Pennsylvania and New Jersey have lots of roadways which truck drivers use to deliver goods and services on a daily basis. When a truck driver fails to drive with reasonable care to avoid a collision, the likelihood of a devastating crash is high. If you have been hurt in a wreck with a careless trucker or lost a loved one in a commercial vehicle collision, it is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible.
A Montgomery County, Pennsylvania truck accident lawyer can help you understand how the legal process works and handle the complexity of investigating the wreck. If you are facing serious injuries and are unsure what to do next, a knowledgeable Montgomery County, PA injury attorney can provide you with sound guidance and help you determine the next steps for your case.
Who is Liable for a Commercial Vehicle Collision?
When it comes to truck crash claims, it is often possible to trace liability back to more than one party. A Montgomery County lawyer with experience handling complex truck collision cases would investigate the accident. The sooner a truck accident can be investigated the better as there is often physical evidence at the scene, accident reconstruction data, video, witness statements and more that need to be gathered as quickly as possible or can be permanently lost.
Besides the truck driver, parties who could be legally liable for someone’s big rig wreck damages include the truck company, owner, manufacturer, and the company responsible for loading cargo onto the truck. Common examples of negligence that could lead to a severe semi-truck crash include defective vehicle manufacturing, speeding, drunk driving, fatigued driving, transporting overweight cargo, distracted driving, and reckless driving.
How Do Federal Trucking Regulations Factor into Accident Claims?
One of the most common ways in which trucking companies are found directly liable for truck accidents—as opposed to vicariously liable for the negligence of their employee—is based on a violation of federal or state trucking laws. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets numerous limitations on how long truck drivers can stay on the road in one trip, what kinds of breaks they must have between shifts on the road, and how large and heavy trucks can be. However, trucking companies sometimes force their workers to ignore these rules in an attempt to save time and money In the event this conduct leads to a wreck, the company may bear liability for ensuing damages.
For example, under 49 Code of Federal Regulations §395.3, property-carrying commercial truck drivers cannot do the following:
- Drive for more than eight consecutive hours without a break of at least 30 minutes
- Drive for more than 11 total hours during a single shift
- Remain on-duty for more than 14 consecutive hours
- Work for more than 60 hours in a seven-day period or more than 70 hours in an eight-day period, with “periods” ending after at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.
Additionally, drivers must be off duty for at least 10 hours between shifts. If a driver is forced to stay on the road longer than the limits set by this rule, they may become too fatigued to operate their vehicle safely. Accordingly, liability for an accident stemming from that fatigue would generally lie with the driver’s employer rather than the driver themselves. Working with a skilled Montgomery County truck wreck attorney can be essential when it comes to collecting and presenting evidence of FMCSA rule violations.
Steps to Take Immediately After a Truck Wreck
Before someone injured in a truck accident starts the civil litigation process, there are several preliminary actions they should take. After taking these steps, it is essential to obtain skilled legal counsel to improve their chances of a successful damages claim.
First, at the scene of the accident, everyone involved should stop their vehicles out of the flow of traffic if possible, trade identifying information with each other, and assist injured individuals—including themselves—as required by state law. Additionally, anyone who believes they may have grounds for a civil claim should take photos and/or videos of the accident scene and get contact information from witnesses, as this could prove to be crucial evidence in their ensuing case.
Next, a prospective civil plaintiff should seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if they feel fine immediately after the wreck. Certain types of injuries can be hard to detect in the hours and even days following a serious truck crash. Furthermore, formal documentation of existing injuries will be critical to civil recovery.
Finally, anyone involved in an accident resulting in severe property damage, injury, or death must report that incident to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation within five days, unless the police have already begun or concluded an investigation into the accident. The correct form to file out can be found in electronic form here.
Starting a Truck Wreck Lawsuit
The deadline to file a semi-truck crash claim in Montgomery County, in most instances, is within two years from the date of the accident. If someone is killed in a truck collision, their family would have up to two years from the date of the person’s passing to file a wrongful death action for compensation.
The statute of limitations from truck accident claims involving minors two years after their 18th birthday. It is vital to understand and comply with the statutory deadline, as failure to file a case in time could forfeit any financial recovery. An experienced attorney in the area can ensure someone injured in a truck wreck files their claim before the deadline expires.
Recoverable Damages in an 18-Wheeler Accident
While the plaintiff’s recoverable compensation in a Montgomery County truck wreck case would depend on the extent of their losses, a lawyer might be able to help them secure a variety of monetary damages. These damages could include their lost wages, pain, suffering, medical expenses, emotional distress, disability, and future lost earning capacity. The plaintiff may also be entitled to claim punitive damages if the truck driver behaved egregiously.
Modified Comparative Negligence in Montgomery County
Under 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 7102, a plaintiff can be found partially to blame for their injuries and still potentially be allowed financial recovery. The law states that if the claimant is 50 percent or less at fault for what happened, they can collect monetary damages.
However, their recovery would be limited based on their percentage of negligence. For example, if the plaintiff is 40 percent responsible for their injuries, they could still collect up to 60 percent of their awarded compensation. If the plaintiff’s percentage of negligence exceeds 50 percent, they are barred from recovery.
Contact a Montgomery County, PA Truck Accident Attorney Right Away
A Montgomery County, PA truck accident lawyer could render invaluable legal help during this difficult time. If a truck driver’s negligence has harmed you, you should find out more about your legal options for recovery.
A dedicated attorney could provide an initial evaluation of your potential claim and help you decide how best to proceed. Contact our office today to set up your initial case consultation.