Tennessee Truck Accident Lawyer
When a large truck and car collide, occupants of the car are at much greater risk of injury than the truck’s driver. A car generally weighs about 3,000 pounds, and a tractor-trailer can weigh 80,000 pounds, so it’s easy to understand why these crashes can be so deadly for drivers and occupants of typical cars.
Truck accidents can cause major debilitating injuries that require extensive medical care. But when truckers or trucking companies are to blame for a crash that causes injury or death, the victims and their families may be entitled to compensation that can offset their medical costs.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Find out if you have a case. Call a Tennessee Truck Accident Lawyer for your free consultation at (931) 962-1044.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2013, fatal large truck crashes in Tennessee that involved more than one vehicle killed 11 truck drivers and 92 occupants of other vehicles. The NHTSA defines large trucks as those over 10,000 pounds, a category that includes tractor-trailers, box trucks, and even some modern pickups. Tractor-trailers – because they can be about 50 feet long – are capable of inflicting much more damage than other large trucks and often collide with several vehicles in a single accident.
In June 2015, a terrible crash on Interstate 75 in Chattanooga killed six people and injured a number of others. According to authorities, the driver of a tractor-trailer failed to slow down when approaching a construction zone and slammed into several cars. He was later arrested on multiple charges, including vehicular homicide and falsifying his driving hours log. Investigators learned the driver was wanted in Wisconsin and Kentucky on drug charges and had received a careless-driving citation in Florida one day before the fatal crash. The crash in Chattanooga is an extreme example of how truckers can cause harm to others. It also illustrates what can happen when truckers and their employers fail to follow federal laws that apply to their industry.
What Commonly Causes a Tennessee Truck Accident?
Accidents between private fleet and common carrier trucks (e.g., 18-wheelers, tankers, refrigerator trucks, tractor trailers, flatbed trucks, and other commercial trucking vehicles) and cars, motorcycles, and SUVs don’t happen without reason. In fact, several factors can be involved in a crash with a truck.
- Driver negligence. In this case, either driver may be at fault for the collision. For instance, the truck driver might be too tired or distracted to focus on the road. Currently, truckers are allowed to drive for 11 hours without taking a mandatory break, which may leave some of them drowsy by the end of a shift. On the other hand, the car or truck operator could be under the influence of drugs or alcohol or be distracted by something like texting on a cell phone.
- Weather conditions. When bad weather strikes, whether it’s heavy rain, snow, fog, sleet, ice, hail, or the like, truck drivers need to follow safety measures. Even driving just a few miles above the recommended speed limit can lead to serious personal damage, physical injury, and fatalities. About one-fifth of all types of vehicular accidents can be chalked up to weather condition problems, per the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
- Of course, driving at a high rate of speed always puts everyone on the road at risk. But it’s especially important for truckers to remind themselves that it takes up to 40 percent longer for them to stop their vehicles than it does for a typical sedan. Everyone behind the wheel of a vehicle should obey posted speeds. Otherwise, they could be the cause of a serious, life-changing event.
- Defective Parts. Attorneys that deal with auto product liability cases know just how much of a role defective truck parts can play in accidents. Defective parts can include anything from faulty brakes that are under recall to tires that don’t properly hug the road.
Whatever the underlying cause of a truck accident, the outcome can be expensive, devastating, and future-altering for drivers and passengers.
Where Do Truck Crashes in Tennessee Frequently Happen?
A crash between a commercial truck and a personal vehicle can happen anytime, anywhere. However, it is statistically more likely to occur on highways and busy roads. In fact, studies point to 60 percent of truck accidents‘ happening on major roads (but not interstates). Why? Generally speaking, those are the places you’re more likely to encounter a commercial vehicle, and there are fewer lanes to swerve away from a malfunctioning, out-of-control, or poorly operated truck.
The exception to this rule are spots such as rural roads where commercial vehicles may have to travel upon occasion. For instance, a trucker going at a high rate of speed on a rural Tennessee roadway may be more apt to lose control than she or he would on an Interstate. Minor roadways account for about seven percent of truck accidents.
Common Tennessee Truck Accident Injuries
The force of a truck hitting a smaller vehicle can lead to significant injuries, especially for the people traveling in the car, on the motorcycle, or in an SUV.
- Neck Injuries. Problems like whiplash are commonplace in any type of collision. When a body moving forward is suddenly stopped, the neck can be damaged in a number of places. This can lead to a broken neck and temporary or permanent paralysis.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). A TBI is a very serious condition. Although the brain is surrounded by protective fluid, the fluid cannot fully stop the brain from forcefully colliding with the skull. This damages the brain matter, sometimes forever. Many people with TBIs never fully recover short-term or long-term memories, and some have to quit working. Another unfortunate symptom of a TBI can be a radical personality change, which can lead to relationship and job issues.
- Broken Bones. Obviously, any type of highway accident can cause bones to break. Broken bones can happen anywhere in the body, from the ribcage to the hips to the arms. No bones are safe during a crash.
- Internal Damage and Bleeding. Even people who are fortunate enough to “walk away” from crashes may be surprised to learn later of internal damage of organs, including bleeding. This is one of the reasons anyone involved in a truck crash needs to seek medical attention.
- Not surprisingly, fatalities are high when trucks crash into cars and other passenger vehicles. In fact, statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute reveal it’s far more likely for the drivers or passengers in a car to die than for the truck driver because of the weight of the vehicle. A wrongful death not only puts families into a state of mourning, but can lead to unexpected expenses, bankruptcy, and other financial concerns. Plus, the at-fault driver may be charged criminally for the wrongful death.
- PTSD. A misunderstood consequence of being in a traffic accident, even one that doesn’t seem to result in any serious injuries, is PTSD. PTSD stands for “post-traumatic stress disorder” and affects every individual uniquely. Though it’s often associated with veterans who return from war, PTSD can happen to anyone involved in an emotionally traumatic event. A study published by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine noted that people who suffer motor vehicle crashes are significantly at higher risk of developing PTSD than the general population. Those with PTSD may find it difficult to return to normal life after a truck accident, and their suffering can take years to control with therapy and pharmaceuticals.
Laws that apply to professional truckers are much more stringent than typical motorist driving laws. These laws mandate many detailed provisions, such as periodic drug testing of drivers and minimum maintenance requirements for truck company owners. The laws also specify the maximum number of consecutive hours a driver can work and the minimum allowable rest periods.
The most recent data available from Tennessee Highway Patrol shows that in 2008, state troopers issued 289 citations for violation of the rule that says truckers may drive no more than 15 hours. The driver in the Chattanooga crash had allegedly violated driving-times rules, too.
THE FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION OVERSEES FEDERAL TRUCKING SAFETY LAWS.
And routinely, the FMCSA issues citations to companies that put unsafe vehicles and drivers on the road.
In June 2012, the FMCSA shut down a Tennessee trucking company for allowing its drivers to operate commercial vehicles without a commercial driver’s license and failing to properly test its drivers for controlled substances. But the owners violated the shut-down order and continued operating under a different name, resulting in a 13-count federal indictment from the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Motorists share the road with commercial trucks every day – usually without incident. But reckless drivers, irresponsible trucking company owners, and defective vehicles pose a serious threat to other drivers. When a crash occurs because of any of those factors and people are injured or killed, the victims and their families could be entitled to compensation.
What Should You Do If You Get in a Truck Accident in Tennessee?
You’re driving home from work, or traveling through Tennessee on vacation. Then, it happens: You get in an accident with a tractor trailer.
Your next steps are essential:
- Stop your vehicle if it’s still moving and pull safely to the side of the road if possible.
- Get out of the vehicle if you can. If you cannot, sit and wait for help.
- Call 9-1-1 immediately and report the incident.
- Check on your passengers, if applicable, to assess their physical and emotional states. Do not move a passenger who may be injured unless your vehicle is on fire or at risk of explosion.
- Wait for first responders to arrive.
- Give all your information to the first responders.
- Allow the first responders to check on your vital signs and assess your injuries. Remember that you may be in shock, so you might not feel a broken bone or realize you are bleeding.
- Do everything that the first responders ask and be honest about everything you remember from the incident. It’s difficult to stay calm, especially if you had passengers in your vehicle, but do your best to focus.
Above all else, avoid making any statements about the accident that could be used against you later. These could include saying, “I think it was my fault,” or, “This is my third accident in a month!” Just concentrate on being truthful about what you recall leading up to the collision.
After you are safely at home or rehabilitating from your injuries, contact a Tennessee truck accident lawyer. Even if you think you don’t need one, you could be surprised. It’s much better to have a legal professional on your side, just in case. Plus, you won’t have to pay anything for an initial consultation.
What to Do If the Trucking Company Calls You Post-Accident
It can be very intimidating to get a phone call from a trucking company after you’ve collided with one of their vehicles. The best thing you can do in this situation is refer the trucking company representative to a Tennessee truck accident lawyer. That way, you won’t make any mistakes, such as accepting a lump sum in return for not pressing charges.
The goal of the trucking company is usually to get you to settle for a lower amount than you would receive if you were helped by a lawyer. Do not give away your power to push for what you deserve as a truck accident victim.
Tennessee Truck Accident Lawyer
Unfortunately, there is no way for motorists to know whether a semi traveling near them on the highway has faulty tires, or whether the driver has had an inadequate rest break.
If you or a family member has been injured in a Tennessee truck accident, don’t wait to get help, because the court allows a limited time for filing cases of personal injury. Our office aggressively pursues trucking accident cases for clients seriously injured by the careless and irresponsible operations of large commercial trucks.
When and if an accident does occur, know that you can count on us to help. Find out whether you have a case by calling the office of John R. Colvin today, at (877) 771-8644, or fill out our online contact form.