Representing Clients Injured in Accidents Involving Large Trucks
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 truck accident attorney at Rhine Law could protect your rights while fighting for you to receive the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries.
North Carolina Truck Accident Statistics
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.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
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:
- Unsafe stops
- Failure to use proper care in inclement weather
- Inexperienced drivers
- Reckless driving
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.
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 Truck Accident Injuries
Unfortunately, truck accident injuries are often severe; many are life-threatening. Common truck accident injuries include:
- Back and neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Loss of limbs or digits
- Loss of vision or hearing
- Internal bleeding
- Spinal cord injuries, resulting in paralysis
- Traumatic brain injury
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
Who Can Be Held Responsible After a Truck Accident?
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.
North Carolina Is a Contributory Negligence Jurisdiction
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 truck accident lawyer will strategize to keep you from being held liable while evaluating all evidence to determine which parties are at fault.
Compensation in a Truck Accident Claim
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:
- Medical expenses, current and future
- Lost wages
- Loss of future income
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
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.
Time Limit for Filing a Truck Accident Lawsuit
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:
- 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.
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 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 speed of travel at the time of a collision
- When the brakes were used
- Use of cruise control
- When the vehicle accelerated
- Daily or weekly driving activity
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:
- 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.
“Joel Rhine and his staff did everything possible to help us in a very dark period of our lives.”
“We were blessed to have them fighting for us and never giving up.”
“Rhine Law Firm has a friendly, caring, professional staff and they worked hard for me.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better firm to handle my injury claim. If you do not have confidence with your attorney, you need to contact Rhine Law Firm immediately.”
“Rhine Law Firm went out of their way to make sure that my mother-in-law obtains everything she is entitled to in an injury case.”
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 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.
We are proud to serve the people of North Carolina.
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.
Proven Truck Accident Case Results in Wilmington
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.
Contact our Firm
Schedule Your Free Initial Consultation