Truck accidents can result in some of the most catastrophic and devastating injuries and have many consequences to individuals and their families. Each year in this country, there are approximately 5,000 fatalities as a result of truck accidents.
A fully loaded tractor trailer can weigh more than 125,000 lbs. The training, qualifications, and mental and physical capabilities of the driver of that big rig, as well as the physical condition and maintenance of the tractor and trailer, all greatly affect safe operation. Suffice it to say that trucking in the United States is big business, but it can also be a very dangerous business to others sharing the same roadway.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, you need a law firm that is experienced in litigating trucking cases. Due to over thirty years of experience, our firm is qualified to handle this type of complex case and provide you with the level of legal representation you deserve. Contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. for a free consultation.
If I am involved in an accident, what should I do?
- Be safe. Make sure that you are safe and that all people involved are safe. Don’t step out into traffic. Traffic is an extremely dangerous place.
- If there is dangerous or serious situation at hand, do what you can to help or get help.
- Call the police. If anyone is injured, call 911 and make sure an ambulance is on the way.
- Document what just took place.
- Take detailed notes. Get license plate numbers. Take pictures of everything.
- Seek immediate medical attention. Tell a doctor about all of the parts of your body you may have injured, not just the parts that are hurting the most.
- Don’t admit any liability at this time. Responsibility will be sorted out later when all of the facts are reviewed.
- Get witness information – names and phone number, specifically. Document a description of witnesses.
- If the police arrive, get any information on getting a copy of the police report. Take note on what agency the officer is with. Record information on the vehicle the officer is in.
- Don’t leave the scene of the accident until the police have arrived and the necessary information has been obtained. If the police are not coming then make sure you have all of the above information before leaving.
- If tow trucks are involved, get all necessary information on the drivers, trucks, and towing companies. Find out where they are taking the vehicles.
- Contact an experienced personal injury law firm for help.
- Do not give a statement to the adverse driver’s insurance company without talking to an attorney first.
How Insurance Companies “Advise”
If you or a family member has been involved in a collision with a truck, most likely someone has been seriously injured or killed. What might not be immediately apparent, however, is that you are not on an even playing field with the opposition, which can have a big impact on your chances of obtaining the fair and reasonable compensation you deserve. You are up against big business, big insurance, and big money.
Investigators and claims representatives for the trucking company will often try to create the appearance that they are your friend rather than your adversary. They do this by telling you that it was their fault or that they will “take care of everything” for you. When push comes to shove, these statements will not bind the company or insurance company in court. These strategies are designed to lull you into believing that they have your best interests at heart and, more importantly, to keep you from seeking legal representation.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Proper qualifications and adequate training of operators of commercial motor vehicles is extremely important in assuring the safety of other motorists using the highways. Commercial motor vehicle operators, however, are not always properly trained or qualified by the companies who hire them and who send them out onto the highways in control of their massive pieces of equipment.
Another significant problem in collisions is the use of drugs and alcohol by tractor trailer operators. Consumption of drugs and alcohol by commercial vehicle operators continues to be a problem despite regulations requiring drug screening. Another issue affecting driver performance is driver fatigue. Keep in mind that time is money to trucking companies, and many times a driver must be in a certain city at a certain time, either to deliver or to pick up a load, in spite of weather conditions or other obstacles. This, among other things, has led to what some in the trucking industry believe is the prevalent practice by drivers of falsifying their log books.
Another issue affecting trucking safety is the state of maintenance and repair of the tractor and trailer. In a recent study by the Department of Transportation, out of 42,000 rigs that were randomly stopped by DOT officials, 11,000 of those rigs (26 percent) were found to have had safety violations serious enough to require that the vehicle be placed out of service until the violation(s) were fixed. Truck accidents may be caused by these violations.
Figuring out all of the legally responsible parties can be tricky; close isn’t good enough. Because of the complexities in the legal arrangements used by owners and operators (some designed to attempt to avoid liability), it can take many months of litigation involving a review of leases, trip leases, contractor agreements, shipping agreements, bills of lading, and other trucking documents, as well as review of State and Federal DOT regulations and insurance coverage, plus taking depositions of key witnesses, just to figure out all of the parties that need to be sued. All of those parties must then be properly brought into the lawsuit before the expiration of the statute of limitations. It takes a lawyer who is experienced in handling cases against trucking companies just to sort out the correct parties that must be sued.
Do I Need to Contact an Attorney?
Unlike the rules of the road, with which most of us who drive a car are reasonably familiar, there are hundreds of State and Federal Department of Transportation regulations that govern the ownership, operation, repair, maintenance, and use of a commercial motor vehicle. A lawyer must be familiar with these regulations in order to successfully prosecute a case against a trucking company. You can bet the lawyers for the trucking companies know these regulations forwards and backwards. Ronald Wittmeyer believes that the individual is entitled to the same quality of representation as large companies and insurance carriers.
Another important aspect of truck accidents is searching for and obtaining important documents held by your adversaries. A lawyer must first understand what documents to look for and where to look for the documents and then use proper subpoenas and document requests to obtain those documents early on in the case, or use other measures to preserve these documents. Otherwise, these important documents might happen to “disappear,” which then becomes your problem, because you may need some of these documents to help prove your case.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. for a free consultation.