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West Virginia’s roadways and highways are now busier than ever with commercial trucks and delivery vehicles operating for large corporations such as FedEx, UPS and Amazon, with millions of people choosing to shop online throughout the year.
Increasingly, we are seeing more and more collisions between cars and passenger vehicles and these types of commercial trucks. The drivers of these trucks and the companies that employ them have a duty of care to ensure these vehicles are maintained properly and are operated safely in order to prevent crashes with motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.
When this duty is breached, injured victims and their families have the right to seek compensation for their damages and losses. The experienced West Virginia truck accident lawyers at the Robinette Legal Group PLLC understand how a crash with a commercial truck or delivery truck can turn your life upside down.
We can help guide you through what could be a complex legal process and help you secure maximum compensation for your losses while holding the trucking company and other at-fault parties accountable.
A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle that is used to transport goods or passengers for profit. Examples of commercial motor vehicles include semi-trucks, buses, box trucks, dump trucks, vans, trailers, travel trailers, and even pickup trucks. A vehicle is labeled “commercial” if it is registered and if a company owns its title.
Commercial trucks for companies such as FedEx and UPS, for example, deliver goods and items to individuals’ homes or businesses. Some commercial vehicles are designed for heavy cargo and may involve towed trailer units.
These are larger and more difficult to maneuver compared to smaller vehicles. So, operating a commercial truck requires a special driver’s license and commercial markings such as a Department of Transportation (DOT) number, which means that the vehicle comes under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The federal agency designates vehicles as commercial if they are greater in weight than 10,000 pounds with a towed unit or units’ total weight adding up to 26,001 pounds or weighing 26,001 pounds on its own. Also, any vehicles used to transport hazardous materials are deemed commercial vehicles under federal law.
Commercial trucks are often larger and heavier compared to smaller passenger vehicles. Commercial vehicle drivers usually aren’t badly injured in these accidents because of their elevated perch and the protection of a large, sturdy vehicle. But passenger vehicle occupants don’t have the luxury of such protection. Therefore, they are the ones who suffer much more severe injuries in the event of a collision with a commercial truck. Often, the fatalities in commercial truck accidents are the occupants of the smaller vehicles.
Here are some of the most common causes of commercial truck accidents:
Driver error: This is one of the leading causes of large truck or commercial truck accidents. Often, we see that a number of drivers who are hired to operate commercial trucks don’t have sufficient experience with large vehicles. As a result, they make poor maneuvering decisions such as taking a sharp turn, following other vehicles too closely or making an unsafe merge or lane change. The corporations that hire these drivers have a responsibility to do thorough background checks including checking the person’s driving record. When trucking companies hire incompetent and/or inexperienced drivers, they put others on the road at risk.
Distracted driving: While driver distractions have become the leading cause of all types of motor vehicle accidents, they are also a significant contributor when it comes to commercial truck accidents. When you drive a vehicle that is large, heavy and unwieldy, it becomes even more important to pay attention and be vigilant.
Commercial trucks typically have a longer stopping time, which means it takes quite a bit of time from the moment you apply the brakes to when the vehicle comes to complete stop. When truck drivers are distracted by cell phones, pagers, communicating with their managers, it becomes very risky. Other dangerous behaviors while driving include eating, drinking, grooming, reading, watching videos, talking to passengers, etc.
Drowsy driving: The life of a truck driver can be strenuous and demanding. They are often required to deliver goods under tight, sometimes unrealistic deadlines. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has set forth hours-of-service regulations, which require drivers of commercial trucks and vehicles to get sufficient rest before getting on the road.
However, drivers and corporations in the pursuit of more profits often ignore these rules. As a result, we see devastating crashes on our roadways caused by tired truck drivers. Some of the common types of crashes involving fatigued truck drivers include rear-end collisions, running stop signs/red lights, head-on collisions, and failure to yield the right of way.
Impaired driving: Recent studies are showing that an increasing number of commercial truck drivers are not only addicted to narcotics such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines, but also marijuana and prescription drugs. Driving while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs can significantly increase the probability of a truck accident.
Vehicle malfunctions: Both commercial truck drivers and the companies that employ them have a duty to ensure that their trucks are maintained properly. However, this is not always done and devastating crashes are caused by malfunctioning truck parts such as tires and brakes. Commercial truck drivers are required to run a complete check of the vehicle before they embark on their journey.
Excessive speed: When commercial truck drivers exceed the speed limit or drive at an unsafe rate of speed because they want to meet their delivery deadlines, the consequences can be devastating. Drivers have the responsibility to operate in a manner that is safe for other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. Commercial truck drivers have a responsibility to obey speed limits and drive at a safe speed taking into account factors such as the weather, roadway and traffic conditions.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial truck accident, here are some of the important steps you may need to take in order to make sure your legal rights and best interests are protected.
File a police report. If you have been injured in a collision, law enforcement officials will arrive at the scene of the accident to conduct an investigation. When their investigation is complete, they will file what is known as an incident report. This report might contain important details such as who was at fault and what led to the collision. It is important that you speak with officials to get your account of the incident in the report. Obtain a copy of the report for your records.
Get prompt medical attention. This step not only helps ensure that you have a good chance at making the best possible recovery from your injuries, but also establishes a record when it comes to the injuries you sustained the medical care and treatment you received. Follow your doctor’s instructions. Save all receipts and invoices related to your injury treatment.
Compile evidence. It is also critical that you gather as much evidence as possible from the scene. This might include details such as the truck driver’s name, contact information, name of company he or she works for, insurance details, vehicle license plate number and contact information for the delivery company. If anyone witnessed the accident and can corroborate your account, makes sure you obtain their name and contact information as well. These types of evidence can help strengthen your personal injury claim.
Don’t make rush decisions. Do not sign any agreements or rush into a settlement with the insurance company. Large corporations have insurance companies fighting hard to protect their best interests. They might offer you a quick and small settlement to make the case go away. While you may be eager to move forward and get on with your life, signing off on a quick settlement will likely jeopardize your ability to secure maximum compensation for your losses.
Contact an experienced lawyer. A commercial truck accident is not like any other car accident case. There are a number of parties who could potentially be held liable. It takes an experienced personal injury lawyer to peel through the layers of such a complex case. It is imperative to get a knowledgeable attorney on your side, someone who will fight hard to protect your rights.
It is important to remember that there are a number of parties who can be held financially responsible for the injuries, damages and losses sustained in a West Virginia commercial truck accident. A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer will be able to identify all responsible parties in your case, which will help significantly increase the amount of recoverable compensation.
Here are some of the parties that could be held liable in commercial truck accident cases:
The truck driver: The driver who operates the truck may be held liable for the injuries and damages caused to victims. In cases where the driver’s negligence or carelessness, recklessness or wrongdoing caused the accident, the driver’s fault and liability become particularly clear.
The driver’s employer: In a number of commercial truck accident cases, the truck driver’s employer can also be held liable for the damages. For example, if the truck driver’s inexperience caused the accident, or if the driver who caused the accident had a prior record of drinking and driving, the employer can be held accountable for negligent hiring. In other cases, when a commercial truck accident is caused by poor vehicle maintenance, the employer can also be held liable.
Large corporations: Often, large companies such as Wal-Mart, Amazon, UPS and FedEx own delivery trucks. In such cases, these corporations can also be held financially responsible for the injuries, damages and losses sustained by injured truck accident victims.
Maintenance companies: Delivery companies often contract other maintenance companies and mechanics to maintain their vehicles and do routine work such as servicing. If these companies fail to do their jobs, they could be held liable as well.
Manufacturers of defective parts: In cases where a faulty vehicle part causes the accident, the manufacture of the vehicle and/or the maker of the defective auto part can also be held accountable.
There are a number of factors that go into determining what your commercial truck accident claim may be worth. These factors include, but are not limited to:
If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial truck accident, the experienced truck accident attorneys at the Robinette Legal Group PLLC can help you better understand your legal rights and options. We will work right away to preserve and compile crucial evidence in your case. Don’t rush into a settlement before you discuss your case with us. Call us for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.
Robinette Legal Group PLLC 211 Everhart Dr, Ste 200 Morgantown, WV 26508 (304) 594-1800