Semi-trucks can often be some of the most overwhelming vehicles on the road. While getting in any car accident is frightening enough, it can be much worse when an 18-wheeler is involved.
A fully-loaded semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and can require over 100 yards to come to a complete stop. Compound that with the fact that there are over 15,000 trucking accidents in North Carolina alone and you realize how dangerous these trucks are and how likely an accident involving one of them is to occur.
If you are injured in a semi-truck accident, you want to know what to do and how to get compensated for your injuries. While it is vital to engage a qualified lawyer early in the process, this article helps to shed some additional light on common causes of semi-truck accidents, and what you should expect if you’re involved.
Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents
Across the country there an estimated 2 million semi-trucks on the road each year, and nearly one quarter, or 500,000 of which are involved in accidents. Even worse, in 98% of the semi-truck vs. passenger vehicle accidents in which there is a death, the person killed was in the passenger vehicle. Although semi-truck drivers are prone to many of the same issues that everyday drivers face, the nature of the job adds another aspect that common commuters don’t have to worry about, including long hours and extensive wear-and-tear on their rigs.
According to federal regulations, truckers cannot drive more than 60 hours over seven consecutive days. When you break that down, that means that most drivers are putting in eight and a half hours a day on the road, and some log as much as 11 hours of driving time! Combine the long hours with an estimated 28% of truck drivers having sleep apnea, it’s a big cause for concern.
Another common cause of accidents for semi-truck drivers is mechanical issues with their trucks. Most semis are forced to endure tens of thousands of miles across the country, often logging thousands of hours without a tune-up. If a truck weighing over 40 tons has a tire blowout, for example, it’s not the same as a Honda Civic experiencing the same problem. Drivers can often lose control and put other drivers at risk.
Assigning Appropriate Liability
It can be tricky assigning liability for an accident involving a semi-truck. Although drivers may fall asleep or become distracted while driving, liability can fall on other parties as well. For this reason, it’s important that immediately after an accident involving a semi you engage a qualified attorney that can help investigate and handle any immediate contact with insurance companies.
After a thorough investigation, your attorney may find that the driver’s employer or the manufacturer of the truck may be liable. Although the individual driver was the one driving when the accident occurred, employers are often held accountable for the actions of their employees. This is especially true when the employee is acting under the control of the employer. Due to legal principles such as negligence, and joint and several liability, obtaining a attorney is important to ensure all responsible parties are held accountable.
Negligence Laws in North Carolina
Most states across the country assign liability to the party that caused the damage – both to people and property. However, North Carolina follows a different legal theory called “contributory negligence”. Under this theory, if a party contributes to the crash, even if the other driver was 99% at fault, the injured victim may be prohibited from recovering any compensation.
However, to provide some relief to victims, North Carolina also follows the last clear chance doctrine. This legal theory may allow injured parties to recover compensation, even if partially at fault, if they can prove that there was a dangerous situation making it impossible for you to avoid the crash, and the other driver had a clear chance to avoid the collision but they failed to take it.
When pursuing an injury claim following any kind of automotive accident, the question of fault is one of the most important matters to address. Your attorney must be able to prove that some other party was negligent in some way that resulted in your injuries. Due to the many nuances of North Carolina law in this area, consult with an experienced North Carolina lawyer as early in the process as possible. It is also vital to never admit liability or enter into any agreement before you have consulted a lawyer.