Truck Accident Lawyers in Biloxi
On Interstate 10 as well as South Mississippi’s local highways, driving alongside big rigs and other large trucks is unavoidable—a necessary hazard you might say. That’s because large trucks have unique characteristics which may contribute to motor vehicle accidents if truck drivers fail to operate their vehicles safely. Understanding the differences between big rigs and regular passenger cars can help prevent truck accidents. Being aware of bad practices in the trucking industry can help us understand how and why so many truck accidents occur.
At Gardner Law Firm, we have extensive experience with truck accident cases in Mississippi. Our lawyers have a strong track record of success going up against even the most well-funded adversaries, including trucking companies and their armies of high-priced attorneys. We work closely with our clients to fully assess the unique circumstances of the case and determine the best path toward a favorable resolution.
Accident cases involving 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks can become very complicated, because there are often multiple parties that are responsible. For example, an accident may be the fault of the driver, the trucking company, those who service the vehicle, the vehicle (or vehicle part) designer, manufacturer, supplier, or distributor, or more than one of these. We go to work immediately to get to the bottom of what happened and preserve vital information that will be needed to help prove the case. This puts our clients in the best possible position to secure full compensation.
What Must be Proven to Win a Trucking Accident Claim?
One of the complicating factors in truck accident claims is the fact that there are often multiple parties that could have contributed to the crash. The most obvious responsible party would be the truck driver, who could be automatically at fault for breaking federal regulations, speeding, and/or driving recklessly or aggressively.
Some of the other parties that could share responsibility for a commercial trucking accident include:
Negligent behavior of a trucker, such as speeding or distracted driving may be the cause of an accident. A driver of a commercial truck also bears the responsibility to inspect if the rig is maintained and loaded with cargo in a proper manner. In case any maintenance issue or a cargo shift is found responsible for a truck accident, the truck driver may bear some responsibility.
A trucking company is responsible for the truckers it employs to drive its fleet of trucks. This entails answerability for its hiring and training policies, like verifying a trucker’s FMCSA records for any violations and diligently maintaining records of proper training. Sometimes, an inspection of a company’s records may reveal how the company cuts corners on hours of service (HOS) limits stipulated by FMCSA, or requirements for truck inspection and maintenance.
Cargo Shipping and Loading Contractors
Some companies hire other carriers to ship cargo for them on contract. Each entity in a contractual arrangement, be it the cargo shipper, loader, or transporter, is responsible to follow government regulations and may be held liable if proven negligent. If a problem with cargo, for instance, a cargo shift causes an accident, records of all the entities involved with the cargo may need to be scrutinized.
Big trucking companies with extensive operations may outsource their work to several vendors. The outsourcing could be in many areas of operations, including administrative work like recruitment of drivers or maintenance work like upkeep and repair of trucks. Any vendor may be held legally liable if any negligence on their part is proven to be the cause of a truck accident.
Truck and Spare Parts Manufacturers
Sometimes, the failure or malfunction of the truck or one of it components, such as brake failures, tire blowouts, or steering system defects, may result in a truck accident. Usually, this could be the result of poor maintenance, but if it turns out that the malfunctioning component had a manufacturing defect, the manufacturer of the particular part and even the distributor may be held accountable.
If a road hazard like a broken pavement or soft shoulder is the cause of a truck accident, the government entity responsible for maintaining that stretch of the highway may be held liable. A negligent government contractor hired for maintenance could be held responsible too, if their failure to maintain the road properly created a hazard that led to an accident.
After all potential responsible parties are identified, a thorough investigation is conducted, and evidence is gathered in order to develop a rock-solid case. This will often involve the help of outside specialists, who will examine the key facts of the case and lend their expertise in order to help substantiate these facts. Medical professionals will also be needed to speak to the extent of your injuries (both physical and psychological) and the damages you have suffered.
The important facts and pieces of evidence will be used to help prove several key elements:
- Duty of Care: The first element that must be proven is that the defendant(s) owed you a duty of care. For example, all motorists owe a duty to operate their vehicles safely and follow all traffic laws. For commercial truck drivers, these laws include federal regulations such as the requirement to take a break after a certain number of hours driving. Trucking companies might also owe an implied duty to take reasonable measures to properly train their drivers and make sure they operate their vehicles safely.
- Breach of Duty of Care: The second element that must be proven is that one or more parties violated (or “breached”) their duty of care through negligence or reckless actions. A breach could be something like driving while intoxicated or texting while driving, or it could be something another party did, such as a shipping company that loads the truck beyond the allowed weight capacity.
- Causation: Once you have established duty of care and breach of said duty, you will need to show that this breach was the proximate cause of the accident you were involved in. In other words, negligence or recklessness on the part of one or more parties led directly to the big rig truck accident. To successfully prove causation, you will need substantial evidence and the ability to make a strong argument, as well as the ability to effectively rebut the arguments of the opposing counsel.
- Damages: Finally, you will need to prove that the accident you were involved in resulted in compensable damages. These may include damages for direct economic losses such as medical costs, lost earnings, and property damage, as well as damages for noneconomic losses such as pain-and-suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life.
Truck Braking Time & Turning Radius
Long braking time and limited turning radius are two major causes of truck accidents in Mississippi and nationwide. It takes large trucks about 1.5 seconds more to brake than a passenger vehicle. Because of this lag, a big rig needs the length of one or two football fields to come to a complete stop once the truck driver steps on the brake.
Keep this in mind when passing a tractor trailer on the highway. Simply because you have cleared the front of the truck does not mean it is safe to return to the right-hand lane. You should wait until you are at least three or four car lengths ahead of the truck before you make your lane switch. Then, the truck will not be forced to slow down in order to maintain a safe distance behind you in the event you are both required to stop.
Tractor trailers also require a much larger area to negotiate a turn than passenger vehicles. For example, if an 18-wheeler is making a right turn, it must first move into the left lane in order to achieve the necessary clearance to make the turn. A passenger vehicle may try to pass on the right, not realizing the driver of the truck is also making a right. In the worst case scenario, the passenger vehicle then gets trapped beneath the trailer’s rear tires and crushed.
Questionable Practices in the Trucking Industry
In 2017, companies spent a record $1.5 trillion on shipping products, up 6.2% from the previous year. Trucking industry revenues also hit a record high that year of $676 billion, and the industry now accounts for more than 7% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The commercial trucking industry is booming, but unfortunately, those at the top seem to be more concerned with their bottom line than ensuring the safety of their drivers.
In addition to the unavoidable dangers of the road and the difficulty of operating a big rig, certain practices within the commercial trucking industry may contribute to the frequency of truck accidents. For example, trucking companies often emphasize speed of delivery over safety, causing truck drivers to engage in risky driving behaviors to log miles and meet deadlines.
Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:
- Truck Driver Fatigue: One of the leading causes of truck accidents is driving while drowsy or fatigued. Truck drivers are particularly susceptible to drowsy driving, because they drive for long periods of time, often by themselves and during evening and overnight hours. Under these conditions, it can be very difficult to keep from getting tired. Trucking companies do not help matters when they give drivers unrealistic deadlines that force them to stay out on the road longer than they should just to keep their schedule.
- Meeting Unrealistic Deadlines: Truck drivers must meet economic deadlines, often causing them to take unnecessary chances like speeding and driving recklessly.
- Distracted Driving: In today’s electronic age, just about everyone is tempted to send texts and use their smartphones for other activities while behind the wheel. For truckers, it is often just a matter of being bored and needing something to keep them occupied for the many hours that they are on the road. But just sending a text for a few seconds while driving 55 miles per hour is roughly the equivalent of driving an entire football field blindfolded. This is why more and more auto accidents these days are attributable to distracted driving.
- DUI/DWI: Truck drivers tend to put in long hours on the road. Unfortunately, some drivers turn to alcohol to take the edge off. Another problem is drivers becoming addicted to ‘uppers’ that help them stay awake.
- Unevenly Loaded/Overloaded Trucks: In order to stay on schedule, trucks are sometimes loaded in a hurry. This can result in trucks becoming overloaded or weighted too much to one side or the other, which is a common cause of trucks being tipped to the side or rolling over.
- Negligent Truck Maintenance: 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks log thousands of miles on the road every month. For this reason, it is critical that they be properly serviced to maintain their safety. Under pressure to keep their trucks on the road, those responsible for maintenance are sometimes tempted to cut corners, putting truckers (and others they share the road with) in greater danger.
- Motor Vehicle Defects: Faulty vehicle parts are another contributor to truck accidents. Examples include computer system malfunctions, brake line leaks, tire blowouts, and many others. When a product defect contributes to a trucking accident, it may be possible to file a product liability claim against the designer, manufacturer, or another party within the product’s supply chain.
- Inadequate Hiring Practices: Trucking companies have a need for labor and sometimes cut corners when hiring. Truckers are supposed to go through a certain amount of training and meet other requirements before they are put on the road, but unfortunately, these guidelines are not always followed.
Trucking companies are required to keep accurate records with details of every haul their drivers make. If you have been injured or a loved one was killed in a collision with an 18-wheeler, big rig, or tractor trailer, one of the first things we will do is secure the truck company’s records as well as police reports and toxicology exams.
Call Gardner Law Firm for Help after a Truck Accident
If you have sustained a personal injury in a truck accident, contact Gardner Law Firm for a free consultation or talk to us via chat. Our attorneys have more than 35 years of experience representing injury victims in Biloxi, Pascagoula, and all along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.
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