Montgomery Alabama Truck Accident Lawyer
When you are driving down a highway and a big-rig approaches, how often do you try to get out of its way? That’s always a good idea. Call them big-rigs, 18-wheelers, or tractor trailers, there are more than 10 million of these large trucks on our roads bringing goods across the country.
A large truck is defined as any vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds, but some of these trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, while your car weighs around 5,000 pounds. Due to the weight differential, when there is a collision with a passenger car, the results can be catastrophic to the automobile and its passengers.
Sadly, it is often left up to the family of those who do not survive these catastrophic crashes to bring forward an action against the at-fault driver on behalf of their loved one.
Mr. Nix’s experience as a Montgomery Truck Accident Attorney assures you that every aspect of your truck accident will be investigated to build a the strongest possible case on your behalf.
Alabama Big Rig Crashes
Nationally, trucks make up 6 percent of registered vehicles on the road, but they account for 11 percent of national road deaths. According to the Alabama Department of Transportation, in 2017, there were 9,351 trucks involved in crashes.
In Alabama, there are dozens of fatalities each year among those passengers involved in crashes with large trucks, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Nationally, FMCSA reports truck accidents that resulted in injuries have risen substantially in recent years.
Cause of Alabama Truck Accidents
If you are on the road near a big rig, it is important to understand the cause of most truck accidents. Often, it is the driver of the automobile.
Please be careful as you drive near a big-rig and understand the trucker needs additional time to brake. Do not cut off the truck driver who is following a passenger vehicle as he may be intentionally allowing additional safe space between his big-rig and the vehicle ahead of him in case he needs to slow down or stop.
Mr. Nix has seen too many instances of horrendous injuries including crushed passenger compartments, vehicles that submarine under the big-rig, and passengers ejected from the vehicles.
Types of Oversized Load Vehicles
There are a number of situations in which a vehicle may be tasked with carrying an oversized load, and in which the government will give its permission to do so. For example, common types of oversized loads include:
- Wind propellers;
- Construction machines;
- Pre-built homes;
- Bridge beams;
- Industrial equipment;
- Agricultural equipment; and
The Dangers of Oversized Loads
There is no doubt that oversized loads are something necessary; after all, how would the equipment listed above ever reach its destination if not for commercial vehicles and their drivers willing to make the trip? That being said, there’s no doubt that oversized loads create a unique hazard on the road. This is a result of:
- The oversized load taking up more than a single lane, forcing surrounding traffic into a single lane (which increases congestion);
- Difficulty for the oversized load truck driver to control elements like speed and movement of the truck due to the excessive weight and any balance issues of the load;
- Potential tire blowouts due to load weight;
- Difficulty for the truck driver to stop due to excessive weight;
- Numerous traffic implications, including slowing traffic and increasing congestion; and
- High risk of driver error – when a load weighs more than 80,000 pounds–and sometimes more than 200,000 pounds!–the slightest error can have devastating consequences.
How Weight Increases the Risk of an Accident and the Risk of Serious Injuries
The more a vehicle weighs, the harder it is to control. Not only can light swerves or turns lead to deadly accidents, but the heavier a vehicle is, the more time it needs to stop. Stopping distances for large trucks and buses are already much greater than they are for smaller vehicles; when a truck is oversized, the stopping distance increases. This means that should an oversized load be required to stop quickly (vehicle cutting it off, stopping in front of it), it may be unable to do so.
But it is not just stopping distance that is a huge concern. In the event of a crash, the damages will be more severe based on the size of a load. Indeed, the greater the mass of an object (multiplied by its velocity), the greater the amount of kinetic energy. At the time of impact, this energy is transformed into the sound and heat that results, and the rest is absorbed by vehicles. In other words, the more kinetic energy (the more weight and speed of vehicles), the greater the damage to vehicles. And when damage to vehicle is serious, injuries sustained by those within the vehicles are often severe. Crumpled and totaled cars can mean crush injuries, amputation injuries, bone fractures, paralyzing spinal cord injuries, back and neck injuries, internal injuries, and myriad other serious and fatal injury types.
Who’s Liable for an Accident Caused by an Oversized Load?
When an oversized load accident occurs, determining liability is the most important part of ensuring that you get compensation for your injuries. Fault is based on negligence, or the failure to act with a reasonable degree of care. Parties who may be at fault in an oversized load accident include:
- Cargo loader, if cargo is improperly loaded or secured, resulting in a cargo shift that causes the accident;
- Trucking company, if an act of negligence–such as failing to properly train a driver, secure permission to move an oversized load, maintain trucks, etc.–was the cause of the accident. Furthermore, did the scheduler or company allow enough time to realistically deliver the load?
- Truck driver, when an error such as taking a turn too fast, driving while distracted, speeding, tailgating, and other dangerous actions cause a crash, a truck driver may be liable (however, the truck driver may be protected from liability as a result of being an employee, and the trucking company may be held liable for the truck driver’s actions as such);
- Cargo manufacturer, if the cargo is inherently dangerous and this danger is the cause of the collision (i.e. cargo that exploded while in transit), the cargo manufacturer may be to blame;
- Truck part manufacturer, a large truck has a lot of parts that allow for its safe operation – if any of these parts are defective, such as a tire, this increases the risk of an accident, and the part manufacturer could be held liable as such; and
- Third party driver, who could have caused the accident as a result of their own negligence. Drivers around oversized loads can be impatient, and tailgating, speeding, and cutting off oversized loads can all cause serious accidents that endanger others.
Determining fault may require a thorough investigation, the analysis of vehicle electronic control module (ECM) data, and the help of accident reconstruction experts. Our legal team has the resources necessary to do whatever it takes to determine fault and hold a responsible party liable for your damages.
Alabama Truck Driver and Company Negligence
The Alabama Trucking Association reports there are more than 9,000 trucking companies in our state.
We know from experience that many trucking companies push their employees to meet deadlines that are unrealistic. A truck driver is required by law to have adequate rest and a mandatory ten-hour break while the law states he can no longer drive more than 14 hours.
Unfortunately, tight deadlines often make it impossible for a driver to be both well-rested and deliver his goods on time.
Furthermore, Alabama just lowered the age of a commercial driver to 18 from 21, allowing anyone who can be trained to legally operate a commercial vehicle of 26,000 lb. or more. This move creates more jobs, but at what price?
- Has that young driver been thoroughly trained?
- Is the commercial truck operator a user of drugs, alcohol?
- Is that commercial truck driver distracted by electronics or something else?
- Has that commercial truck driver received enough sleep as mandated by federal Hours-of-Service Rules?
- Has the truck been properly loaded, evenly so the load does not cause the truck to flip or jackknife?
- Is that driver going too fast for conditions?
- Is he tailgating and has he allowed enough room to stop suddenly if needed?
- Does that driver understand the rules of the road and how to properly signal or change lanes?
- Has the truck been thoroughly checked for any defects or recalled items? Are the tires safe for the load they are hauling?
It might not be surprising that the interstate saw the highest number of crashes and fatalities, just under one-third, in 2017.
As an experienced truck accident attorney, Mr. Nix understands the importance of the electronic logging devices and any additional second set of books.
What to Know Right After the Accident
Have no doubt, the motor carrier and its representative will be at the scene as soon as they possibly can and they are not there to represent you. Quite the contrary, that’s why it is so important to secure representation right after an accident with a commercial vehicle.
Upon visiting the scene of the accident we can see the evidence left behind on the road including skid marks, the point of collision, and conditions at the time of the accident.
We will send a preservation letter to the trucking company so that all evidence is preserved including the black box recorder and the logs that show how long the driver had been on the road at the time of the collision.
Also another important element of our investigation is to determine what, if any, pre-checks the carrier required on the big-rig before the driver hit the road.
Was the truck in good operating condition? When was its last inspection of the tires or brakes? What were the hiring practices of this particular carrier and is there any pattern of accidents among the fleet? Was the load on the truck proper for that vehicle and was it distributed properly?
We also understand that some drivers are simply not competent to be operating a big-rig. Had the driver been previously cited?
Alabama just lowered the age to legally operate a commercial vehicle of 26,000 lbs. or more to age 18, down from 21, to help fill a truck driver shortage. It remains to be seen what effect that will have on safety.
Who is Liable?
It will be our job to determine the liable party in this accident. That may include the truck owner who may also be the driver. He is responsible to make sure his truck is safe enough for the road.
Deviation from the standard requirements of safety is the basis of an action by the injured party.
We also serve truck accident victims in Prattville, AL.