Truck accident cases are those in which a truck driver has had an accident with another vehicle. Such cases generally result in lawsuits, which can cover vehicle accidents involving at least one large commercially operated truck. Examples can include vehicles such as:
- Big rigs;
- “Semi” trucks;
- Delivery trucks;
- Cargo trucks;
- Tractor-trailer trucks; and/or
- Transport trucks.
As a term, truck accidents refers to larger commercial vehicles as opposed to pick-up trucks or SUVs.
What Kinds of Serious Injuries are Involved in Truck Accidents?
Commercial trucks can usually weigh more than 25 times the weight of the average car. Due to the sheer size difference between vehicles, any accident between a commercial truck and another vehicle can be catastrophic. Such accidents often result in fatalities.
The most common examples of serious injuries which may be associated with truck accidents include:
- Back and neck injuries, which can vary from pain to spinal cord injuries;
- Broken bones;
- Head injuries, such as concussion and traumatic brain injury;
- Internal bleeding and/or injury;
- Bruises and abrasions;
- Torso and rib injuries, such as a fractured or broken rib bone;
- Seat belt injuries, including whiplash;
- Full or partial paralysis; and/or
- Wrongful death.
This list includes some examples of physical injuries. However, other injuries could include mental issues stemming from the incident. PTSD and anxiety are two common examples.
What Are Some Main Causes of Truck Accidents?
Trucking accidents can occur for a wide variety of reasons. Here are the most common reasons:
- Engine problems;
- Hood flew up and obscured the driver’s vision;
- Tire blowout;
- Poor road conditions;
- Poor weather conditions;
- Lane drifting;
- Improper truck maneuvering; and/or
- Driver fatigue.
87% of accidents caused by the truck driver were due to driver fatigue. This is largely due to the fact that trucking companies push drivers to have products arrive on time, and sometimes this is considered to be a priority over the driver’s safety. This constant urgency to fulfill an order can result in different types of negligence, which may cause an accident.
Truck drivers themselves may be liable if the accident was intentional, or if the driver was an independent contractor. Meaning, they are not an employee of the company for which they drive while operating the truck. If the driver is able to prove that the accident was unintentional, and they are an employee of a trucking company, the trucking company may be found liable instead.
Under the “Respondeat superior” theory, employers are always held responsible for unintentional accidents caused by an employee. Some examples of accidents that could place direct blame on the trucking company include:
- Encouraging unsafe driving in order to fulfill an order, as previously mentioned;
- Forcing or knowingly allowing drivers to be on the road beyond hours that are permitted under state and federal regulations;
- Hiring drivers without conducting proper criminal background checks, drug or driving tests, or mental examinations; and/or
- Failing to consistently inspect, maintenan, or repair their fleet.
Does the Northern Virginia Area Have Any Special Truck Accident Laws?
In Virginia, truck accident liability is based on negligence. What this means is that the party at fault for the accident is responsible for compensating anyone injured because of the accident. However, Virginia law adheres to the legal theory of pure contributory negligence. A plaintiff cannot collect a damages award if they were at fault for the accident in the slightest.
An example of this would be even if the truck driver was negligent, but it can be proven that you sent a text message right before the accident occurred. You would not likely receive any sort of compensation because it can be argued that you also contributed to the accident.
Some specifics to remember about North Virginia truck accident laws include:
- Accidents are governed by Virginia Code, Title 46.2;
- There is no strict liability for motor vehicle accidents; and
- Several different parties could be held liable, such as the truck maintenance company.
How Can I File a Truck Accident Lawsuit in the Northern Virginia Area?
As with most motor vehicle accident cases, the main theory of recovery is based on driver negligence. A person injured in a trucking accident must show the following:
- The defendant owed a duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care, in order to avoid injury under the circumstances;
- The defendant failed to exercise reasonable care; and
- The defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care is what caused the plaintiff’s injury.
In North Virginia specifically, truck drivers and their employers must adhere to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) motor carrier regulations. They must also adhere to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (Virginia “DMV”) motor carrier regulations. Before filing a truck accident lawsuit in the North Virginia area, you should establish whether the truck driver violated any of these regulations. Examples include:
- Maximum number of hours the driver may work within the specified timeframe;
- The truck driver’s history of alcohol and drug use;
- The truck driver’s general driving history, as well as their incident history;
- The maintenance schedule for trucks and trailers, specifically the one involved in the accident; and/or
- The level of training the driver received.
Additionally, you will want to keep in mind that North Virginia maintains a statute of limitations. You have two years from the date of the incident in which to file a lawsuit if anyone was injured or killed because of the accident. However, you have five years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit for property damage. The statute of limitations for accidents resulting in wrongful death begins at the time of the victim’s death.
What Legal Remedies Are Available in a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
The legal remedies available in a truck accident lawsuit will likely vary based on the circumstances of each accident, as well as differing state laws. However, remedies will generally mirror those used in any other personal injury case. This will usually consist of a monetary damages award which requires the liable party to reimburse the victim for any losses associated with the accident injuries. This could include:
- Hospital expenses;
- Medication bills;
- Therapy costs;
- Lost wages; and/or
- If a death results from the collision, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed if the truck driver was grossly negligent. Damages could include funeral costs.
Should I Hire a Northern Virginia Injury Lawyer for Help with a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
If you have been involved in a truck accident in Northern Virginia, you should immediately consult with a skilled and knowledgeable lawyer. Specifically, a personal injury attorney would be best suited to handle such a case. An experienced personal injury attorney can help gather relevant evidence and ensure that you understand your rights and responsibilities under North Virginia law. Finally, an attorney can also represent you in court as needed.