An accident involving an 18-wheeler truck and tractor-trailer are unlike any other accident. Truck crashes are frequently severe and result in devastating injury or death. The truck industry is heavily regulated by federal and state law. These regulations impose requirements on trucking companies and truck drivers to ensure the safety of the trucks and the safety of other vehicles on the road. These regulations also help victims of these accidents. A Maryland and DC truck accident attorney should be familiar with the regulations and requirements of the trucking industry.
Causes of Truck Accidents
The unique nature of trucks gives rise to causes of truck accidents that differ from causes of car accident. One frequent cause of truck accidents is an inability of a truck to stop before colliding with another vehicle. Stopping a truck can be difficult and timely. A truck driver’s failure to initiate a stopping sequence frequently leads to rear end collisions with other vehicles.
Another cause of truck accidents is an event called “jackknifing.” A jackknife occurs when a truck stops too quickly and the trailer whips around sideways. This results in striking another vehicle or the truck itself flipping and rolling. Other factors such as poor weather, a curvy road, speeds over 55 mph, or a lighter trailer can result in a jackknife.
Similar to jackknifing, truck accidents can occur when a truck has problems turning. Trucks often need more than one lane to execute a turn and if the trailer swings wide, then other vehicles on the road are at risk.
While all these causes reference some action that a truck driver negligently took or failed to take, one driver-related cause of truck accidents is driver fatigue. Truck drivers frequently operate on just a few hours of sleep every night. Unfortunately, this lack of sleep catches up to the driver, resulting in severe truck accidents. This can cause serious harm and injuries to passengers and vehicles.
Preservation of Evidence
The most important part of a truck accident case is the beginning. Unlike passenger vehicles, commercial trucks are required to maintain “black boxes” which record and measure various aspects of the truck’s operation and can provide valuable evidence as to the cause of an accident. When coupled with the numerous federal regulations that govern the trucking industry, plaintiffs have access to a lot of information about the truck and the driver to assist in building a case.
Plaintiffs must send a notice of a potential claim to the trucking company to ensure that the black box evidence is preserved. Trucking companies have an incentive not to preserve this information. Once a preservation letter is sent, the trucking company is on notice. If the trucking company fails to preserve the evidence, plaintiffs can seek several sanctions against the company for failure to preserve. Sanctions can significantly weaken the defense of the case.
Another issue to explore is whether the trucking company properly vetted the driver in its employ. If the driver was improperly trained or screened, then the trucking company could be liable for the negligent entrustment of the truck to an unqualified driver or for the negligent supervision of the driver. If the truck itself is not properly maintained, then there can be an additional claim of negligent maintenance against the trucking company.