Helping The Victims Of Trucking Accidents In West Virginia
Unfortunately for drivers on West Virginia’s streets and highways, many trucking companies prioritize profits over the safety of their employees and other drivers and passengers, putting everyone in danger.
It is important to realize that trucking insurance companies have immense resources that they can and will use to try to deny payouts. A West Virginia truck accident lawyer is crucial in protecting your rights and helping you work toward the compensation you deserve.
Due to the size of an 18-wheeler, an accident involving one of these vehicles is usually very serious. While a passenger vehicle weighs approximately 4,000 pounds, a commercial semi-truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.
Nationwide Statistics Related to Fatalities Following Truck Accidents
Over the last decade, the number of fatalities due to large truck crashes has increased by almost 30 percent, nationwide. In 2016, nearly 4,000 people suffered fatal injuries in large truck crashes. Almost 70 percent of those who died as a result of a large truck crash were occupants of passenger vehicles,. 16 percent were the truck occupants, and a over 15 percent were bicyclists, pedestrians or motorcyclists.
In 2014, The West Virginia Public Service Commission Addressed Truck Crashes
Just like the rest of the nation, West Virginia has experienced a higher number of crashes involving trucks. Therefore, in 2014, the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) took steps to attempt to reduce the number of large truck crashes in the state of by devoting additional resources to inspecting commercial vehicles.
West Virginia Truck Accident Fatality Statistics
In 2016, there were 250 fatal crashes in West Virginia resulting in 269 deaths. While 2 percent of these deaths involved occupants of trucks, nearly 70 percent of those who died were riding in passenger vehicles, 11 percent were motorcyclists, and 9 percent were pedestrians.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Loading Cargo Improperly
For the sake of safety, industry-specific rules have been put into place in relation to the size, weight, length, height and width of the cargo. In addition, precise methods for securing cargo prior to its transportation have been implemented. When these rules are disregarded, or mistakes are made during the loading process, catastrophic accidents caused by the loss of cargo can occur.
A commercial truck is driven thousands of miles a day. Keeping up with the wear and tear on these vehicles requires adherence to regular maintenance programs. It is the driver’s responsibility to inspect his or her truck prior to each shift and then submit a maintenance report to the employer. If vital equipment on a commercial truck fails, accidents, injuries and fatalities occur.
Poor maintenance is not the only reason that equipment fails. Sometimes, defective parts can lead to an accident. When defective parts cause a truck accident, liable parties may include the truck manufacturer, parts manufacturer, the mechanic who made repairs to the truck and the company that sold the vehicle.
Extreme Weather Conditions
If a truck driver is not adequately trained to drive in various weather conditions, poor weather can lead to an accident. Just as with passenger vehicles, snow, ice and rain require that freight trucks drive at slower speeds, especially because of their weight and slower stopping abilities. Truck drivers must know the proper braking techniques to use during these weather conditions, otherwise, they are at an increased risk of hydroplaning, skidding or jackknifing.
Driving at excessive speeds, continuing to drive despite drowsiness, driving after alcohol consumption or drug use and/or aggressive driving may also cause a truck accident.
Trucking Company Negligence
Trucking company negligence is often a fundamental cause of a truck accident. If you were injured or if a family member was killed in an 18-wheeler accident in West Virginia, Johnstone & Gabhart, LLP, can initiate an investigation to determine why the crash occurred. Was it because of faulty equipment, inadequate driver training, poor screening of candidates for truck driver positions, inadequate training, poor enforcement of industry, state or federal trucking safety regulations or poor truck maintenance practices?
A truck driver has responsibilities to ensure safe trucking practices, and so does the trucking company that employs him or her. If a truck was overloaded or if a truck driver drove too long without taking appropriate breaks, the trucking company may have had a key role in allowing these errors to occur. Failure to instruct and supervise truckers can result in such actions – and other motorists may pay the price.
Is there pressure in the trucking industry to lower standards to meet cargo delivery demands? If so, how do these conditions affect people traveling in cars and other vehicles alongside those the trucks? More importantly, what factors figured into the trucking accident that injured you or your family member? Was the truck that collided with your vehicle in West Virginia, Ohio or Kentucky too heavy for the road it was traveling on?
There are some circumstances when the company who hired the driver may be held liable for the damages caused in a trucking accident. Just a few examples include;
- Negligent hiring. The company may not have done a background check that would have revealed a poor driving history, perhaps even a drunk driving conviction.
- Negligently failed to train the driver for transporting the specific cargo. Liquid cargo has different loading requirements than non-liquid. Drivers must be specially trained to transport hazardous materials.
- Employer may have encouraged drowsy driving and fatigue by offering bonuses for cargo delivered quickly.
- Failed to properly maintain the truck.
Trucking Safety Violations
Large tractor-trailers are subject to numerous safety regulations that do not apply to smaller trucks and passenger vehicles. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a tractor-trailer, a key area of investigation is whether the trucking company or driver violated those safety regulations.
When a serious truck accident occurs, investigators from the trucking company’s insurance carrier are usually on the scene within hours. These investigators have one interest: protecting the insurance company from liability. This usually means looking for a way to blame the accident on you.
To ensure that your interests are protected, it is important to have investigators who are working for you. Our truck accident lawyers work with experts to help us collect and preserve evidence of safety violations, including driver logbook violations such as driving too long without a required rest break, weight violations. lack of proper maintenance, unsafe passing, driver negligence, unqualified driver, drug or alcohol use by the driver & speeding.
Many trucks are equipped with GPS systems that can tell our investigators how fast the truck was traveling and what maneuvers, such as lane changes and braking, the driver made before the collision. Unless this evidence and other evidence is preserved, it can go missing in the weeks and months after the accident.
Nationwide Truck Accident Statistics
Every June, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) publishes a Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus statistics. The 2017 edition has the most recently compiled statistics. According to that Guide, as of 2015, there were 8,456,302 single unit trucks registered in the U.S. and 2,746,882 were a combination or semi-trailer trucks.
Registration of vehicles of all types in that year totaled 263,610,219.
In 2015, out of a U.S population of 323.4 million, there were a total of 6,295,000 crashes nationwide, 415,000 involved a large truck. Of 32,166 fatal crashes, 3,598 involved a large truck. The FMCSA defines a large truck as “a truck with a gross vehicle weight greater than 10,000 pounds.” Of all freight shipped across the country, 64 percent goes in large trucks.
“Critical Events” Causing Truck Accidents
A few years ago, the FMSCA curated a study that reported that three major “critical events” contribute to large truck accidents:
- The driver runs out of the travel lane, either into another lane or off the road (32 percent of all trucking accidents).
- The driver loses control of the vehicle due to traveling too fast for conditions, cargo shift, vehicle systems failure, poor road conditions, or other reasons (29 percent of all trucking accidents).
- The driver collides with the rear end of another vehicle in the truck’s travel lane (22 percent of all trucking accidents).
Specific Driver Errors Contributing to the Critical Events
- Driver non-performance. For some reason, the driver became physically impaired, by having a seizure, heart attack, stroke, fatigue, or by simply falling asleep.
- The driver was distracted. This may be by talking on his or her cell phone, texting, fiddling with the radio, eating, or engaging in any activity that involved taking attention off of driving and off of the road.
- The driver made a bad decision. Perhaps the driver was going too fast for the road conditions, followed too closely, or misjudged the speed of oncoming cars when passing. The driver may have turned suddenly, lost control, and even overcompensated for the loss of control. Swerving may have caused the cargo to shift, resulting in loss of control.
- Driver underestimated the braking distance due to the weight of the cargo.
- The driver may not have been properly trained to carry the cargo that is being transported. For example, special training is required to transport hazardous materials.
- The driver was drinking or using drugs.
But, even if a truck driver does everything right, follows the rules so as not to get drowsy, goes the right speed and stays alert to prevent a critical event, and has the proper training, mechanical failure occurs, and so does a critical event.
Truck Accident Settlements in West Virginia
Claims and settlements fall under West Virginia’s Code 55-7-6. Accidents resulting in over $500 worth of property damage are required to be filed with the police department. Any incident in which an individual is hurt or dies as a result of a truck accident must also be reported to the state police department. West Virginia Code 55-2-12 also says individuals who suffer this type of truck accident injuries or property damage can file a claim for two years from the date of the incident. That is the statute of limitations for obtaining compensation.
What Can Be Included in Truck Accident Settlements?
Truck accidents can have costly results. A tired truck driver who falls asleep at the wheel can kill a family driving home from vacation. A truck can sideswipe a smaller car, causing that car to pass under the carriage, leading to significant injury or death. Truck accident settlements can help cover some of the losses in these situations including compensation for:
- All medical bills and related costs
- Loss of companionship, comfort, and solace for those who are suffering from the death of a loved one resulting from a truck accident
- All lost time at work, including time spent healing and in recovery programs
- Any loss of property, such as damage to a car or other lost property resulting from the accident
- Pain and suffering claims both for the individual as well as for family that may suffer a wrongful death claim
Truck accident settlements in West Virginia are not uncommon. According to the Wall Street Journal, West Virginia ranks 8th in damages from truck accidents with an average of 19.8 auto fatalities for every 100,000 people. For this reason, truck accident settlements can be very large. The state also requires drivers to maintain liability insurance to help cover these losses acquired by the victims. Commercial auto insurance for truck drivers is generally more extensive than individual coverage, but both can result in liability settlements to provide compensation for the victim in the incident.
Schedule A Free Truck Accident Consultation Today
If you were injured in a crash with a large truck, or a family member you care about was killed, our Charleston, WV truck accident attorneys at Johnstone & Gabhart, LLP can help. We focus a large percentage of our practice on helping those injured in trucking accidents collect damages to cover their medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, and other damages. Contact us for a free consultation. If you are unable to come to us, we can arrange to come to you. We can visit you in the hospital or in your home.
To schedule a free initial consultation and learn more about how we can help, call Johnstone & Gabhart, LLP in Charleston, WV today at 866-228-4692.
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