When it comes to truck accidents, the statistics are nothing short of alarming: According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2014, there were close to 4,000 fatal crashes involving large trucks and similar vehicles killing over 4,000 people. And when large or commercial trucks are involved in accidents with smaller passenger vehicles, most of the injuries and fatalities involved are those of the individuals within the passenger cars because of the relative size of the vehicles involved in the accident.
Most truck accidents are caused by driver error; namely, driver fatigue, distractions, and even substantive abuse issues, in some circumstances. Regardless, because commercial trucking companies tend to have significant resources, it can be incredibly difficult to obtain justice if you’ve been involved in a truck accident, especially without the assistance of an experienced attorney to help you navigate the process. This is because the trucking company typically initiates its own investigation—using its own experts—immediately following the accident, and typically in a manner designed to limit their own liability in the accident.
Current Driver Shortage Crisis
According to a recent investigation by CBS News, America’s trucking industry is currently facing a crisis that will likely impact all of us on the roads; specifically, a severe driver shortage, causing trucking companies to actively recruit already-retired drivers who are over the age of 65—well over the age of 65, in fact, including drivers in their 90s—and the statistics indicate that it’s leading to more accidents between passenger cars and large commercial trucks in general. According to the analysis presented by CBS News, there’s been close to a 20 percent increase in accidents involving commercial truck and bus drivers in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, just in the last three years alone, with more than 6,500 of the truck drivers on the roads between 2013 and 2015 being considered “elderly.”
This is an indication that additional federal regulation is severely needed. At a very basic level, a skill test for commercial drivers should absolutely be required. Yet, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the trucking industry, doesn’t prohibit training of older drivers, and indicates that its hands are tried due to existing laws prohibiting age discrimination.
Truck Accident Investigations
When it comes to liability in truck accidents, it can extend to several parties, depending upon the circumstances of the trucking company. For example, it can involve:
- The driver
- Their employer
- Any manufacturer, if the accident was due to a particular part
- The leasing company of the truck, etc.
Typically, your attorney is going to have to launch an investigation of their own which will not only involve interviewing witnesses and relying upon experts, but looking into the history of any company(ies) involved, as well as the driver’s background, any relevant maintenance records for the vehicle, the driver’s log listing his or her shifts, black box recorders, etc. They may also have to obtain a temporary order in order to preserve important evidence, such as the state of the vehicles (ensuring that they are not quickly repaired by the trucking company to mask liability).
The importance of this investigation cannot be emphasized enough because, as the trucking industry brings more and more drivers out of retirement, it is possible that they will try to designate these drivers as independent contractors instead of official “employees” in order to avoid certain types of liability in these accidents. If this is the case, your attorney will need to dig into the relationship between the truck owner and driver, and possibly make an argument for vicarious liability or negligent entrustment if the driver had a history of legal violations and/or a lack of training.
It is also important to note that if a trucking company is exclusively carrying a manufacturer’s products, it may be indicative of there being a joint venture partnership, which would extend liability to the manufacturing company as well, as joint ventures are, in total, liable for any and all injuries and damages involved in an accident. The manufacturer is also typically involved in related issues, such as putting together schedules for the trucking company, thus potentially being indirectly involved in an accident where the driver might have felt rushed to speed based on the schedule.
Regulations Aren’t Helping
Any accident that results from a driver failing to comply with federal and state regulations constitutes negligence per se, thus the investigation regarding details behind the truck accident is going to be key. These regulations—covering driver qualifications, commercial driver’s licenses, hours of service, required insurance, vehicle maintenance and inspection, alcohol and drug testing, laws on texting, use of mobile phones, and other technology while on a shift, etc.–are put forth by the:
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations;
- National Highway Safety Administration;
- National Transportation Safety Board; and
- Interstate Commerce Commission.
In spite of this reality, not much has changed in terms of the safety regulations governing trucks on the road. Even with restrictions in place concerning background checks for drivers, inspection requirements for vehicles, and shift length limitations, these accidents are still occurring every day and wreaking havoc for those who are involved in them. The injuries typically associated with truck accidents include spinal injuries, broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, burns, and sometimes even death.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, we can help. Roger Ghai has been practicing law for almost 30 years, and the Law Offices of Roger Ghai focuses on personal injury cases like these. By working with an experienced truck accident crash lawyer, you can help ensure that your rights are protected.
The Law Offices of Roger Ghai is located in Kennesaw, and we serve clients throughout the state of Georgia. Contact us today for a free consultation.