Truck accidents on our roadways are all too common: The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported that in just one year, 2015, more than 4,000 individuals were killed and approximately 116,000 were injured in accidents involving large trucks. Accidents that involve large commercial trucks, also known as 18-wheelers, semitrucks, tractor trailers, and heavy haulers, can be devastating. This is not surprising given that a fully loaded commercial truck can weigh 20 to 30 times more than an average passenger vehicle. Due to the sheer size of these vehicles, they have a hard time braking suddenly or swerving to avoid causing or contributing to a catastrophic accident.
If you’ve been in a truck accident, you know that the resulting injuries can be severe or even fatal. At Parker Waichman LLP, our New Jersey truck accident attorneys have a long history of obtaining compensation for truck accident victims. Call us today at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) to learn about your legal rights and how to receive full compensation.
What Are the Common Causes of Tractor Trailer Accidents?
The negligent and careless actions of a truck driver often cause or contribute to devastating accidents. Some of the more frequent causes of trucking accident claims that we see include:
Fatigue is usually the result of mental or physical exertion that impairs performance. When a driver is fatigued, it’s typically because they work extended hours, lack adequate sleep, or engage in strenuous activities at or outside of work. Truck driver fatigue, in particular, might be the result of driving too many hours in a row or a lack of sleep. Regulations do require truck drivers to take breaks, and they are generally only allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours in a row after taking ten hours off, but unfortunately, many truck drivers do not adhere to these rules. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a report in 2007 that stated that out of the crashes involving large commercial trucks between 2001 and 2003, 13% of the drivers involved were fatigued at the time of the accident.
A 2008 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report found that of all fatal accidents that involved large trucks, one in five truck involved drivers operating their vehicle either over the posted speed limit or too fast for the weather conditions. Of these truck drivers, around 18% of them had a history of speeding convictions on their driving records. Many truck drivers speed due to the demands of their job and the pressure to meet delivery or pickup deadlines.
Other Traffic Violations
Some other traffic violations that a truck driver may commit that ultimately result in an accident can include:
- Following too closely
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Failing to obey other traffic signals
- Failing to yield to the right of way
- Not using headlights or blinkers
According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2011, more than 200 truck drivers were involved in fatal accidents as a result of distracted driving. Of the drivers involved, 22 of them were using a cellphone at the time the accident occurred. Commercial motor vehicle drivers, like truck drivers, are prohibited from texting while driving, which includes emailing, searching the Internet, using social media or engaging in other forms of electronic text entry and retrieval. Use of a cellphone for making calls is also restricted.
While texting and calling are common distractions that lead to accidents, other forms of distraction while driving can include:
- Eating or drinking
- Personal grooming
- Adjusting climate or audio controls
- Other occupants
- Adjusting devices or controls like mirrors or seatbelts
- Objects or people on the side of the road
Regulations limit the amount of weight and the size of cargo that a large truck can haul, but not all drivers and trucking companies adhere to these rules. Overloaded and overweight trucks can pose a danger to other motorists on the road because a heavier truck can take longer to stop, will move faster going down hills, and cannot swerve out of the way as quickly to avoid an accident. In addition, the center of gravity of an overloaded and overweight truck can be elevated, making it more prone to a rollover, and the heavy weight can lead to tire failure.
Taking a Turn Too Fast
Sometimes, trucks have to make a tight turn in a city or corner on a highway ramp. Many truck accidents happen when trucks take these turns too quickly. If a truck driver takes a corner at a high rate of speed, the weight of the trailer can shift and flip the truck over on its side.
Poorly Maintained Trucks
Large commercial trucks can easily travel more than 100,000 miles a year. With this type of wear and tear, if trucks are not kept on a regular maintenance schedule, or routine safety inspections are not performed, or any known maintenance or safety issues are not addressed, a poorly maintained, defective or malfunctioning truck can pose a danger to everyone on the road. Mechanical issues such as faulty brakes and defective tires can lead to serious accidents.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Any driver is prohibited from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but when it comes to commercial truck drivers, the legal limits for alcohol or drugs are much stricter. However, alcohol and drug use by truck drivers continues to be the cause of many devastating accidents.
Truck drivers are required to follow a variety of safety rules and regulations when driving a large commercial truck. When an inexperienced truck driver is unaware of these rules and regulations, they may violate them and end up causing a truck crash as a result. In addition, truck drivers can cause crashes when they are unable to recognize dangers, fail to make correct decisions, and are unsure how to handle the truck in certain driving situations, such as snowy weather, weight shifting in the trailer, making tight turns in a city or lane changes on a highway, or braking properly when the truck starts speeding down a hill.
Large truck drivers must possess a commercial driver’s license in order to operate a truck. Unfortunately, just because someone obtains a CDL does not mean they are prepared to drive a large truck. Some trucking companies are now requiring their drivers to have some experience and a clean driving record before they let them hit the road, but others will hire drivers who are right out of driving school. A driver with inadequate training is an inexperienced driver who can be a danger to others on the road.
Regardless of the cause of your truck accident, if you sustained injuries or other damages, the experienced New Jersey truck accident lawyers at Parker Waichman can help to protect your legal rights. Contact us today to see what we can do for you.
Types of Trucking Accidents
Like other motor vehicles, large commercial trucks can be involved in intersection accidents or rear-end collisions. However, large trucks are particularly prone to crashes that are unique to them, including:
These types of accidents can occur if the road is icy, snowy or otherwise slick. A sudden application of the truck’s brakes can cause the cab of the truck to swing in one direction and the trailer to swing in the other. When other vehicles are caught up in these accidents, catastrophic injuries can result.
Due to the height, weight, and length of large trucks, they are more susceptible to rollover accidents. These types of accidents might happen when a truck takes a curve too quickly or veers out of a lane and hits a soft shoulder.
An underride accident is one in which the trailer hits a passenger vehicle and that smaller vehicle is forced under the truck. While some trucks have guards to prevent this from happening, they do not always stop an underride accident.
Tire Blowout Accidents
When a large truck’s tires blow out, the driver can lose control of their truck, particularly if they are traveling at high speed. When this happens, the truck can swerve out of its lane and end up in oncoming traffic.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
At Parker Waichman, our dedicated New Jersey truck accident attorneys have represented clients who have sustained a variety of injuries in truck accidents, including:
- Broken bones (tibia, femur, ankle, foot, toe, hand, fingers, arm, collarbone, vertebrae, neck bones, pelvis, sternum bones, nose, skull, jaw, ribs)
- Severed limbs
- Torn ligaments
- Brain injuries (concussion, coma, traumatic brain injuries)
- Herniated discs
- Spinal cord injuries
- Abdominal and pelvis injuries
- Chest injuries
- Traumatic cardiac arrest
- Emotional distress
If you have sustained injuries in a serious truck accident in New Jersey, you should consider contacting one of our experienced New Jersey truck accident lawyers today. Depending on your injuries, you might need extensive medical treatment, and you could be facing a long road to recovery. With the help of a knowledgeable New Jersey truck accident attorney, you can hold those who caused your accident responsible and get compensation for your injuries. Call Parker Waichman today to preserve your right to recover damages.
Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Accidents in New Jersey
If I Am in a Truck Accident in New Jersey, What Steps Should I Take?
If you are in an accident in New Jersey that involved a large truck, the first thing you need to do is to try to remain calm and determine the extent of your injuries. If you or others are injured, call 911 for assistance. If it is safe to do so, move your vehicle out of the way so that it is not blocking traffic.
In New Jersey, if you are in an accident, you should exchange contact information with the other parties involved, including names, phone numbers, addresses, license plate and driver’s license numbers, and automobile insurance information. If you can, also try to take pictures of the scene of the accident to document it in the event you decide to file a lawsuit in the future.
If the truck accident resulted in more than $500 worth of property damage, injury or death, then you are required to report the accident to the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission. You may also want to report your accident to your auto insurance company.
Above all, make sure you seek medical treatment as soon as possible for any injuries that you sustained. After you’ve received proper treatment, you can contact an experienced New Jersey truck accident lawyer to pursue legal action.
By When Do I Need to File a Truck Accident Lawsuit in New Jersey?
According to New Jersey law, the statute of limitations for truck accidents and other personal injury cases is only two years from the date of your injury or accident. In other words, you are required to file your lawsuit within two years or you risk losing your right to compensation for your injuries and other damages. That’s why it’s so important not to put off speaking with a truck accident attorney in New Jersey.
Is New Jersey a No-Fault State?
Yes. In the state of New Jersey, motorists must have a minimum amount of auto insurance, and if you are in a truck collision, your own insurance company should pay for your medical costs regardless who was at fault. This is called personal injury protection, or PIP. You also have the option to have PIP cover other damages, such as lost wages, funeral expenses, death benefits, and essential service benefits. If the cost of treatment for your injuries exceeds your PIP benefits, you might be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver regardless of the no-fault rules. To learn whether you’re eligible to file a legal claim for compensation, you’ll need to contact a New Jersey truck accident attorney.
If New Jersey Is a No-Fault Insurance State, Why Would I Need to Prove Fault in a Truck Accident Case?
Due to New Jersey’s no-fault system of insurance, your PIP benefits will cover your injuries in a truck accident no matter who is at fault, but if you want or need to recover additional compensation beyond what your PIP provides, you will need to prove liability. If you have missed work because of your injuries or your medical expenses have exceeded your PIP benefits, you likely will be able to file a lawsuit for these types of economic damages.
The type of insurance policy that you carry will determine whether you can recover non-economic damages like as pain and suffering and emotional distress. Basic auto insurance policies in New Jersey only provide you with a limited right to pursue damages, meaning that you usually will not be able to file a lawsuit for non-economic damages. But if you sustained serious injuries or fatal injuries, you can try to recover non-economic damages. Standard policies give you the option of a limited or unlimited right to file a lawsuit. When your policy provides an unlimited option, you can bring a lawsuit for non-economic damages no matter what injuries you suffered.
What Is Shared Fault in New Jersey?
In some instances, the opposing party in your truck accident case may try to assert that you are also at fault for the accident. If it turns out that you do actually share some of the liability for the accident, the amount of compensation to which you are entitled can be affected. New Jersey follows a modified comparative negligence scheme, meaning that if you are partially liable, the amount you can recover will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For instance, if a jury finds that your damages are worth $60,000 but you were 20% at fault for the accident, you would recover only $48,000, which is a 20% reduction of the total damages due to your liability. It is important to note that if you are more than 50% at fault, you will likely not recover any damages.
How Can I Establish That Another Party Was at Fault for My Accident?
When a truck driver is negligent, it means that their thoughtless or careless actions caused injury or damages to another. To prove that someone was at fault and negligent, you must first establish that they owed you a duty of care to act reasonably under the circumstances, that they breached that duty of care, that their careless actions caused the accident and your injuries, and that you were actually harmed.
In New Jersey, motorists have a responsibility to act with reasonable care when driving their vehicles. Some examples of negligent or unreasonable behavior include running a red light, texting while operating a vehicle, falling asleep while driving, and speeding. But when you’re trying to establish negligence in a truck accident, it can be a bit trickier, as more than one individual may be at fault. Other responsible parties besides the truck driver can include the trucking company, those responsible for maintaining and servicing the truck, and the manufacturer of defective truck parts. Your case will likely have to undergo an extensive discovery process that can include gathering photographs, police reports, eyewitness testimony, and expert testimony. Our New Jersey truck accident attorneys will work hard to compile the strongest possible case supporting your claim.
But What if I Can’t Afford a Lawyer to Represent Me in My Truck Accident Case?
Our personal injury lawyers take cases on a contingency-fee basis, meaning that you don’t have to pay anything out of your pocket for our services. Your lawyer won’t get paid unless your case successfully settles or you win at trial; they’ll receive a percentage of your recovery as their payment.
Why Choose Parker Waichman
for Your 18-Wheeler Accident Claim?
At Parker Waichman, we have earned a reputation for success due to the hard work and determination of our experienced lawyers. Our attorneys have secured more than $2 billion in compensation for our clients, and our law firm is highly respected by others in the legal community, including our fellow attorneys and judges. We’ve earned many honors, including an AVVO rating of 9.8 out of 10 and Lawdragon’s highest peer-review rating of “5 Dragons,” but while these accolades are appreciated, our primary focus is always on the work we do for our personal injury clients. By hiring one of our experienced truck accident lawyers, you can rest assured that we will do everything we can to obtain favorable results in your personal injury case.
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in any type of truck accident, a lawyer in New Jersey with Parker Waichman can help you stand up for your legal rights and get the compensation you deserve. Call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable New Jersey truck accident lawyer today.
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