According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, commercial tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks are involved in more than 6000 crashes each year on local highways. These devastating collisions cause about 100 fatalities annually, and the victims are typically passengers in other vehicles.
If you were struck by a negligent truck driver, resulting in you suffering severe injuries, you should speak with a knowledgeable injury attorney. Determining negligence in a truck wreck is a complicated process that requires comprehension of the laws and regulations that apply to the commercial trucking industry. A Bucks County truck accident lawyer can review your case and potentially help you hold negligent parties accountable.
Laws Regulating the Trucking Industry
Trucks are dangerous vehicles because of their weight, cumbersome handling, and large blind spots. The fact that commercial truckers might have significant financial incentives to deliver a load as quickly as possible adds to the hazard, as these incentives might encourage a trucker to speed, drive while fatigued, or take other dangerous risks.
Federal Laws and Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the ways commercial trucking firms and their drivers may operate in the United States. The agency issues work rules that all trucking operations must obey.
To combat the problem of driver fatigue leading to crashes, the rules limit a trucker’s driving time to 11 consecutive hours in a 14-hour period. After 14 hours, the driver must be off duty for at least ten hours.
Truckers also cannot be on-duty more than 60 hours in seven days or more than 70 hours in eight days. If a trucker meets this limit, they must have at least 34 hours off-duty.
State Laws and Regulations
Pennsylvania requires all drivers of commercial vehicles to hold a commercial driver’s license. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have a Pennsylvania driver’s license. Drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 must limit their commercial hauling to intrastate deliveries.
Applicants must also produce a valid medical certificate. Commercial drivers are required to have 20/40 vision in each eye with corrective lenses, be able to distinguish colors, and pass a hearing test. Diabetics who must inject insulin are not eligible for commercial driving licenses in Pennsylvania. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is also a disqualifying factor.
Obtaining a Pennsylvania commercial driver’s license requires both a written test and a road skills test. Commonwealth law requires truckers to report all traffic-related arrests, citations, or charges to their employer within 30 days. They must notify their employer of any traffic-related convictions within 15 days.
Proving Negligence in a Truck Crash
The injured person, or plaintiff, must prove someone else was negligent in order to claim damages. Failing to act as a reasonably careful individual would behave in similar circumstances is considered negligence. In general, proving negligence in a truck accident case requires a Bucks County plaintiff’s attorney to demonstrate that:
- The defendant had an obligation to the plaintiff
- They did not uphold the duty
- Their failure to uphold their obligation caused a crash
- The crash directly injured the plaintiff
- The plaintiff suffered documentable losses resulting from their injury
Truckers have an obligation to obey all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, and safely operate their big rigs to protect other users of the roadways. If the trucker were not obeying the law, that fact could indicate negligence on the part of the truck driver and their employer.
When mechanical failure is a factor in a wreck, the manufacturer of a defective part could be liable. If poor maintenance was the cause of the mechanical problem, the truck’s owner or service provider might be considered negligent. Depending on the circumstances, other potentially negligent parties could include the local government responsible for maintaining the road, the commercial driving school that trained the driver, and the company that loaded the trailer.
Why is it Important to Begin a Truck Wreck Claim Quickly?
42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated §5524 gives injured people two years to file a lawsuit seeking damages for personal injuries. Pennsylvania law also requires an accident victim to file a notice of claim within six months of an accident if they plan to sue the Commonwealth or a municipality. A diligent Bucks County attorney working on behalf of the injured party could investigate the 18-wheeler accident, identify potentially liable parties, negotiate with insurers, and file all the required notices to preserve the claimant’s rights.
It is important to secure evidence immediately in truck crashes. Commercial vehicles have a black box that records data about the truck’s speed, mechanical functioning, and other information pertinent to prove negligence. If the trucker or truck owner does not receive an immediate request to preserve the information on the black box, that information could be lost.
There are other investigatory avenues a local attorney could pursue, such as:
- Interviewing witnesses before their memories fade
- Identifying all potentially liable parties
- Determining whether the driver was an independent contractor or an employee
- Analyzing whether the truck and its driver were in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations
- Securing the truck’s maintenance records and reviewing them for irregularities
The sooner a claimant hires an attorney to begin this extensive process, the more likely the legal advocate might be able to build a strong case for substantial compensation.
Damages Available in 18-Wheeler Accident Cases
With the help of a qualified lawyer, an injured plaintiff in Bucks County could receive damages that compensate them for all their out-of-pocket expenses associated with the injuries they sustained due to a truck collision. These include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and future associated expenses.
A claimant may also receive money for losses that are not quantifiable. Some examples are pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of companionship, disability, and disfigurement. A skilled local attorney could identify these losses and persuade a judge or jury that the plaintiff deserves significant compensation for them.
Potential Barriers to Recovery
There are a few limits to the compensation available. If the plaintiff was negligent, the judge will reduce the damages award by a percentage that reflects the claimant’s fault. If Pennsylvania is a defendant, the Commonwealth’s liability in a personal injury claim is limited to $250,000 per occurrence and $1,000,000 in the aggregate. If a Pennsylvania municipality is the defendant, awards are limited to $500,000 in the aggregate.
Call a Bucks County Truck Accident Attorney
Insurance companies begin investigating truck accidents right away, with the intention of trying to limit their liability. It is critically important that you have someone on your side investigating at the same time, making sure evidence is not lost and your rights are preserved and protected.
Consult with a Bucks County truck accident lawyer as soon as you can after an collision with a commercial vehicle. Contact our office today for a complimentary review of your case.