The trucking industry is serious business in the United States. Our economy is reliant on the many trucks moving up and down the highways throughout America. Arizona has some very busy trucking routes that are used to brings goods in and out of California to the rest of the United States, from Mexico to the United States, and even on towards Canada. In fact, border patrol in Nogales, Arizona, is one of the busiest entry points in the United States for truckers.
But, trucking can also be a dangerous activity. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported there were an estimate 438,000 large truck-related accidents in 2014 that were reported to the police. That same year, 3,903 people were killed and roughly 111,000 people injured.
Of the truck-related accident fatalities throughout the entire U.S. in 2014:
- 73 percent were drivers or passengers of other vehicles;
- 17 percent were occupants of large trucks; and
- 10 percent were non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.)
Of the truck-related accident injuries throughout the entire U.S. in 2014:
- 74 percent were drivers or passengers of other vehicles;
- 23 percent were occupants of large trucks; and
- 3 percent were non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.).
In Arizona, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation, there were a total of 2,130 truck-related accident fatalities and injuries in 2015, and of that number, 32 persons died and 2,198 persons were injured, most of which were severe. Of all motor vehicle accidents in Arizona in 2015, there were a total of 895 persons killed and 53,554 injured. Truck-related accidents, therefore, made up nearly 4% of all fatalities due to vehicle accidents and just over 4% of all personal injuries due to vehicle accidents.
If you are involved in a truck-related accident, it is important that you know your rights and attain legal representation to ensure your rights are upheld.
TRUCK ACCIDENTS IN TEMPE, AZ & NEGLIGENCE
A truck accident is defined as an accident involving a vehicle weighing over 10,000 pounds and which results in property damage, bodily injury and/or death. Almost always one of the drivers in the accident is at fault. But with truck accidents, the net of possible multiple parties responsible is more than a car accident and almost always include the truck driver.
Who are the potential responsible parties?
The following are some examples of parties that could be liable when a truck accident happens:
- The Truck Driver
- The Truck Owner
- The Trucking Company/Employer
- The Trailer Owner
- The Truck Leasing Company
- Cargo Shipper
- Truck Loaders
- Truck & Truck Parts Manufacturers.
The number of potential responsible parties in truck accidents is more than other motor vehicle accidents because of the nature of the trucking industry. Unlike passenger cars where one person owns the car and uses it primarily for personal use, truck drivers may or may not own their truck and they use the truck for business purposes. Several persons and entities can be responsible for the truck and the truck driver, and as such, can also be responsible when the truck driver causes or is in an accident with another driver, like you.
How do you prove responsibility for the truck accident?
All drivers owe a duty of care to each other, which includes:
- Driving safely on the road and looking out for each other;
- Complying with all traffic laws applicable to where they are driving;
- Driving defensively to do all you can to avoid an accident.
Determining responsibility first depends on determining what the cause was so that you can determine what duty was breached, and therefore, who was responsible.
What are some of the main causes of truck accidents?
Some trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds; the mere weight and size of the truck can cause serious and life-threatening accidents. Maneuvering these heavy machinery on the road can be difficult, which poses a threat to drivers in Tempe and throughout Arizona. Some common causes of truck accidents can include any one or combination of the below:
- Insufficiently trained or inexperienced drivers
- Tire blowouts
- Airbrake failure
- Too-wide load
- Unsecured load
- Unbalanced load
- Blind spots
- Driving while drowsy
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failure to adhere to traffic lights, signs and signals
- Reckless driving.
Truck Drivers’ Duties
Arizona courts have recognized a higher standard of care for truck drivers. Courts will strictly enforce state and federal regulations, and when a truck driver violates one of these laws and the outcome is an accident causing injures, the court will consider the violation as “per se,” which means automatic proof of negligence.
Finding evidence of regulation violations, therefore, will be an important and an effective way to win your claim. An experienced personal injury or truck accident attorney will file a claim and, if necessary, a lawsuit. During the process, the truck accident lawyers will subpoena documents to gain access to the driver’s CDL test results, any drug test screenings, criminal background, and, among other things, the truck driver’s logbook.
With this information, the truck accident lawyer can identify any abuse or violation of state and/or federal trucking regulations. Two of the most frequently violated truck regulations are: (1) CDL driving regulations; and (2) logbook and record keeping.
CDL Driving Regulations
Truck drivers are required to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). A truck driver must pass a series of tests designed for truck drivers and administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The larger the truck or tractor trailer, the more challenging the tests. Overall, the driver must have full proficiency in the following:
- Parking, reversing, maneuvering, etc. the truck;
- Maintaining the engines, light, tires, brakes, etc.;
- Mastering routine inspections before traveling; and
- Knowing in full hazardous materials containment regulations and procedures.
It is the law that semi-truck drivers keep logbook and records of the following:
- Date cargo load picked up;
- Weight of truck right before and after cargo loaded;
- Date of delivery;
- Number of hours driven each day; and
- Amount of time rested.
Logbooks hold a wealth of information and can point to regulation violations that are among the most common causes of trucking accidents in Arizona: weight and size regulations and hours of service in Arizona.
Arizona Weight and Size Regulations
Weight and size regulations are set at a standard deemed the safest for commercial trucks and driving on the interstates alongside other vehicles. The legal trucking loads in Arizona are:
- Length and/or load: 65 feet
- Height and/or load: 14 feet
- Width and/or load: 14 feet
- Weight of vehicle and/or vehicle combination: 40 tons, or 80,000 pounds.
There are also oversize shipping and heavy loads, but these types of trucks and truck loads require a special permit from the Arizona Department of Transportation. These trucking loads are:
- Length and/or load: 120 feet
- Height and/or load: 16 feet
- Width and/or load: 14 feet
- Weight of vehicle and/or vehicle combination: 125 tons, or 250,000 pounds.
If a truck violates one of these regulations, it can make the truck all the more difficult to maneuver. Overloaded cargo is one factor into many truck-related accidents.
Arizona Hours of Service Rule
According to federal law, a truck driver must:
- Only drive a maximum of 11 hour intervals;
- Rest for 10 continuous hours between driving intervals before getting back on the road;
- Not drive more than 14 hours’ total in one day;
- Not drive after 60 hours on duty in 7 consecutive days, or after 70 hours on duty in 8 consecutive days; and
- Rest for at least 34 hours after each 7 or 8 consecutive day period before starting another 7 or 8 consecutive day period.
Truck drivers who violate this rule are at an increased risk of driving while drowsy. Fatigue driving is also a leading cause of truck-related accidents. In fact, according to CSA data trail, Arizona ranks 10th for violations of hours of service rule.
The above are important regulatory rules, but more regulations apply, including specific regulations for 2-driver trucks with a sleeping cab, or short-haul drivers. Truck drivers found violating any of the above regulations, other regulations, or other traffic laws, will be found liable.
Other Parties’ Duties
Trucking companies, employers of truckers, trailer owners, truck leasing companies, cargo shippers, truck loaders, truck and truck parts manufacturers all owe a duty of care. Generally, they must inspect and maintain their trucks and equipment, be mindful of truck loads (weighing, securing and balancing), and comply with standards of the industry and federal and state law. Failure to fulfill any of these duties or other industry standard duty could mean a finding of liability, too.
For instance, quality control of the vehicle is an important factor for inspections that occur regularly in Arizona. It is the duty of manufacturers, suppliers, maintenance facilities, as well as (depending on the nature of the relationship between parties) the employer, truck leasing companies, and/or truck owner to inspect and maintain the quality of the truck. This means any of these parties could be liable if this duty applies to them and they breach it. Thus, if a part is defective, the manufacturer can be liable. If the truck belongs to a leasing agency and repairs were not made as needed from routine inspections, then it can be liable.
TRUCK ACCIDENTS IN TEMPE, AZ & COMPENSATION
Your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation into the truck collision. This investigation will reveal the cause(s) of the accident, duties that should have been upheld and breach(es) of any of those duties and then links between the breach(es), responsible party(s) and the damages incurred, including property and personal injury.
What are some injuries that could result from a truck accident in Tempe, AZ?
Truck accidents can result in some of the worst accidents. Typically, the truck collides with a smaller passenger car, and it is the driver and passengers of the smaller car who are most likely to sustain serious or life-threatening injuries. Examples of common truck collision injuries are as follows:
- Back and neck trauma
- Cracked jaw
- Crushed vertebrae
- Fractured bones
- Facial disfigurement
- Head injures
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Lacerations or cuts
- Abdominal injuries
- Internal injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Seatbelt injuries
- Wrongful death.
Any of the above injuries, regardless how little or big, can cause pain and suffering. Of course, some injuries will exacerbate the pain and suffering you endure, which is all the more reason you need experienced truck accident lawyers in Tempe to help you with the process. By hiring a truck accident lawyers, you let them deal with the legal aspect as you cope with your pain.
CONSTRUCTION ZONES & WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
Truck-related accident that happen at work involve a separate process: workers’ compensation. If you work in construction and were injured in a truck accident while on the job, you have the right to workers’ compensation. But also, you may have the right to file a claim as well, especially if workers’ compensation does not cover all your damages. Workers’ compensation can help you with your immediate financial concerns; a claims settlement will ensure you are reimbursed not just for economic damages but all your non-economic damages for all the pain and suffering you have endured.
You, as the employee, may find the whole process intimidating, and your employer may not be forthcoming with the rights owed to you. The sooner you find a truck accident and personal injury attorney, the sooner you will be able to file all the claims accessible to you.
Who should I contact if I’ve been in an accident caused by a truck in Tempe, AZ?
If you or a loved one has been involved in a crash caused by a negligent truck driver in Tempe, Arizona, you have rights. Our experienced truck accident lawyers will help you determine your eligibility to file a claim against the negligent party(s). Nathaniel Preston is an aggressive yet compassionate truck accident attorney serving Tempe, Arizona, and the greater Phoenix area community. Contact him today to discuss your case.