If you are fortunate to survive a collision with a tractor trailer,, you may suffer severe and perhaps permanent injuries and not be able to work for a long time, possibly never again. In addition, you may no longer be able to provide for your family.
During this challenging time, turn to an experienced lawyer familiar with every aspect of truck accident litigation, including complex federal and state regulations. A Wilmington truck accident attorney at Rhine Law could protect your rights while fighting for you to receive the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries.
In 2021, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, there were 4,920 accidents involving semi-trailers in North Carolina. These crashes killed 68 people and injured 1,142. Truck trailers were involved in 3,567 crashes, resulting in 21 fatalities and 772 people injured. Double tractors were involved in 125 crashes. Five people were killed, and 30 were injured.
Single-unit trucks with three or more axles were involved in 2,193 accidents, with 23 fatalities and 582 people injured. Single-unit trucks with two axles and six tires accounted for 5,058 accidents, 35 deaths, and 1,257 injured individuals.
These statistics are an unfortunate reminder that drivers in North Carolina and other states share the roads and highways with large trucks capable of inflicting serious harm.
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:
Truck accidents do not always involve direct collisions with other vehicles. For example, improperly loaded trucks may jackknife, spilling their cargo onto the roadway. Similarly, negligent freight handling may cause truck doors to open, with items falling onto the road. As a result, motorists scramble to get out of the way, running off the road or crashing into each other.
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.
Unfortunately, truck accident injuries are often severe; many are life-threatening. Common truck accident injuries include:
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 accidents are unique in that multiple parties are often at fault beyond the truck driver and the trucking company. Safety defects may also contribute to truck accidents. For example, brakes may fail, or tires blow out. The manufacturer or a repair facility may bear responsibility in such instances. Determining who is responsible for a truck accident requires solid evidence and extensive research.
While there isn’t a good state to end up in a truck accident, North Carolina is one of the most difficult for injured parties. The state is a contributory negligence jurisdiction. This doctrine says that a person who was injured in any part due to their own negligence may be barred from collecting money damages from the party accused of causing the accident. The system is designed in favor of insurance companies rather than people with serious injuries. It is why legal counsel is so strongly encouraged, especially in truck accidents.
A Wilmington truck accident lawyer will strategize to keep you from being held liable while evaluating all evidence to determine which parties are at fault.
If you are injured in a truck accident, you may be eligible to recover financial compensation for your losses. Here are some of the common types of damages you may pursue:
The attorneys of Rhine Law Firm will review more about your potential claim for damages in your initial consultation. We can also discuss pre-litigation negotiation and the likelihood of settling your case before it escalates to the courthouse.
In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a truck accident is usually three years from the incident date. If a person dies from their injuries, the family has two years from the death date in which to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Calculating the statute of limitations requires competent legal counsel and this article cannot be a substitute for an experienced attorney’s assessment.
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:
Transport companies are legally required to abide by and enforce these regulations.
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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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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.
When recuperating from serious injuries, you should focus on recovery and let a Wilmington truck accident lawyer investigate your case. You may hear from the trucking company’s insurance company soon after the crash, making you a low-ball offer so that you settle the claim quickly. Never agree to a settlement before consulting an attorney. What sounds like a reasonable settlement in a desperate situation may cover only a small portion of your ongoing expenses. It is best to leave negotiations with insurance companies to your legal representative.
We will look into who owns the truck and who is responsible for maintenance and check the log books to see if the truck driver complied with federal regulations. For instance, a truck driver may drive a maximum of 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off-duty. We will check the driver’s driving history as well. Then, we can determine the defendants in your case based on the evidence.
In addition to reviewing police and medical reports, as well as any available surveillance video, we may use the services of an accident reconstructionist to analyze the crash evidence and reconstruct the events leading up to the collision. As with airplanes, many tractor-trailers contain a “black box,” or event data recorder. Such data is often critical in truck accident claims.
If you or a family member were seriously injured in a truck accident due to another party’s negligence, you need the services of an experienced personal injury attorney at Rhine Law Firm. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today. Since we work on a contingency basis, there are no upfront legal fees unless you receive compensation.
Although our primary office location is in Wilmington, North Carolina we represent clients nationally and across the state of North Carolina. Some of the many areas we serve are listed below.
At the Rhine Law Firm, P.C., our goal is to help commercial trucking accident victims obtain the maximum compensation available to help get their lives back on track.
When you consult our firm, we will go to work investigating your circumstances and collecting evidence to build a powerful case on your behalf. We understand the tactics used by truck companies and their insurers to avoid liability, and our personal injury lawyers are fully prepared to help you obtain the compensation you are entitled to under the law.
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