Why Do Tractor-Trailer Accidents Occur?
Excessive speed, fatigue, distraction, and improper maintenance are often causes of tractor-trailer accidents. Tractor Trailers that travel at highway speeds (and particularly those that travel in excess of highway speeds) have difficulty bringing the vehicle safely to a stop when compared to other vehicles. The sheer mass of the vehicle (and its load) makes braking and control of the vehicle difficult, particularly in emergency situations. If Tractor Trailers are following smaller vehicles too closely and the smaller vehicles have to react to road hazards or other problems they encounter on the roadway, it is easy for an accident to occur when the Tractor Trailers cannot react in time. Additionally, a lot of accidents are caused when Tractor Trailers change lanes without regard to what vehicles are in the other lanes. Speeding, tailgating, and changing lanes without due vigilance are common causes for accidents with tractor-trailers. Some accidents are caused when Tractor Trailers do not properly secure the load and items fall from the vehicle into the path of oncoming cars. Oftentimes, accidents can occur when Tractor Trailers exit onto the shoulder of the roadway and do not properly position their vehicles outside the travel lane and do not properly alert other vehicles to the danger. Another cause of Tractor Trailer accidents is improper maintenance of the tires, brakes, and other systems, which can cause a loss of control.
Why Is An Accident Involving A Tractor-Trailer More Likely To Cause Injury Than One Involving An Automobile?
An accident involving a tractor-trailer is more likely to cause injury because of the huge mass and weight of the vehicle. When a Tractor Trailer is involved in an accident (particularly a highway accident) there is usually substantial damage to the smaller automobile or truck that came in contact with the Tractor Trailer. The sheer mass and weight of a Tractor Trailer makes collisions with smaller vehicles very catastrophic for the smaller vehicles. There will often be such extensive damage to the cars that interior occupancy space of the automobile is invaded because the crush damage on the car is so extensive. When the automobile’s crush damage is very extensive, the possibility of severe injury and death to the occupants of the automobile is increased. Oftentimes, the damage is so severe that even seatbelts and airbags cannot adequately protect the occupants of the automobile from the speed and mass of the Tractor Trailer. In fact, some of these crashes are so severe that the automobile’s gas tank can be compromised causing the vehicle to burst into flames. Sometimes the impact is so severe that it causes the automobile to overturn, which can cause serious injury to the occupants. Additionally, vehicles being pushed or forced off the roadway by a Tractor Trailer often collide with trees or other oncoming vehicles in a direct head-on collision. Tractor Trailers can jackknife and overturned and sometimes crush surrounding vehicles.
What Laws Or Regulations Must Trucking Companies Abide By?
There are a number of regulations, both State and Federal, that dictate how the vehicles are to be operated and maintained. All tractor-trailers must obey all roadway regulations such as speed limits, signal lights, and other roadway regulations. Sometimes speed limits are lower for trucks and tractor-trailers than automobiles and some roadways have special regulations governing their speed on certain grades. There are a number of regulations that pertain to the roadworthiness of the vehicle and regulations concerning the fatigue of the driver. There are regulations that dictate how much of a load the vehicles can carry as well as what type of inspections the vehicle must undergo.
What Do I Do Following A Tractor-Trailer Accident?
- Do not leave the scene of an accident, even a minor one.
- Protect yourself at the scene by using flares or flashers while you wait in a safe location.
- Call the police. Always make a police report.
- Accurately report to the police what happened, including any injuries that you feel you may have sustained. If you are not sure whether you have injuries but are shaken up, be sure the police officer understands that. If you overhear anyone giving a police officer inaccurate information, point that out to the police officer.
- Document everything that you can with photographs. Use your cell phone to take pictures of the vehicles, the damage to the vehicles, and the position of the vehicles. If you have visible injuries, you should photograph the injuries.
- In the event, the police do not respond to your request for a report or do not show up, make sure you obtain the name address and telephone number of all persons involved in the accident, including the driver, passengers, and witnesses. Obtain insurance information, take photographs of the driver’s licenses and insurance cards.
- Notify your own insurance company as soon as possible of the accident. Since that encounter with your own insurance company will probably be recorded, it is advisable to seek the advice of an attorney before contacting your own insurance company. Do not speak with the opposing insurance company.
- If you were injured, seek medical attention immediately. The sooner doctors are able to identify your problem, the sooner you can receive treatment and be on the road to recovery. It is important for your doctors to record even minor injuries, because these minor injuries may progress into major injuries that never resolve.
- Try to keep all documents and information relating to this accident in one location for easy access.
- The most important thing you can do to protect your rights after an accident is to immediately contact an attorney to guide you through the process. Insurance policies, (particularly your own), have cooperation clauses and if you do not abide by the terms of the contract your coverages can be voided. Seek the help of an experienced attorney.
How Long Do I Have To File A Personal Injury Claim As A Result Of A Tractor-Trailer Accident?
In Louisiana, the statute of limitations requires that in order to preserve a claim for damages, a lawsuit must be filed within one year of the date of the accident. If a claim is not filed in a court of competent jurisdiction, within one year of the date of the accident, all rights that the claimant may have, will be lost. In order to preserve your rights of recovery, a lawsuit must be filed within one year. Insurance companies are aware of this time limitation. Should you continue to negotiate with them beyond the one year, insurers will often inform you that they are no longer responsible for payment of the claim because lawsuit was not filed within the prescription deadline. Filing a lawsuit within one-year deadline interrupts prescription and allows the claim to be preserved and negotiations may continue. The case does not necessarily have to go to trial once the lawsuit is filed, but unless the suit is filed all rights will be lost and there will be no further negotiation. It is not advisable to wait until just before the one-year anniversary of the accident to seek the assistance of an attorney. Under Louisiana law, if the claim you are making is against your own insurance company under the uninsured motorist provisions of the policy (because the responsible party was either uninsured or underinsured) the law allows a two-year prescriptive period within which suit must be filed. It is never a good idea to wait until the last minute to file these suits as the accuracy of the information contained in the lawsuit is important and sometimes the information needed cannot be immediately assembled prior to the prescription deadline. Accordingly, at the first indication that you are not going to be treated fairly by the insurance company, you should contact an attorney. The sooner you contact an attorney after the accident, the easier it is for your rights to be protected.
Who Can I Sue When I Am Involved In A Tractor-Trailer Accident?
Suit can be filed against the operator of the vehicle, the company he was employed by( or on a mission for), and any vendor that serviced the vehicle that may have contributed to the cause of the accident, along with the insurers. Proper investigation may lead to the discovery of additional defendants in a tractor-trailer accident. For example, an outside vendor may have recently performed faulty repairs on the tractor-trailer brakes, causing the accident. In that event, that repair shop may be a potential defendant, along with the shop’s insurance company. Investigation may also reveal that the load that the tractor-trailer was carrying was improperly loaded or fastened and that contributed to the accident. The vendor or independent contractor that has something to do with the loading or tie-down process may be partially or wholly at fault and that individual and company’s insurance may also be a defendant. Many factors go into determining who is and who is not a proper defendant to bear responsibility for a claim and therefore, a thorough investigation should be conducted in connection with any serious tractor-trailer accident.
For more information on Tractor-Trailer Accidents In Louisiana, a free legal evaluation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (504) 332-8188 today.
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