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Heavy trucks first appeared on highways shortly after the invention of the automobile. Henry Ford had to invent a larger form of motor vehicle which could ship and transport his Model T cars. Heavy trucks slowly evolved over time to the oversized 18-wheelers which are a prominent fixture on highways of the nation. While heavy trucks certainly play a pivotal role in commerce throughout the nation, they also play a role in the number of accidents each year.
The number of heavy trucks on the road has increased in recent years due to the ongoing advances in all kinds of e-commerce, as well as the increase in oil and gas operations throughout the country. Furthermore, Nebraska is a hub for many large trucks to pass through, and as a result, many car accidents involve heavy trucks. While heavy truck drivers may not always be the responsible party, any impact or crash into a heavy truck can result in severe injuries for everyone involved. Nationally, nearly 4,000 people were killed in heavy truck accidents in 2012.This increase in the number of heavy trucks is directly correlated to the increase in the number of truck accidents throughout the country and the state of Nebraska.
According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the cause of truck accidents is split into critical events and critical reasons on behalf of the driver. Critical events include running outside of the travel lane (32%), loss of vehicle control (29%), or rear-ending a vehicle (22%). Critical reasons include:
- Speeding (6.5%)- Driving too fast for conditions can prevent a large truck from stopping in time to avoid a collision. Trucks need more stopping distance than passenger vehicles, making it even more important for truck drivers to obey speed limits.
- Careless driving (4%)- Careless driving can refer to many behaviors, from merging without looking to rolling through stop signs. Drivers may make careless mistakes that have serious consequences.
- Driver distraction/inattention (5.7%)- Distracted drivers may not notice roadway hazards such as a stopped big rig or crossing pedestrian. Cellphones, food, radios, GPSs, passengers and external distractions could all cause a truck accident.
- Failure to yield the right-of-way (4.5%)- Truck drivers owe a duty to yield the right-of-way at stoplights and intersections, when applicable. Ignoring the right-of-way could lead to a T-bone accident or head-on collision.
- Impairment (4%)- Driver impairment by drugs, alcohol or fatigue can increase the risk of collisions. Driver impairment can make it impossible to respond correctly to changing roadway conditions.
Associated factors include problems with the vehicle such as a braking failure and environmental and hazardous road conditions. Driver negligence causes most trucking accidents in Nebraska. If every driver paid more attention to the road and obeyed traffic laws, it would significantly decrease the rate of accidents.
Involvement Rate of Large Trucks in Injury Crashes Per 100,000 Registered Trucks
Nebraska Truck Accident Statistics
Thousands of commercial trucks move through Omaha daily. Nebraska is an important state in the trucking industry. The state Department of Transportation reports that the number of fatal accidents over-represents heavy trucks, meaning they cause fatal accidents more often than their passenger vehicle counterparts.
In 2016, 2,050 accidents total involved heavy trucks. Forty-five of these accidents were fatal, while 610 caused injuries. Heavy trucks accounted for 3.5% of all crashes in Nebraska yet about 15% of all fatal crashes. The most common types of heavy trucks involved in traffic accidents in Nebraska are utility trucks, followed by standard pickup trucks and heavy trucks.
Most Common Times for Trucking Accidents
The most dangerous time for truck accidents in Nebraska is in the daytime and during the middle of the week. Statistically, more fatal truck accidents happen between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. than any other time of day. Midday drowsiness and distracted driving could contribute to these accidents. The weekdays are more dangerous than the weekends due to a higher rate of commercial truck activity.
Sunset can also be a deadly time for truck accidents. When the sun goes down, long-haul truckers may still have hours to go before they can rest. Driving alone late at night can lead to driver drowsiness and dangerous habits, such as texting or watching videos to stay awake. A drowsy driver may be more likely to speed, drift out of the lane, ignore rights-of-way and cause head-on collisions.
Truck driver fatigue is a well-documented issue. One year, the FMCSA reported at least 13% of commercial drivers involved in serious accidents suffered from fatigue at the time. Truck driver fatigue can stem from poor nutrition, obesity, sleep apnea, trouble falling asleep in the sleeper berth, long hours alone on the road, using stimulants such as caffeine and ignoring hours of service regulations. Driver fatigue can make it dangerous to be on the road with truck drivers at any day or time.
Truck Accident Injuries
Truck accidents often result in severe injuries to all victims of the accident which lead to lengthy hospital stays and long recovery periods. These injuries often include:
As the victim of a truck accident, you are entitled to bring a claim for your injuries. Truck accidents often pit an ordinary motor vehicle against a vehicle which is 4 times its size. An ordinary sedan or sports utility vehicle cannot easily offer protection from a heavy truck. While cars are now equipped with more safety features, these often do not make much of a difference when a severe truck accident occurs.
A truck accident claim can consider the following expenses when calculating the full amount of damages:
- Hospital expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Lost wages
- Future earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
While many of these damages can be easily calculated in time, a personal injury attorney with experience knows how to project future damages that will impact your life in the years to come. If you suffered a serious injury that results in a complete alteration to your daily life, you will need to factor in ongoing medical expenses and rehabilitative care, as well as the emotional distress which occurs from this type of injury. Many victims also experience a loss of income during their recovery period if their employer does not offer disability leave. A personal injury attorney will take into account all of these factors in calculating the resulting claim.
It is important that you do not sign a settlement agreement immediately after the accident occurs. The responsible party’s insurance company will often try to settle their claim with you shortly after the accident occurs. However, keep in mind that anything you sign could relinquish your ability to bring a claim for damages later on. While an insurance company may promise you a set amount of money immediately, you may be entitled to a larger amount.
Employer Liability for a Truck Accident
Truck accidents are unique in that they do not just involve two vehicle drivers. They may also involve the trucking company, truck owner, leasing company or cargo loaders. An employer’s vicarious liability for its employees applies to most truck accident cases. Although most truck drivers operate as independent contractors, trucking companies will still be liable for their actions and misconduct under federal law.
Holding a truck company accountable for a truck driver’s negligence takes proving that the driver breached a duty of care and that this action or omission caused the collision. It will also take proving that the truck driver was performing work-related duties at the time of the accident. A truck company may also be responsible for an accident due to its negligence, such as a lack of proper driver training or failing to conduct background checks.
The Knowles Law Firm can help you hold a trucking company in Nebraska accountable for your injuries. We have years of experience in this practice area. We are not afraid to go up against the largest trucking corporations in the country in pursuit of damages on your behalf. Our attorneys can help you prove the trucking company’s liability using available evidence. We can help you get the most for your claim.
Manufacturer Liability for a Truck Accident
Some truck accident lawsuits involve product liability rather than a trucking company’s negligence alone. Product liability is a product manufacturer or distributor’s financial responsibility for injuries and deaths that defective items cause. A semi-truck accident claim may involve product liability if the truck or passenger vehicle contained a defect that contributed to injuries.
- Tire blowout: Tire blowouts on 18-wheelers can cause the truck to lose control and rollover. A tire may experience a blowout when it contains manufacturing defects such as thin walls or a lack of tread.
- Bad brakes: A truck’s brake system must function optimally for the safety of everyone on the road. Defective brakes may give out at a crucial time, causing the big rig to jackknife or careen out of control.
- Loose cargo: Trucking companies and cargo loaders must obey federal cargo securement laws. If the load straps and locks they use contain defects, however, the truck could lose its load on the road. Lost loads can cause deadly personal injuries.
- Hydraulic problems: The hydraulic pumps in a commercial truck could malfunction and cause an accident if they contain defects. Defective or dangerous hydraulic pumps may leak fluid, overheat or fail during transport.
- Defective safety equipment: Regardless of who caused the crash, if the airbag or seat belt did not perform as intended, the item’s manufacturer could be responsible for injuries. Defective safety equipment in a commercial truck or passenger car could contribute to serious injuries.
Defective truck equipment could be the manufacturer’s fault if the item had a defect when it left the factory. It could also be the truck company’s fault if the product became defective over time due to a lack of proper maintenance. Poor fleet maintenance has contributed to thousands of serious and deadly truck accidents over the years. It is a company’s responsibility to properly inspect and repair its trucks.
When to Call an Omaha Truck Accident Attorney
A commercial truck accident in Omaha is not your standard car crash. Determining liability and proving fault can be difficult against a trucking company in Nebraska. Many parties could share fault for the accident. You may face countersuits alleging your responsibility for the accident. Hiring an attorney can remove the burden of the claims process from your shoulders.
While you focus on medical treatments for your injuries, your attorney can investigate your truck accident and determine its proximate cause. Your lawyer can gather evidence such as the truck’s black box information and the driver’s electronic logging device records. Your attorney will build a case against the defendant(s) in pursuit of fair compensation on your behalf. A lawyer will know how to negotiate for maximum compensation.
The Knowles Law Firm | Omaha, Nebraska
If you or a loved one have been involved in a truck accident, do not hesitate to contact the Knowles Law Firm. Our truck accident attorneys in Omaha have years of experience in bringing truck accident claims on behalf of victims of these accidents. We understand the intricacies of truck accidents and how different they are from ordinary car accident claims. Our injury attorneys will work through your claim with you and ensure that we are accurately representing the facts of the case to get you the maximum amount of compensation you deserve for your injuries. Contact our Omaha, Nebraska office today for your initial free consultation.
“I have known Jim Knowles, Jr. for more than 20 years. I was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident and have not been able to work since. The responsible insurance company initially denied my claim. Mr. Knowles filed suit on my behalf and, through his efforts, I was able to obtain a settlement sufficient to replace my loss of income. He has remained my attorney and friend ever since. I have referred several family members and friends to him through the years and would not think of using a different lawyer.” – Ray T.