There’s no denying the fact that large commercial trucks are dangerous. Semi-trailers, 18-wheelers, big rigs, and other types of tractor-trailers are some of the heaviest and most massive vehicles found on West Virginia roads and highways. When these vehicles are involved in accidents, the resulting devastation is almost always severe in nature and can cost lives. If you or a loved one was involved in a semi-truck crash, a Charleston truck accident lawyer can help your family recover.
It’s a simple fact that truck wreck claims are incredibly difficult to fight in court since most trucking agencies boast powerful legal departments. It’s common for victims of semi-trailer wrecks to receive settlement offers that are far below what they are entitled to. If you’ve had this happen to you, you’re most likely finding it difficult to pay for medical costs and provide for your loved ones. These are the times when hiring a lawyer can do you and your family the most good.
The Complexities of Charleston Truck Accident Claims
When it comes to settling a personal injury case, tractor-trailer accident claims are much different than other types of claims. West Virginia and federal regulations require trucks to carry higher amounts of insurance coverage. Truck drivers are also required to meet higher safety standards than other drivers. When a trucking company or driver violates the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation Act in any capacity, that individual or group is often held liable for an accident.
In many cases, the big rig driver that causes a crash is likely at fault for the incident, but there are other parties that can be sued as well. At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we investigate every aspect of your case to determine who is liable for your damages.
We may be able to file suit against:
- The driver
- The owner of the tractor-trailer
- The company identified on the big rig
- The loader of the truck
- The manufacturer of the vehicle
You may not immediately know the reason why your accident happened. Our Charleston lawyers have the expertise and skill to determine the identity of the negligent party.
West Virginia Commercial Vehicle Crash Statistics
In 2016, over 4,440 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents in the United States – which is a two percent increase from the previous year. As a result, 119,000 individuals were injured, and thousands were killed.
West Virginia’s statistics don’t look much better. In 2013, over 100 people were killed and another 500 injured because of tractor-trailer accidents in our state. The Wall Street Journal identified West Virginia as the eighth-worst state to drive in among every U.S. state. 15 percent of auto accidents in the state involve large trucks. These statistics are alarming in an era where vehicle safety is better than it’s ever been.
Commercial semi-trucks have the capabilities of being outfitted with A.I.-assisted guiding mechanisms, motion-detective radar, blind spot cameras, guided GPS systems, and automatic brakes that can and do save lives nationwide in smaller passenger vehicles. Unfortunately, most commercial trucks are not outfitted with the latest technological advances. U.S. trucking regulations do not require them, so most agencies prefer to focus on profit instead. This is something that can absolutely change.
In addition, U.S. commercial trucks are not required to be outfitted with sideguards that could stop injuries and even deaths from occurring when a smaller passenger vehicle collides with the side carriage of a large truck. NBC News reported that regulations could force truck manufacturers to include these simple features that would help prevent almost 200 truck collision fatalities every year.
Common Causes of Charleston Semi-Truck Accidents
There are common, identifiable links between most of the commercial truck accidents that happen in the state of West Virginia. Here are some of the most common causes behind these wrecks:
Unsafe Driving—Truck drivers often have tight deadlines they need to adhere to. They may choose to drive faster than is legal, for example, or try and take unknown routes to cut corners. Distracted driving is when the driver is doing anything that changes their focus from driving. Cell phone use, eating, and changing the radio station are all common distractions. Unfortunately, if the driver has a temper, road rage can be a major distraction too because they’re focused on getting back at another driver.
Driver Error—New drivers may not be accustomed to handling a big rig. They may not give their vehicle enough time to slow down before turning or stopping. A driver could also overcorrect their steering and lose control.
Loading Techniques—This can lead to an accident. Similarly, if a cargo loader places too much cargo in a semi-truck or incorrectly loads the truck, that vehicle has a higher chance of rolling or toppling over.
Driver Fatigue— Truckers are often encouraged to drive for long hours without taking breaks to reach their destinations quicker. Most trucking corporations have guidelines in place dictating how long a driver can be at the wheel before sleeping or taking a break, but a driver may choose to ignore these guidelines to finish a trip quicker or make up for lost time. Many drivers aren’t monitored in any way once behind the wheel.
Unsafe Vehicles—Commercial trucks are expensive to manufacture and maintain. As such, it’s common for trucking corporations to cut corners as often as possible when it comes to adhering to federal safety standards, as well as proper truck maintenance. Cutting corners regarding safety comes with a heavy price, however, and that price is the safety of our nation. Defects are also common.
Poor Weather—Snow, ice, and rain all make the roads slippery and reduces the amount of grip the tires will have on the pavement. While drivers are supposed to stick to a certain schedule, they need to be aware of the weather conditions. Looking ahead could prevent them from getting in an accident or getting stuck in a storm.
Knowledge of the Highways—Many drivers cross state lines during their travels. They may have a destination that they’ve never been to before. They may suddenly realize they’re about to miss a turn and go too quickly or may be unfamiliar with a road that has blind turns and needs to be taken at a slow pace.
When a devastating big rig collision is caused by any of the above factors, a court can hold the negligent driver or trucking corporation liable for the injuries caused. Drivers need to be held accountable for their actions—as well as the corporations that prioritize profit over the lives of others.
The Dangerous Outcomes of Tractor-Trailer Wrecks
A collision involving a semi-truck often has disastrous results. They could cause situations where those injured will not make a full recovery. Catastrophic injuries prevent people from returning to gainful work.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). When people suffer from a TBI, they can have issues with cognition, communication, mood changes, and physical problems like appetite and sleep changes. Sometimes, TBIs also result in mobility function.
- Spinal Cord Injuries. An injury to the spine can cause chronic back pain or limit mobility. Depending on the severity of the injury, the person could have partial or complete paralysis. Partial paralysis is the loss of function from the waist down, impeding one’s ability to walk or feel their legs and feet. Complete paralysis is paralysis from the trunk down, which is the loss of movement with arms, legs, hands, and feet. This can cause potentially dangerous problems like the person having difficulty swallowing and breathing on their own.
- Accidental Amputation. High-speed crashes can sometimes cause loss of limb. This traumatic accident can prevent someone from doing their job and will take a long time to get used to.
- Burns. If the crash causes an explosion, the vehicles may catch on fire. Burn injuries can range from minor injuries to the outer layer of skin to burns that reach the bone and need intense medical treatment. When they reach the bone and muscle, the injury can cause permanent nerve damage, which means the person may lose feeling and function of that area for the rest of their lives.
Truck accidents can also result in non-catastrophic injuries. While they may not have life-changing consequences, they can still require extensive medical care that will take time to heal.
- Head Injuries. You may hit your head in a wreck and sustain a mild head injury, such as a concussion. But you still need to be seen by a doctor. Concussions usually cause headaches, dizziness, feeling fatigued or dazed, and you may have difficulty thinking or answering questions quickly.
- Whiplash. When the head is jerked violently back and forth, it puts the neck under considerable pressure. It can result in pain in the neck, shoulder, and back areas, feelings of stiffness or tenderness, and even affect sleep quality.
- Broken Bones. These are painful injuries that will most likely heal, but they will probably require a cast and could take a long time to heal.
- Lacerations, Cuts, Bruises. Pieces of debris can break off in a wreck and cause cuts and bruises. Lacerations may require stitches.
While these injuries cause a considerable amount of financial stress, there is also the emotional stress to consider. People experience trauma differently, and it could take some people more time to process the accident and learn how to make the adjustments to their new way of life. Professional help may be required as part of the treatment process. There isn’t a set timetable for people to treat psychological issues and visiting a professional can get expensive. But choosing between getting the help you need and making a payment shouldn’t be a decision that you have to make.
Since these injuries weren’t your fault, the burden shouldn’t fall solely on you. Our Charleston team will work tirelessly to make sure your compensation helps you get the care you deserve.
What to Look for in Your Charleston Attorney
Choosing your attorney is an important decision. You want to make sure you pick someone who will look out for your best interests and treat you with respect. When speaking with an attorney, you should find out the following aspects before making a decision about representation.
- Past Experience. You should ask about your attorney’s past experience with personal injury cases like yours. You want to make sure they have handled truck injury cases in the past and have gotten successful results for their clients.
- Organization. When you’re meeting with your attorney for the first time, take stock of their office. Do they seem organized? Are there files and papers everywhere? Or do they seem to have a system together so they’ll keep important documents and forms where they need to be? A lawyer who is orderly indicates that they’ll have the same approach to your case. A haphazard office could show that you won’t be able to depend on your lawyer to remain organized while handling your case.
- Communication. You need a lawyer who you can speak to and you can communicate with consistently. If your lawyer is rude, cuts you off, or acts in a way that you don’t like while speaking face-to-face, then you may not want to proceed with that lawyer. Communication is important as well. Responding to emails and returning calls within a timely manner are qualities you should look for in your attorney. You don’t want to feel out of the loop because you’re unable to get a hold of them when you have questions or concerns about your case.
- Testimonials. You may consider looking up testimonials for the attorney’s services. Here you can get an idea of how they were treated and if they were happy with the results of hiring this attorney.
When you have a reliable attorney at your side, you’ll be more confident that your settlement will be successful.
How the Lawyers at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC Can Help
If you were seriously injured in a truck collision, don’t start dealing with insurance companies right away. Instead, you need to hire a skilled team of West Virginia lawyers who can investigate your situation and figure out the best way to proceed. Don’t risk getting an unfair settlement offer.
Truck drivers are required to maintain driving logs and are only allowed to drive for a certain number of hours per day to prevent fatigue. Also, truck owners are supposed to keep records regarding the maintenance of their vehicles. Our team can check these records and investigate police reports to determine whether there is any compelling evidence that could prove fault and assist you in achieving a just settlement or verdict.
We have more than 200 years of combined experience to use to your benefit. We use this experience in a collaborative way because our Charleston truck accident lawyers work together on each client’s case. We are AV Preeminent® Rated by Martindale-Hubble® and have been listed as one of the Best Law Firms by U.S. News & World Report. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.