jack knifing of a truck is the result of an unexpected, drastic downward adjustment in speed. This could occur because the driver belatedly realized a need for sudden braking, something which stops the cab’s movement, but produces momentum which propels the trailer sideways in an extremely dangerous manner. In addition to late braking due to driver distraction or error, common reasons for a jack knife include:
- Inclement weather and road conditions
- Twisting roadways
- Excessive speed
- Poorly maintained brakes
- Driver drowsiness
- Malfunctioning/defective truck axle locks
Vulnerability of motorists caught in jack knife truck crashes
With semi trucks weighing roughly 20-30 times more than a common passenger vehicle and boasting substantially greater ground clearance, it is not surprising that those who have the misfortune of becoming entangled with a jack knifed big rig routinely sustain serious harm. Such individuals may find themselves confronted with an uncertain future as they struggle to recover from:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Permanent disfigurement
- Severely broken bones
- Deep burns
- Spinal cord damage/paralysis
- Damage to internal organs
In addition to the physical trauma such afflictions cause, their emotional and financial ramifications can be equally dire.
Liability for a jack knife truck crash
Anytime a truck is involved in a jack knife incident, the intuitive response for most is that the driver alone is likely to blame. While driver distraction, error and/or failure to heed applicable traffic laws may in fact point to such a conclusion, there are situations in which other parties may share responsibility. A seasoned Baton Rouge personal injury lawyer may choose to pursue substantial compensation from trucking firms found to have failed in their duty to train drivers in how to prevent jack knife events.
Vehicle maintenance contractors discovered to have improperly or negligently maintained a truck’s braking system may also be liable, as is true of truck and truck component manufacturers revealed to have placed defective products on the market. Though these parties may initially seem too far removed from the collision itself to be appropriate targets of litigation, any individual or entity deemed to have played a pivotal role in the harm sustained may be required to compensate victims for:
- Medical bills
- Costs of therapy, rehabilitation and continuing care
- Lost wages
- Reduction in future earning capacity stemming from injury/disability
- Physical pain
- Emotional trauma
- Lost marital and familial relationships
- Financial support for surviving dependents in cases of fatality
- Funeral expenses, where applicable
Zealous representation from a Lafayette personal injury lawyer
Jack knife truck accidents can have a devastating impact on victims and their families. If you or someone you love has had life turned upside down in a split second while traversing Louisiana’s roadways, there is no time to lose in securing the aggressive legal advocacy such cases demand.
To receive a confidential, no-cost initial consultation to begin exploring all available legal options, Louisiana truck accident attorney Bart Bernard invites you to call his offices in Baton Rouge or Lafayette today.
Additional “jack knife truck accident” resources
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Large Truck Crashes, http://iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks
- U.S. Department of Transportation, Commercial Motor Vehicle Traffic Safety Facts, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/CMV%20Traffic%20Safety%20Facts_508.pdf
- National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Large Truck Crash Causation Study, http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810646.pdf
Based on the laws of physics, truck accidents are far more dangerous for the occupants of the passenger cars involved than they are for the occupants of the truck. These crashes led to more than 1600 injuries in Louisiana in 2015, and more than 80 deaths. In the aftermath of these serious crashes, there is often a trail of heartbreak over lost loved ones, physical disabilities that impair one’s way of life, emotional pain and suffering, and financial distress related to mounting medical bills.
Injury victims are entitled to recover for losses caused by the negligence of another. In a truck accident, the driver may have been at fault, but it is often his or her employer that is legally responsible under a theory of vicarious liability.
What is vicarious liability in truck accidents?
Vicarious liability, also known by the Latin phrase “respondeat superior”, is holding one party legally responsible for the actions of another.
For an employer to be vicariously liable for the unintentional actions of its employee, the employee must have been working within the scope of employment at the time. The action must have been for the employer’s benefit, even if the employee may have been violating the company’s rules or procedures at the time of the accident.
Vicarious liability is different from an employer’s independent liability. For example, the company may be liable for its own wrongful act of poorly maintaining the vehicle. A truck accident lawyer is experienced at investigating the many factors related to an accident to ensure the victim’s rights are protected.
Causes of truck accidents in Louisiana
There are many possible causes of commercial vehicle accidents, including:
- Driver fatigue
- Poor judgment
- Mechanical problems
- Improper vehicle maintenance
- Poor driver training
An analysis of Louisiana commercial vehicle crashes for 2015 showed that the most frequent citations received by truck drivers in fatal crashes were careless operation and failure to yield.
There are also a lot of federal and Louisiana laws that regulate the actions of trucking companies and their drivers. For example, these laws determine how many hours at a time a driver may drive, how the load may be secured, and when and how the vehicle is to be inspected. These regulations are in place to protect the safety of the public and violations can play a key factor in causing deadly crashes.
Vicarious liability of independent contractor truck drivers
Trucking is different from most other industries, where a company may only be liable for a worker’s actions if the worker was an employee, rather than an independent contractor.
To prevent legal maneuvering that is often detrimental to accident victims and the public at large, federal motor carrier laws deem drivers of interstate carriers to be “statutory employees” for purposes of respondeat superior liability – the company is treated as the employer regardless of whether the driver was an independent contractor. This relationship is important to understand because trucking companies have historically tried to avoid liability by deeming a driver an independent contractor. These motor carrier laws mean accident victims are not limited to recovering from the individual drivers; their employers often have greater means to compensate victims.
Lafayette, LA personal injury attorney
At the law offices of Bart Bernard, in Lafayette and Baton Rouge, LA, we are dedicated to making sure truck accident victims can focus on the future, not on who to file a lawsuit against. Trust experienced Louisiana personal injury lawyer Bart Bernard to hold the trucking companies accountable so you can see your most favorable outcome.
Additional Truck Accident Resources
- e-CFR, Part 390 – FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY REGULATIONS; GENERAL, http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&ty=HTML&h=L&mc=true&=PART&n=pt49.5.390
- LSU, Commercial Vehicle Safety in Louisiana: An Analysis of Truck Crashes for 2015, http://datareports.lsu.edu/Reports/SpecialReports/2015_CMV_Summary.pdf