18-Wheeler Accidents

Advocates for Victims of Careless Truckers - Tractor-Trailer Accident

There can be no dispute that an 80,000 pound fully loaded tractor-trailer combination barreling down the interstate poses a serious risk to others navigating Mississippi roadways. Approximately 438,000 large trucks were involved in collisions during the most recent year for which National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics are available. These collisions caused 3,903 fatalities and accounted for 111,000 more injuries. Because a forty ton 18-wheeler can outweigh a passenger car by 26 times, the victims injured or killed in trucking accidents are occupants of other vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians in more than four out of every five collisions according to the NHTSA.

While many people assume semi-truck collisions are like other motor vehicle accidents, our Mississippi trucking accident attorneys recognize the unique issues that make big-rig personal injury litigation complex. Trucking litigation requires attorneys with special knowledge and experience regarding the complex issues involved in tractor-trailer accident legal claims. Our attorneys’ success in navigating the legal and factual issues in trucking accident cases has contributed to our law firm earning its designation as the 14th Winningest Firm in the Country as featured in the July 2002 National Law Journal. Our partners at Porter & Malouf, P.A. also have earned “AV” ratings, the highest rating bestowed on attorneys from Martindale-Hubbell based in part on the hundreds of millions of dollars we have recovered for personal injury and wrongful death victims and their families.

Why You Need an Experienced Semi-Truck Accident

Trucking accident lawsuits typically involve more complex factual and legal issues than the average car accident. The key point to understand is that 18-wheeler accidents are not just “motor vehicle accidents involving a large vehicle.” Trucking accident victims can benefit from a top Mississippi trucking accident lawyer because this specialized area of motor vehicle litigation requires the following:

  • Knowledge of trucking industry practices and customs

  • Access to highly regarded trucking accident experts and investigators who can be quickly dispatched to an accident scene

  • Comprehensive understanding of the detailed regulatory structure that governs the trucking industry

  • Extensive experience and specialized training in trucking accident litigation

Our highly rated lawyers have earned the moniker as one of the winningest law firms in the U.S. based on recovering hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients in complex personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Our law firm has successfully represented clients in complex trucking litigation, so we have the knowledge, tenacity, and experience that tractor-trailer accident lawsuits require. The large verdicts and judgments we have obtained for our clients include over $388 million recovered for our clients between our five largest settlements and verdicts. Because of our reputation for large recoveries, skilled litigation, client accessibility, and high ethical standards, we have the respect of large insurance companies that represent commercial carriers, insurance defense attorneys, and judges. This recognition of our success in and out of the courtroom allows us to negotiate from a position of strength and creates trust and respect that facilitates no-nonsense communication and results.

Why Do Semi-Truck Accidents Occur

Tractor-trailer accidents that cause catastrophic injuries and wrongful death can result from negligence involving multiple parties. Our law firm conducts asset searches and extensive discovery so that we can identify all responsible parties and sources of insurance coverage available to satisfy a judgment or settlement. This approach allows us to maximize the recovery we obtain for our clients because a verdict is little more than words on a piece of paper without the ability to obtain funds from the defendants. Some of the parties that might be responsible for trucking accidents include:

  • Truck Drivers: Many drivers with a commercial license often feel pressure to ignore safety practices and skirt trucking regulations to increase their income. Truck drivers might disregard hours of service (HOS) rules that prevent driver fatigue or use methamphetamines and other intoxicating substances to drive beyond the point of exhaustion. Unrealistic delivery schedules also can create pressure to speed or to take routes that are not advisable because of steep grades. When a commercial driver disregards trucking regulations or operates a big-rig in an unreasonably unsafe manner, the driver can be liable for causing a collision that results in injuries or fatalities.

  • Commercial Carriers: Trucking companies usually are responsible for the negligent conduct committed by their employees, which includes truck drivers. The legal doctrine of “respondeat superior,” which means “let the employer answer” makes an employer vicariously liable for the negligence of an employee. However, many commercial carriers engage in strategies like designating truck drivers as “independent contractors” in an attempt to evade liability. Our experienced Mississippi trucking accident attorneys look beyond such designations to the nature of the relationship between the parties to defeat such tactics. Our law firm also pursues liability against trucking companies based on negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention. The trucking company also has a duty to properly inspect and maintain the trucks it uses to transport cargo. Our law firm knows that establishing the liability of the trucking company is imperative because it will tend to have more extensive insurance coverage than the truck driver.

  • Independent Maintenance Company: Some commercial carriers enter into maintenance contracts with third-party companies. These companies have a responsibility to exercise reasonable care when inspecting and maintaining tractor-trailers. If the brakes fail on a semi-truck because of improper maintenance, the maintenance provider can be financially responsible for the resulting losses.

  • Vehicle/Part Manufacturers: While improper maintenance of brakes or tires plays a role in a fair number of collisions involving large trucks, defective parts or vehicles also contribute to some crashes. When a vehicle component or semi-truck is defective, the manufacturer might be legally responsible.

  • Shipper: While neglect in performing truck maintenance and inattentive driving cause many tractor-trailer accidents, improperly loaded cargo also can contribute to a collision. The shipper might be liable for injuries in this situation. If the load is unbalanced, overweight, or improperly secured, the trucking company and driver typically also share responsibility for this type of hazard.

The Challenge of Preserving Evidence in Trucking Litigation

Trucking companies anticipate that their drivers will be involved in accidents that generate litigation. In response to this risk, commercial carriers and their drivers have developed practices that frequently result in important evidence being manipulated or hidden. For example, federal regulations require truck drivers to maintain logbooks to document HOS compliance. These records are so routinely manipulated that they are derisively referred to as “lie books” in the trucking industry. Driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) that document compliance with inspection requirements also can be inaccurate.

Our tractor-trailer accident lawyers take prompt action to neutralize such tactics. Our law firm routinely sends a “spoliation letter” to the trucking company, which indicates the big-rig and truck data recorder (“black box”) are evidence in pending litigation and must be preserved unaltered. If the trucking company persists in attempting to repair the big-rig, which interferes with accident reconstruction analysis or by tampering with the information saved on the data recorder, we might seek a restraining order. The bottom line is that trucking litigation requires expertise in evidence preservation to prevent much-needed information or evidence from disappearing.

Because our trucking accident lawyers have extensive experience with trucking litigation, we also have the ability to use the discovery process to expose falsified logbook entries and fictional DVIRs. We carefully analyze all “black box” data from the truck’s data recorder. This data can provide critical information about hours of service, vehicle maintenance, sudden braking, speed before the collision, the location of the big-rig, and other valuable facts. Along with this valuable data, our lawyers obtain and scrutinize fuel receipts, lodging bills, GPS data, email correspondence, the driver’s personnel file, safety violation records, and other relevant documents.

Speak to a Semi-Truck Accident Lawyer Today

Porter & Malouf, P.A. is committed to pursuing justice and the maximum compensation for victims of inattentive and unreasonably careless truck drivers and indifferent commercial carriers that establish unrealistic schedules. Our attorneys routinely elicit the assistance of accident reconstruction experts, trucking industry experts, medical experts, actuaries, engineering experts, and many other recognized leaders in their field to construct compelling cases for our clients.

While the damages you can recover will depend on the unique facts of your case, we might be able to pursue monetary damages for medical and hospital expenses, unpaid earnings, property damage, pain and suffering, disfigurement, lost future earnings, loss of companionship of a spouse, punitive damages and/or other appropriate damages. We invite you to contact Porter & Malouf, P.A. at (866) 957-1173 or complete an online contact form for a free case evaluation.

Sources:

https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812279

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2014