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Commercial truck and big rig accidents are among the most dangerous and deadly types of motor vehicle accidents. These large and heavy vehicles can cause significant damage and injury when involved in collisions with smaller vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 4,951 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks in the United States in 2018.
If you are involved in a commercial truck or big rig accident, it is important to understand the personal injury laws that apply to your case. These laws can help you recover compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the accident. However, the legal process for recovering damages in truck accident cases can be complex and challenging. Having a knowledgeable personal injury attorney on your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.
This article will provide a comprehensive guide to commercial truck and big rig accidents from the standpoint of personal injury law. We will cover the common causes of these accidents, the legal liability of the parties involved, the damages that can be recovered, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, the role of experts in these cases, and more.
There is a seemingly endless number of factors that can contribute to big rig accidents, but in our years of experience, the most common causes are as follows.
One of the most common causes of commercial truck and big rig accidents is driver negligence. Negligent driving behavior can include speeding, driver fatigue, and distracted driving. Drivers of commercial trucks are required to follow strict regulations to ensure that they are not fatigued, distracted, or otherwise impaired while driving.
In Pennsylvania, there have been several notable cases where driver negligence resulted in a commercial truck or big rig accident. For example, in the case of Troxell v. Fischer, a commercial truck driver was found to be negligent when he caused a multi-vehicle accident by failing to stop at a red light. The driver was ultimately held liable for the plaintiff's injuries and damages.
Another common cause of commercial truck and big rig accidents is vehicle maintenance issues. Poorly maintained vehicles can experience problems with brakes, tires, and other critical components, which can lead to accidents. Trucking companies have a legal duty to ensure that their vehicles are properly maintained and inspected.
In Pennsylvania, there have been several cases where vehicle maintenance issues contributed to commercial truck accidents. For example, in the case of the Estate of Monaghan v. Rayco, a trucking company was found liable for a fatal accident when it failed to properly maintain the brakes on its vehicle. The court held that the company's failure to maintain the brakes was a direct cause of the accident and the resulting injuries.
Improper loading of cargo can also cause commercial truck and big rig accidents. When cargo is loaded improperly, it can shift during transport, causing the vehicle to become unstable and difficult to control. Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that their cargo is loaded properly and secured safely.
In Pennsylvania, there have been several cases where improper loading of cargo led to commercial truck accidents. For example, in the case of Leary v. United Parcel Service, a truck driver was injured when he was hit by a load of improperly secured cargo that fell from a truck. The court held that the trucking company was liable for the driver's injuries because it failed to properly secure the cargo.
Finally, road and weather conditions can also play a significant role in commercial truck and big rig accidents. In Pennsylvania, drivers of commercial trucks must be prepared for adverse weather and road conditions and must adjust their driving accordingly. Failure to do so can result in incidents that can cause serious injury and damage.
In Pennsylvania, there have been several cases where road and weather conditions were found to have contributed to commercial truck and big rig accidents. For example, in the case of Pfeiffer v. Lehigh Valley Railroad, a truck driver was injured when his vehicle slid on an icy road and collided with a train. The court held that the railroad company was also liable for the accident because it failed to provide adequate warning of the dangerous conditions on the road.
One of the key legal issues in commercial truck and big rig accident cases is determining who is liable for the accident. In many cases, the employer of the truck driver can be held liable for the driver's negligence under a legal doctrine called "respondeat superior." This doctrine holds that employers are responsible for the actions of their employees while they are working in the course of their employment.
In Pennsylvania, there have been several cases where employers of truck drivers have been found liable for accidents caused by their employees. For example, in the case of Blasi v. Allied Aviation, a truck driver caused an accident while making a delivery to an airport. The court held that the driver's employer was liable for the accident because the driver was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred.
In some cases, the manufacturer of a commercial truck or big rig can be held liable for an accident if a defect in the vehicle or its parts caused or contributed to the accident. This type of liability is known as "product liability" and can result in significant damages for the injured parties.
In Pennsylvania, there have been several cases where manufacturers of commercial trucks and big rigs have been held liable for accidents caused by defects in their vehicles or parts. For example, in the case of Speicher v. Maxon, a truck driver was injured when a liftgate on his vehicle malfunctioned. The court held that the manufacturer of the liftgate was liable for the driver's injuries because the gate was defectively designed and manufactured.
In some cases, a third party can also be held liable for a commercial truck or big rig accident. For example, a maintenance or repair company that worked on the vehicle could be liable if it failed to properly maintain or repair the vehicle. Similarly, a company that loaded or secured the cargo could be liable if it failed to do so properly.
In Pennsylvania, there have been several cases where third parties were found liable for commercial truck and big rig accidents. For example, in the case of Friske v. Ira G. Steffy & Son, a truck driver was injured when his vehicle's tire exploded. The court held that the company that repaired the tire was liable for the accident because it failed to properly repair the tire.
If you are injured in a commercial truck or big rig accident, you may be entitled to recover damages for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the accident. In Pennsylvania, there are two main types of damages that can be recovered in a personal injury case: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are damages that can be calculated with reasonable certainty, such as medical expenses and lost wages. In Pennsylvania, there is no cap on economic damages in personal injury cases.
Non-economic damages are damages that are more subjective, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. In Pennsylvania, there is a cap on non-economic damages in personal injury cases. As of 2021, the cap on non-economic damages in Pennsylvania is $500,000, but this cap does not apply in cases involving catastrophic injuries or death.
If you are involved in a commercial truck or big rig accident in Pennsylvania, you have a limited amount of time to file a personal injury lawsuit. The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Pennsylvania is two years from the date of the accident. If you fail to file a lawsuit within this time frame, you may lose your right to recover damages for your injuries.
There are some exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations. For example, if the injured party is a minor or is incapacitated, the statute of limitations may be extended. Additionally, in cases where the defendant has fraudulently concealed the cause of the accident, the statute of limitations may be extended.
Accident reconstruction experts are often called upon to provide testimony in commercial truck and big rig accident cases. These experts can use their knowledge of physics and engineering to reconstruct the accident and determine the cause of the accident.
Medical experts can provide testimony regarding the severity of the injuries sustained in the accident, the prognosis for recovery, and the future medical expenses that the injured party is likely to incur.
Economic experts can provide testimony regarding the economic damages resulting from the accident, including lost wages, future lost earnings, and future medical expenses.
If you were involved in a commercial truck or big rig accident in Pennsylvania, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney. These cases can be complex and challenging, and our legal experts have the knowledge and experience to support you through this process and ensure that you recover the compensation that you deserve.
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