Between 4,000 and 5,000 fatalities nationwide occur in the United States as a result of trucking accidents, and more than 100,000 of those involved in a trucking accident will suffer serious, even catastrophic, injuries. In the state of Alabama, in 2012, 9.1 percent of the state’s total number of fatal accidents involved a large truck. Victims of trucking accidents in Alabama and across the nation, are often left wondering how a system which was meant to protect them has failed so miserably.
A major problem for many truck accident victims is they are lacking the resources the trucking company—and by extension, the truck driver—brings to the table. While the first call made by trucking accident victims will certainly be to 911 to request medical help, the first phone call made by the truck driver will just as likely be to the company dispatcher who will in turn immediately assemble an accident team to go to the site of the accident. This team will be comprised of:
- A reconstruction specialist
- A professional photographer or videographer
- A professional truck wreck investigator
- An expert in the on-board technology used in this particular truck
- The company attorney
- A risk manager from the company’s insurance company
The Goal of the Trucking Company’s Team
The goal of this team of experts is to immediately gather all evidence pertaining to the crash with an eye toward disproving the version of the accident as related by the victims of the crash. The driver’s logbooks will be gathered, as well as the driver’s cell phone records. Any witness statements which will help the trucking company will be taken and evidence which could potentially implicate the driver may even be altered or destroyed. Photographic evidence of such things as skid marks, debris and property damage will be gathered—evidence which may not be available to the victims and which the victims are in no state to ask for at this point.
All trucks have an Electronic Control Module which records events immediately prior to the accident and a specialist will review this data. The trucking company’s team may even obtain crash data from the victim’s vehicle to determine whether evasive actions were taken prior to the crash or whether the driver was traveling at an excessive rate of speed. The truck driver will be “debriefed” and a story developed. All of this activity will take place within hours and days of the crash.
During this time the victims of the trucking accident are likely to be dealing with their injuries, and figuring out how to get through each day. It is unlikely these victims have the time—or the presence of mind—to hire an attorney to look after their rights in the same way the trucking company is protecting itself and its driver.
Who is Responsible for the Accident?
There are potentially several defendants in a trucking accident. The driver may have been at fault, the trucking company may be held liable, or the manufacturer of the truck or maintenance staff may be deemed responsible for the collision. Because trucking accidents are very complex, it is necessary that victims of the crash have a highly experienced truck accident attorney by their side from the earliest moment possible. While it may seem like one more thing to take care of, getting an 18-wheeler accident attorney on board allows victims to spend their time healing and looking out for their future while the attorney handles all the legal details and protects the rights of their client.
In 2012, plaintiffs in a tractor-trailer collision lawsuit alleged the trucking company’s negligent hiring practices were directly responsible for the fatal collision. The lawsuit contended that the truck driver was both overly-fatigued and driving recklessly when he crossed the center line. Following a jury award of $7 million dollars in the lawsuit, the parties reached a confidential settlement under the terms of a pre-verdict high-low agreement.
The lawsuit against the trucking company alleged the company showed negligence and recklessness in their hiring, training and supervising capacities. There was no background check performed on the truck driver and a trip was assigned the driver that could not possibly be completed without violations of hours of service regulations. The court allowed evidence showing the driver had two prior license revocations, however did not allow the plaintiff’s attorneys from disclosing those revocations were for DWI’s.
When Hiring Practices Go Awry
Trucking companies employ thousands of truck drivers across the United States, and while these drivers provide an essential service, it is also essential that trucking companies follow prescribed standards for rigorous hiring procedures. Many trucking companies skip steps in order to get more drivers on the road quickly, ensuring a healthy financial bottom line for the company. These companies may hire without a background check or hire drivers they know to be unqualified.
Drivers with a past history of negligent or reckless driving or those with prior DUI’s may even be hired. In some cases, hiring practices are based on blatant nepotism rather than qualifications and drivers have even been hired without a basic interview. Any of these practices could conceivably be considered legally negligent, particularly if an unqualified driver ends up injuring or killing another person.
How Martinson & Beason Can Help
If you are the victim of a trucking accident, the law firm of Martinson & Beason can help. We have extensive experience in helping those who have been involved in a trucking accident, and fully understand the necessity of a quick, thorough investigation following your truck accident. We will fight aggressively for your rights, and for an equitable settlement which will fully cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. Don’t leave your future to chance—you have just gone through an extremely traumatic event, and we want to help you. Call Martinson & Beason today.