Semi-truck accidents in the state of Arizona are a very serious everyday occurrence. Due to the size of a tractor-trailer versus the size of most other vehicles, serious injuries are almost a guaranteed result when a collision occurs. Semi-truck crashes account for approximately 12% of all motor vehicle fatalities and the occupant of the other vehicle is killed in about 98% of those cases. Any claim that commercial tractor-trailer accidents in Arizona are deadly, is a drastic understatement. The primary reason for these fatalities is the massive weight and size difference between an 80,000 pound fully loaded semi-truck and a 3,000-5,000 pound passenger vehicle.
Improper working conditions can also be a common factor in many of these accidents. Trucking companies often place a high priority on speed of delivery and not safety. This can expose motorists to the risk of becoming victims of a serious truck crash. Even the best truck drivers with significant experience and the right training can still make errors and cause an accident on the highway. In the vast majority of tractor-trailer accident cases, the cause of the accident is negligence by the commercial driver. Often times the truck driver was not paying attention, speeding, following to close, or was distracted by something in the cab.
Some of the most common reasons for semi-truck accidents include:
- Driving while tired or drowsy
- Driving in an aggressive manner
- Driving at excessive speeds
- Disregarding weather conditions
- Driving with a truck that has been overloaded
- Driving a truck that has not had the proper maintenance
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
A semi-truck crash is not just a "motor vehicle accident with bigger vehicles." This type of collision involves complex and highly specialized litigation requiring an experienced Attorney with knowledge of the following:
- Thorough understanding of the regulations that govern the commercial trucking industry
- Awareness of unethical industry practices including destroying and altering critical evidence
- Access to trucking accident experts who can quickly be dispatched to the scene of a semi-truck accident
- Many years of experience and specialized training in handling commercial trucking accidents
- Intimate familiarity with trucking industry customs and practices
The injuries that a victim of a semi-truck accident typically suffers from can have a significant impact on the rest of his or her life. Some of the more common semi-truck accident injuries include:
- Head and neck injuries
- Serious brain injury
- Permanent debilitating spinal cord damages
- Loss of function of internal organs
- Compound fractures and crushed bones
The medical fees and other economic costs of these semi-truck accident injuries can easily exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in financial loss, not to mention the physical and emotional toll it takes on the victim.
When you've been injured in a truck accident, it can change your entire life. Similarly, if someone you love is killed in an accident on the highway, the emotional and financial distress can be overwhelming.
The Problem of Disappearing Evidence in Semi-Truck Accident Cases
Semi-truck accidents can be very complex because critical evidence can often conveniently "disappear." Trucking companies have been known to send their investigators and experts to the scene of a semi-truck accident within minutes of a collision to protect the driver and trucking company. The big-rig truck can be moved or evidence at the scene can be altered, which could make it harder to prove what caused the accident.
Other pieces of evidence that could be tampered with are the driverís "logbook" or the on-board data recorder. These logbooks are maintained by drivers to record the number of hours they have been on the road and compliance with mandatory rest period requirements. These logbooks are routinely manipulated or altered for a variety of reasons including protecting the company in the case of an accident. There are specific "hours of service" regulations that a driver cannot violate and they require the driver to rest for mandated periods of time. A truck driver's violation of these rules may be important to establishing negligence and proving that driver fatigue was a cause of the semi-truck crash.
Unfortunately, drivers abuse these rules all the time to increase their earnings at the expense of safety. In the name of profit, trucking companies often look the other way or encourage this practice. This results in many overly fatigued semi-truck drivers on the road and fatigue is a common cause of many semi-truck accidents in Tucson, Southern Arizona, and throughout the United States. When you are a victim of a semi-truck accident it is important that you have a team of investigators and semi-truck accident lawyers looking out for your best interests. Trucking companies will have enormous resources and experts at their disposal and you should too.
Maintenance of 18-Wheelers
Recently, there was a study done on the correlation between defective mechanical parts and equipment on semi-trucks and the likelihood that it would lead to an accident. The findings of this study were released in a national report and were nothing short of shocking.
Researchers began looking at a number of semi-truck accidents and focused on trucks that were recently examined by the state highway patrol for dangerous and faulty problems. According to another national study, when a semi-truck is found to be "out of service" with bad brakes it is 1.8 times more likely to be a cause of a semi-truck accident.
When several of these 18 wheelers were subsequently involved in accidents on the highway, experts involved in the study set out to determine the extent to which the defective parts were at fault. In the end, the findings pointed to the fact that over three quarters of the trucks had defective parts. Of these trucks with defective parts, over half of them had defective brakes and another quarter of them had problems with their steering. Additionally, the poor condition of truck tires was a serious issue, particularly on the front of the big rig. Only a third of the trucks in the study did not have defects.
Ultimately, the trucking company has the responsibility of ensuring proper maintenance is completed on the trucks and that the tractor-trailers are in safe operating condition.
After a truck accident, the victim's family does not care if the truck driver or motor carrier received a citation for causing the truck accident. They only expect the trucking company to be held accountable for the damages they caused.
Federal Regulation of Trucking Companies
Truckers are regulated by the FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY REGULATIONS, which provide comprehensive rules that both driver and motor carrier must follow. There are a few exemptions from the regulations but if the truck travels state to state, the company and driver have to comply with regulations.
Some of the regulations that are important in many 18-wheeler lawsuits are as follows:
391 - Qualification of drivers
- many times drivers are not fit to drive as provided by the minimum standards of the regulations
392 - Driving of vehicles
- this section provides for pre and post trip inspections, the physical condition of the driver, and other important standards.
Deals with necessary safety requirements for the condition of commercial vehicles - such as brakes, lighting and warning reflectors.
Provides the maximum on duty and driving hours a driver can log.
Complete Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations can be found at www.fmcsa.dot.gov