Expert Truck Accident Attorneys in West Virginia
At Kaufman & McPherson, our West Virginia truck accident lawyers are extremely well-versed in the nuances of personal injury cases that involve commercial trucking accidents in the Mountain State. We have the resources necessary to pursue these sometimes expensive cases. Dealing with a commercial vehicle accident and the subsequent investigation and litigation can be significantly more costly than that related to a personal vehicle crash.
Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accident in West Virginia
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has analyzed hundreds of tractor-trailer accidents and compiled the top ten factors that contribute to these types of crashes:
- Brake problems
- Traffic flow interruption, like congestion or a previous crash
- Prescription drug usage
- Unfamiliarity with the roads
- Roadway problems
- Required to stop before the crash, like at a traffic control device or crosswalk
- Over the counter drug usage, including alcohol
- Inadequate surveillance of the roadway and surroundings
- Driver Fatigue (How to prove trucker fatigue?)
Commercial truck drivers face some unique challenges that regular drivers do not, such as extremely long driving shifts that can result in fatigue. This is a particular concern because often they are paid per load rather than per hour, so taking more deliveries means more money.
In the trucking industry, there are regulatory bodies that govern the maximum numbers of consecutive driving hours that are allowed and the mandatory minimum rest hours between hauls, but these rules vary between agencies and unfortunately, the rules are not always followed leading to more truck accident claims and more accident victims,
Other Not So Common Causes
Other factors that contribute to truck driver fatigue include things like:
- long stretches of driving at night, schedules that change frequently and do not lend themselves to routine,
- the prevalence of unhealthy food and drink options available at truck stops,
- texting and not paying attention to their job,
- and the physically taxing task of loading and unloading cargo in between trips.
Additionally, with so many different parties involved in the trucking process, it stands to reason that issues can slip through the cracks and eventually snowball into large problems that lead to accidents. Sometimes the vehicle is not inspected or maintained as often as it needs to be or the load is improperly secured which can lead to a massive weight shift or even cargo falling from the truck and striking smaller passenger vehicles.
Finally, the potential for destruction is massive just based on the sheer size and weight of these motor vehicles. Fully loaded large trucks can weigh around 40 tons, so even the smallest driver error can result in a catastrophic chain of events.
This is dangerous for both other drivers as well as the commercial truck driver, particularly if they are hauling flammable or explosive cargo.
Determining liability often requires first ascertaining the causation of the crash. Certain elements that may dictate the occurrence of the crash could have happened for hours, days, or even months before the event. This can include things as:
- the driver’s training and experience level,
- the design and manufacturing process of the vehicle,
- the road and weather conditions leading up to the crash, and
- the surrounding traffic signals and signage.
There may also be more immediate factors that cause an accident, such as a tire blowout, a loss of engine power or brake function, a driving error, a sudden snowstorm, and so forth. It’s often a combination of a few different factors that ultimately causes an accident.
Working With Crash Experts
In order to determine where the liability lies in an accident, we may seek insight from a crash reconstruction expert, who can determine which factors contributed and who is ultimately responsible for the crash.
The liability assignment is further complicated because of the number of parties who may be responsible. The tractor-trailer or truck cab is usually owned and operated by a separate trucking company from that which owns and operates the trailer. The driver as well as the company that employs the driver may be liable if the cargo of the truck was improperly loaded or secured.
A broker or carrier may also be involved. Each of these truck companies will also have its own set of defense lawyers, so the proceedings can become quite involved.
Truck Accident with An Independent Contractor
A truck driver may also be an independent contractor, in which case the contracting company would need to be investigated to determine how much oversight they have over the driver and whether they share any part of the responsibility. Hiring processes and retention claims may also be reviewed in the course of a truck accident case in order to inspect the employment history of the driver and his or her driving record.
Importance of Being Accurate
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, did a study of 963 truck crashes that occurred in 17 different states over 33 months and compiled their findings. They estimate that there were roughly 120,000 crashes that involved at least one truck and resulted in injuries or fatalities throughout the nation during their 33-month case study period. Each of the 963 accidents that they investigated was assessed for a critical event and a critical reason.
A critical event refers to the action or event that ultimately put the vehicle on a course that made the crash unavoidable. Critical reason refers to the reason behind or failure that led to the critical event. Examples of critical reasons include truck driver error, vehicle failure, or environmental conditions of either the roadway or the weather.
There were three main critical event types for large trucks:
- departing from the travel lane,
- loss of vehicle control (from traveling too fast, cargo shift, vehicle system or equipment failure, poor road conditions, etc.), and
- rear-ending another vehicle without leaving the travel lane.
The findings of the study concluded that while brake failure accounts for the highest percentage of accidents (29%), the relative risk is low (2.7), whereas cargo shift accounts for much fewer accidents (4%) but has the highest relative risk (56.3).
What kind am damages may I seek?
Victims can also seek damages for pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity in the future, mental and emotional suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other intangible but devastating consequences of an accident.
What happens if the victim perishes?
If the victim of the crash perishes, the victim’s family may be able to seek compensation for loss of consortium, which means that the remaining family members can no longer provide the same care, love, and affection as they could before the crash.
Winning Your Truck Accident Case
Pursuing a truck accident case can be quite expensive and can present difficulties such as retaining appropriate expert witnesses and thoroughly investigating the accident. The first and perhaps most critical step for a West Virginia truck accident lawyer is to analyze the truck’s post-crash condition and review the black box data from the time of the crash as well as the time leading up to it. A thorough and diligent investigation must be conducted into the maintenance and operation of the truck.
As such, prompt action is required. If you’ve been in an accident involving a commercial truck, don’t wait – call us today at 304-842-4300.
Why Consult With Us
1) Years of Experience and Success
We have recovered millions of dollars for victims of commercial vehicle accidents over many years. Our attorneys have excellent success rates and we have a trustworthy network of expert witnesses and crash reconstruction experts that we can call upon to reinforce your case. We can also draw on our decades of cumulative experience to pursue every possible avenue for obtaining a settlement.
2) Ability to Identify All Line of Insurance
As we’ve outlined, determining liability in a commercial vehicle accident can be quite difficult and involve several parties and insurance companies’ policies. We are fully prepared to pursue and hold responsible for all the relevant parties that contributed to the accident’s occurrence.
3) Financial Resources to Handle Large Commercial Cases
We not only have a network of experts on our side, but we also have the financial means to pursue an expensive and time-intensive commercial accident case. The large scale of the investigation into the history and current state of the truck itself, the driver, the companies involved, and so forth can create a massive undertaking, but we have the manpower and the financial resources to take on these types of cases.
Let us take away some of the stress of the aftermath of a commercial truck accident and fight on your behalf for the settlement you deserve.