Accidents involving big rigs — call them semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, or 18-wheelers — pose a great threat to people in automobiles. A big rig can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, while a car might weigh 5,000 pounds or so.
In 2019 alone there were 4,922 accidents involving large trucks in Virginia, of which 2,035 resulted in injuries and 97 in fatalities, according to the commonwealth’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Serious injuries totaled 212 — 120 drivers and 92 passengers.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a collision with a large truck in Chesterfield, Richmond, Petersburg, or Henrico, Virginia contact me at The Thomas Law Firm, PLLC. I have handled countless personal injury claims arising from traffic accidents and will fight for the compensation you deserve to help pay for your injuries, damages, and any additional pain and suffering you’ve been forced to endure.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the hours that large vehicle drivers can be on the road. The Hours of Service (HOS) rule limits truck drivers to 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour period and requires a 30-minute break after eight hours on the road. Drivers are also limited to 60 hours of driving in a 7-day period, and 70 hours of driving in an 8-day period.
The FMCSA also requires truckers to have their driving hours recorded on an electronic recording device, often referred to as an ELD. The agency then compiles Compliance, Safety, and Accountability scores for HOS and other areas of concern, including unsafe driving, vehicle maintenance, crash frequency, and more. They will then calculate a score from zero to 100, with 100 being the worst. These scores are available online.
FMCSA regulations cover trucks operating across state lines. Virginia regulates trucks carrying construction materials within the state to not more than “12 hours of driving time following 10 consecutive hours off duty or drive after having been on duty 16 hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty.” There is also a limit of 70 hours of driving in seven days, or 80 hours in eight days.
Under the principle of vicarious liability, a truck driver may not be the sole person or entity at fault in an accident. If the driver works for a trucking company and that company ignores or manipulates FMCSA driving regulations, the parent organization also can also be held liable.
If the accident is the result of a mechanical problem, such as faulty brakes that fail to operate correctly, the maintenance company — or even the manufacturer of the vehicle — may be held liable. If the accident is caused — or exacerbated by — overloading or improper loading of the cargo, then the company or persons loading the cargo might also be held liable.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), truck driver fatigue is behind over 31 percent of all accidents. Right behind that at 30 percent is tire failure.
In Virginia, the DMV found that 12 percent of truck accidents resulted from improper or illegal lane changes. This was followed closely by distracted driving, tailgating, speeding, and impaired driving. On the mechanical and vehicle loading front, cargo shifts ranked with brake and tire failure as a leading cause. When cargo shifts, it can alter the vehicle’s center of gravity, causing the driver to lose control or the vehicle to jackknife or rollover.
Road conditions such as potholes, debris, and other obstacles can also contribute, as can inclement weather that results in driving difficulties.
Virginia is considered an at-fault state, which means that if you’re injured in a truck accident, you can file a claim with your insurance company, a claim against the other driver’s insurer, and you can also file a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury lawsuit will allow you to claim damages for pain and suffering, which insurance carriers do not honor.
There is, however, a downside to the Virginia at-fault rule. Unfortunately, being an at-fault state means that the state uses what’s called the “pure contributory negligence” rule in the commonwealth’s legal system. “Pure” means that the driver of the other vehicle must be 100 percent at fault for the accident to be held liable. If you are found to be even one percent at fault for the accident, your claim may be entirely rejected.
The Virginia statute of limitations gives you two years from the date of the accident to file a claim, however, most insurance companies are not going to wait that long. You need to file with your own “first-party” insurer as soon as possible. The same goes for filing with the “third-party” insurer of the at-fault driver.
If you have a family member or loved one who has been killed in a truck accident, you have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim. This can be done by a spouse, the children, the grandchildren, the parents, the siblings, or a dependent relative — whoever is closest to the deceased.
At The Thomas Law Firm, PLLC, I have devoted my career to helping clients with personal injury and accident claims. You don’t have to pursue your claim on your own while you’re still recovering from your injuries, or worse, from the loss of a loved one. I can investigate the details of your accident, gather evidence, assess liability, and negotiate with the insurance companies to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. If necessary, I can also file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit and advocate for your rights every step of the way.
So don’t wait. If your or someone you know has been involved in a truck accident, call or reach out to my firm today to schedule a free case consultation.
If you live in North Chesterfield, or in the nearby Virginia areas of Petersburg, Richmond, or Henrico, contact my firm immediately for a case consultation. I will fight vigorously for your rights, advocate for your needs, and do everything I can to help you pursue the compensation you need for your injuries and any additional pain and suffering. Call today to schedule a free case consultation.