Wilmington Trucking Accident Attorneys
Representing Clients Injured in Accidents Involving Large Trucks
Tractor-trailers, buses, and commercial transport vehicles present serious threats to other drivers on North Carolina roadways, such as I-40, I-95, Highway 74/76, Highway 140, Highway 421, and Highway 130 in the Wilmington area. With many trucks weighing in close to 40 tons and reaching 80 feet in length, their sizes alone are enough to cause overwhelming property damage and catastrophic injuries in an accident.
Holding Drivers and Their Employers Accountable in Wilmington
Commercial vehicle accidents are often caused by operators of taxis, delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and tow trucks who are under time restrictions. Their need to get from one destination to the other in a short amount of time often leads to:
While commercial vehicle drivers have a responsibility to put safety first, their employers also must be held accountable for poor driver supervision, improper hiring practices, and inadequate vehicle repairs and maintenance. Additionally, many companies have pay policies that put drivers in a position to violate traffic laws, specifically speeding.
The Real Dangers of Truck Accidents
Truck drivers should be the safest drivers on the road because that is their profession. But even with exhaustive federal guidelines governing truckers and trucking companies, large trucks are still the deadliest vehicles on the road.
The majority of people fatally injured in commercial truck accidents are the ones traveling in passenger vehicles. When loaded with cargo, tractor-trailers weigh nearly 20 times more than most cars. The average empty semi weighs in at 35,000 pounds and has a full-capacity weight limit of 80,000 pounds. To add some perspective, an average midsized sedan weighs 3,500 pounds, and a full-sized SUV weighs in at just under 4,800 pounds.
Because of the massive weight of these behemoths, trucks require a 20-40% greater distance in order to come to a complete stop, and slippery road conditions or bad brakes make this worse. Also, trucks have higher ground clearance and high centers of gravity that make them susceptible to rollover accidents.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
When a trucker causes an accident, it’s usually due to:
- Non-performance: A driver experiencing a physical impairment, falling asleep, or suffering a heart attack would not be able to perform his duties.
- Recognition: A driver becoming distracted or demonstrating a failure to observe does not recognize and respond to road conditions.
- Decision: A driver who underestimates the speed of an approaching vehicle, or does not allow for adequate braking distance with a vehicle he or she is following, makes a poor decision.
- Performance: A driver who fails to properly control his vehicle or overcompensates on a turn is not performing his duties.
The injuries incurred in a truck accident can be life-altering or even fatal. Even with nonfatal injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, lack of quality of life, and pain and suffering can make life very difficult for the victims and their families. If a truck driver or company caused your accident, call Rhine Law Firm, P.C., to talk to an experienced Wilmington truck accident lawyer.
What Are the Hours of Service Regulations?
Because trucks can cause so much damage to others on the road in the event of an accident, truck drivers and the companies they work for are required to follow many regulations. One of these is called the hours of service regulation. These set of rules are aimed primarily at preventing truckers from being overworked, and in turn, prevent fatigued driving accidents. According to these rules:
- Truck drivers can work up to 14 hours in a day
- Truck drivers can only drive for 11 hours. The other hours must be spent on rest or meal breaks.
- Drivers must rest for at least 10 consecutive hours at the end of each workday
- Truck drivers are required to take days off work at regular intervals
Safety Standards for Tractor-Trailer Drivers
Federal limitations prevent big rig operators from driving more than 11 hours in a day and over 77 hours in a period of seven days.
Trucking companies and their drivers are subject to federal safety standards, inspections, and enforcement. Here are a few regulations:
- Drivers must acquire and maintain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) that requires enhanced training and testing.
- Drivers must maintain a minimum of $750,000 in accident liability insurance coverage.
- Drivers must follow a clearly defined schedule for logging their activity, as well as safety and maintenance schedules.
- Federal limitations prevent big rig operators from driving more than 11 hours in a day and over 77 hours in a period of seven days.
Transport companies are legally required to abide by and enforce these regulations.
The Fatality Rates for Trucks
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), large trucks account for only 4% of all registered vehicles in the country and account for 9% of the total vehicle miles traveled.
But in 2014 alone, large trucks were involved in 14.9% of all fatal crashes. And that is just on a national level.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) determined that in the 10 states with the highest amount of truck traffic, 51% of fatal crashes involved at least one large truck. These states include California, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. The I-95 corridor is just one example here in North Carolina where truck accidents happen frequently. The same is true with I-40 between Asheville and Wilmington.
The sheer size of big rigs allows them to drive right over smaller vehicles, leaving little chance of survival for any of the occupants in a car. The NHTSA reports that 73% of fatalities in accidents involving a truck were occupants of the other vehicles. An additional 10% of the fatalities were innocent bystanders, such as pedestrians or bicyclists hit by the truck. Only 17% of those who were killed in a truck accident was the occupants of the truck.
In addition to fatalities, semi-truck crashes were responsible for over 111,000 injuries in 2014. This number marked a 17% increase in injuries from truck accidents since 2013. Again, the majority of the injuries are suffered by occupants of other vehicles or bystanders, as only 23% were sustained by the occupants of the trucks.
The Science Behind a Truck Crash
“Impact force” is the shock delivered when two objects collide. This is the force that travels through the human body when it is involved in a vehicle crash. To calculate this force, you enter the weight of the vehicle and its speed at the time of the crash to determine the approximate force that the occupant withstood.
When a midsize car hits an object at a speed of 50 mph, the impact on the victims in the car is 146 tons. But when a large truck hits the same object at the same speed of 50 mph, the force on the occupants increases to 3,345 tons or almost 22 times more force.
This impact force often leads to catastrophic injuries to the occupants of any vehicle a truck hits. Some of these injuries include:
- Back and neck damage, such as dislocations, herniations, broken bones, and soft tissue damage;
- Broken bones in the extremities as well as the body’s core, such as ribs, collarbone, and pelvis fractures; and
- Head trauma, including diffuse axonal injuries, contusions, and coup-contrecoup injuries
- Internal injuries.
Surviving a crash involving a large truck makes you a fortunate person, in one sense. But after the accident, you are likely to be facing years of pain due to the traumatic injuries you sustained. Medical care, assisted living, therapy, and a possible disability could all be a part of your new future as a result of the accident. It is critical to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being that you receive the compensation you deserve to care for yourself and your family in the coming years.
Trucking Black Boxes and Logging Devices
Many people have heard of “black boxes,” devices for recording or documenting activity on board an aircraft. Some manufacturers of cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles install these Event Data Recorders (EDRs) to better track their drivers’ behaviors. While not legally required, these black boxes are common in commercial motor vehicles. Some useful data that can be retrieved from a black box includes:
- The speed of travel at the time of a collision
- When the vehicle accelerated
- When the brakes were used
- Daily or weekly driving activity
- Use of cruise control
Another form of a black box is an Electronic Logging Device, or ELD. These devices are far more limited in their scope and primarily track driving time. This information is useful to trucking companies as it allows them to more easily track and log how long a driver has been working to ensure they do not drive more than the federal limit. As of December 18, 2017, all trucking companies are required by law to install and use ELDs to help combat driver’s fatigue.
Both EDR and ELD data can be used as evidence in collisions to determine liability and better reenact the circumstances.
If You Are in an Accident Involving a Commercial Vehicle
North Carolina law requires that collisions resulting in injury, death, or property damage exceeding $1,000 be reported to law enforcement. If you are involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle you should:
- Safely stop your vehicle where it is unlikely to obstruct traffic.
- Contact the authorities.
- Get assistance for injuries.
- Gather the information of all parties involved and wait for law enforcement.
Do not admit fault at the time of the accident, and speak with a truck accident lawyer for the best protection.
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Insurance Carriers and Trucking Companies
Commercial transport trucking companies and the drivers they hire typically have high-value insurance policies. This means they have experienced insurance adjusters and attorneys to help minimize their financial responsibilities. The opposing counsel will be tough, smart, and effective. At Rhine Law Firm, P.C., we enjoy the opportunity to battle these well-funded big-firm attorneys. The stakes are high, and we fight as hard as we can to combat their teams with experts, cutting-edge research, and strategies we have developed over decades of litigation.
Don't be taken advantage of by trucking companies and their insurance carriers. Hiring an experienced trucking or transport accident lawyer will help you to protect and enforce your rights.
- Recent Tractor-Trailer Accident On I-140
- How to Deal with Trucking Companies and Insurance After an Accident
- How to Avoid Trucking Accidents On North Carolina Roads
- North Carolina Commercial Driver License Manual
- North Carolina Commercial Trucking
- NCDOT: Commercial Drivers (CDL)
- The Large Truck Crash Causation Study - Analysis Brief
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