Semi trailer trucks involved in collisions with typical automobiles often end with catastrophic results. The sheer size and nature of commercial freight trucks leaves nothing to the imagination after the accident takes place. Smaller cars are crushed, rolled over, thrown off the road, or even trapped under the massive trailer that these large rigs tow. Truck accidents leave the occupants of smaller cars severely injured or even killed while the driver of the truck usually walks away – injury free.
It is estimated that there are half a million truck accidents in the United States every year. If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident in Missouri, you’ll need the services of an accomplished Kansas City truck accident lawyer who has handled all types of truck accident cases and can help seek the compensation you deserve.
Truck Accident Statistics and Common Causes
Who is at risk in truck accidents? Drivers of other passenger vehicles. In 2015, 4,067 people died in trucking accidents, the overwhelming majority of whom were in passenger vehicles. In fact, since 1975, the truck drivers share of fatalities in truck accidents has decreased from 21 percent in 1975 to 16 percent in 2015. That means that 84 percent of the people killed in trucking accidents are persons in other vehicles or on the street.
Truck Accident Fatalities
The majority of trucking accidents happened in the middle of the day, during the week. One surprising figure is that only 46 percent of large truck drivers were wearing their seatbelt at the time of the accident, which is about half of the national average for passenger vehicle occupants.
Quite often, an accident might occur due to the truck jackknifing or turning accidents. These usually happen due to extenuating circumstances that are largely out of the driver’s control; an abrupt turn to avoid a stalled car or unforeseen road slipperiness can cause the truck to jackknife due to sudden braking. A turning accident is slightly different, as a big rig often needs two lanes to complete a turn. This is why those signs exist on the back of trucks and drivers are taught not to pass on the right. If improper signaling was given, or a warning sign did not exist, a truck driver could be found negligent for their actions.
Overall, combination trucks – defined as truck tractors or straight trucks pulling any number of trailers – are involved in a significantly higher number of fatal accidents than are single trucks – conversely, a single truck is defined as a truck in which the engine, cab, drivetrain and cargo area are on the same chassis.
Fatal Trucking Accidents: Combination Trucks vs. Single Trucks
NEGLIGENT TRUCK DRIVERS IN MISSOURI
In a typical truck accident case, the defendant is usually the truck driver or trucking company who employed the driver. If a defective part is found to be the causation of the truck accident, then that manufacturer can be held liable as well. Negligent driving practices on the part of the truck driver can cause severe, often fatal Kansas City trucking accidents. Negligence is the conduct a person takes which is culpable in that it falls short of what a reasonable person would or would not do in a given situation. Truck drivers owe a duty of care to other motorists and pedestrians who share the roads with them. When this duty is breached, then they are considered to be negligent. Some examples of negligent behavior which can lead to Kansas City trucking accidents are:
- Trucks traveling with excessive speed (Kansas state law for trucks is 70mph)
- Fatigued drivers falling asleep at the wheel
- Ignoring posted signage
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
The last few years, the number of injury or fatality accidents that have happened due to the truck driver operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol has been drastically reduced in the last few years. Thirty years ago, there were 58 such drivers; in 2014, there were only seventeen. Given that the amount of miles truckers drive per year has doubled in that same timeframe, it’s clear that increased safety protocol has helped reduce the number of negligent accidents by truckers.
In addition to driver negligence, several problems with the truck itself can arise, causing trucking accidents and catastrophic injuries. Tire blow outs, shifting loads, improper vehicle maintenance, and overloaded trucks/trailers can all lead to serious accidents.
Truck Driver Liability
If the truck driver is found to have been operating their rig negligently, whether the company for whom they work can be held liable is a common question. People will usually try to bring a claim against the company because that’s where the money is, but who else can actually be liable for a trucking accident besides the driver?
- The company that employs the driver or owns the truck.
- The person or company that leased the truck from the owner.
- The manufacturer of the truck’s parts if the contributed to the cause or severity of the accident.
- The shipper or loader of the truck’s cargo.
It would need to be proven that the driver is employed by the company, and was operating within the scope of employment when the accident occurred. Often, the driver is an independent contractor hired by the trucking company from the owner/operator, and the truck itself is often leased from the same. The company will then place their placards on the truck. It used to be the company could argue in a liability case that it did not employ the driver or directly own any of the truck’s equipment. Under current federal law, however, the company could be liable for accidents involving trucks which brandish the company’s name.
Missouri Trucking Laws
A new law put in place at the beginning of 2016 has effectively put an end to the manual logging of hours. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has asserted that this will save $1 billion a year on paperwork alone, not to mention dozens of lives. Trucking companies have two years from the date the law was implemented to purchase and put to use this technology.
The Missouri Department of Transportation outlines everything a trucker must do, including proper vehicle markings, trip reporting and inspection procedures. There is extensive protocol which must be carried out before, during and after a trip to ensure optimal safety. For someone to even qualify to be a driver, all of these must be true:
- Be at least 18 years of age; 21 if transporting hazardous materials.
- Be able to drive the vehicle safely. The company or contractor employing the driver should do their diligence in researching the prospective driver’s employment, driving and criminal history in order to prove they can.
- Know how to safely load and properly block, brace, and secure the cargo.
- Have only one valid driver’s license.
- Pass a physical exam.
- Potential drivers are disqualified if they have a DUI or felony conviction, have left the scene of an accident, serious traffic violations or drove under a suspended license.
The stipulations regarding hours are rather strict, but in order to stay ahead of schedule, many drivers will disobey the recommended rest times and driving times. These are the hours that the Missouri DOT outlines:
- Property carriers – Limited to driving 11-hour shifts and no more than 14 hours in a single day with at least a 10-hour break between shifts. Limited to 60 hours in a consecutive 7-day period or 70 hours in a consecutive 8-day period. A driver shall not drive more than 8 hours without a break of at least 30 minutes.
- Passenger carriers – Limited to driving 10 hours per shift, and 15 hours per day with at least an 8-hour break between shifts. The same 7-to-8 day schedule applies.
- Drivers may only start their next 7-to-8 day shift after a break of at least 34 consecutive hours.
- There is a 16-hour exemption for property carriers, which drivers can only request if they have taken 34 hours of rest, and has not used the exemption within the previous seven days.
Other than adhering to a strict schedule, driver’s must comply with federal regulations regarding drug and alcohol testing, training and specific company policy. If a driver breaks any of these regulations while operating a truck, and it contributes to an accident, they can be found negligent and liable.
INSURANCE COMPANY CONTACT
After a truck accident occurs in Missouri, insurance companies typically try to contact the victim in order to obtain “additional information.” While these calls or letters of contact to you may seem innocent and harmless, the reality is they are insurance company tactics utilized to gather information to use against you in your case. In every case, it is always in your best interest to politely refuse to speak with them without a qualified Kansas City personal injury attorney present. Disclosing information to these insurance companies can severely limit, or completely remove, any financial compensation you may be entitled to.
SEEK JUSTICE AFTER A TRUCK ACCIDENT
As semi-trailer trucks tower over smaller automobiles, the end results of collisions with them are incredibly more destructive than typical automobile accidents. The large size and weight of these trucks cause them to literally plow through smaller cars often leaving death, mayhem and serious personal injury in their wake. If you or someone close to you has been the victim of a truck accident, contact an experienced Kansas City truck accident lawyer at Dickerson Oxton, LLC today. Our personal injury attorneys offer client specific strategies to help make your case a success.
At our Kansas City law firm, your initial consultation is always free of charge. When we do accept cases, we operate on a contingency fee basis. We choose to operate this way for the sole benefit of our clients; if we don’t win your case, you won’t pay anything.
With over a decade of combined litigation experience, the Kansas City personal injury lawyers at Dickerson Oxton, LLC have the knowledge and passion needed to help you with your case.
You can reach one of our experienced accident attorneys at (913) 428-8220. Alternatively, you can fill out our free initial consultation form on our website and we will get back to you promptly. Please call or contact us today.
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