If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, you will need qualified legal representation to take on a big trucking company. Our truck accident lawyers understand the rules and guidelines truck drivers and the trucking industry must follow by law. At SMT Legal, you can rely on an aggressive and experienced Pittsburgh truck accident attorney to help you build a strong case to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Car wrecks can be dangerous, but they rarely measure up to the major injuries and severe damage caused by a commercial truck accident. These large, heavy vehicles can crush cars, SUVs, and pickups in a rollover or head-on collision. Because of their massive size, these crashes often involve many other drivers at once.
Truck Accident Victims Often Suffer Serious Injuries
Occupants in passenger cars who are involved in trucking accidents more commonly experience catastrophic injuries and fatalities than large truck occupants. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, IIHS, 4,014 people driving in smaller vehicles died in truck accidents in 2020 alone.
In addition to experiencing significant property damage to a passenger vehicle, you are likely to suffer severe bodily injury, such as:
- Broken bones and fractures
- Deep cuts and lacerations
- Internal organ injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Because of the extreme forces at play when a truck weighing 80,000 pounds impacts a smaller vehicle, fatalities often occur immediately or soon after a crash. On-site medical treatment can often stabilize a victim, but many still pass away in the hospital or on the way there.
Who Is At Fault In Trucking Accidents?
Several parties could be held legally responsible for causing a truck or commercial vehicle accident. Understanding who is liable and how much fault they bear takes an experienced legal team to get to the source of the problem. Depending on the cause of the truck accident, any of the following parties could be found responsible:
- The truck driver
- The truck company, the owner of the truck and/or trailer, and/or the person or company leasing out the truck
- The truck manufacturer or the manufacturer of the faulty equipment
- The company responsible for loading the truck’s cargo
- Any repair or maintenance shops that performed service on the truck or trailer
Every potentially responsible party will have its own insurance company that must be notified. Each will try hard to minimize its part in the crash and try to push the blame onto anyone else, including you. This is why having the experienced and aggressive personal injury attorneys from SMT Legal on your side is critical.
We will fight to ensure that every negligent party is held accountable for the harm you suffered.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, we offer a free case evaluation to help you understand your options for compensation. However, the longer you wait to contact a lawyer, the more difficult it will be to build a solid and winnable case.
Robust Evidence Can Prove the Truck Driver Was Negligent
Proving that a truck driver was at fault for causing your accident can be more challenging than you think. To hold a truck driver accountable for your injury, you and your Pittsburgh truck accident lawyer will have to collect sufficient evidence proving one or several of the following:
- Fatigued, tired, sleepy, or overworked truck driver: Obtaining access to the electronic logs for the truck can prove this. Regulations prevent truckers from driving for more than eleven hours in a day and require them to be off-duty for at least ten consecutive hours, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
- Poorly maintained or defective truck: You may be able to claim liability against the mechanic or other expert who examined the truck to determine if parts or components were defective, faulty, or improperly maintained.
- Overloaded truck: If the truck was overloaded, our trucking lawyers will be able to assess how much cargo was in the truck at the time of the collision and how much this particular type of truck is legally allowed to carry.
- Intoxicated truck driver: Demonstrating the truck driver was intoxicated can be proven by asking the authorities to document the trucker’s level of intoxication in their police report.
- Distracted truck driver: We can show the truck driver was distracted by his or her cell phone by subpoenaing phone records to prove cellphone use while driving.
This is only a small list of factors and types of evidence that can prove a truck driver’s fault in a truck crash. When you have a qualified truck accident lawyer in Pittsburgh from SMT Legal by your side, you can rely on our background and skill to develop a strong legal case.
We will investigate your circumstances thoroughly to establish the negligence or carelessness of the truck driver, the trucking company, and any other responsible parties so you can obtain the compensation you need to recover.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck accidents are the fault of negligent truck drivers more often than other factors, such as poor weather or road conditions. In addition, in accidents caused by a negligent truck driver, 44 percent involved a trucker who was taking over-the-counter drugs or prescription medication.
Understanding the cause of your truck accident is critical to developing a solid case. The stronger the evidence we can assemble, the more powerful your claim will be against insurance companies and/or defense lawyers. SMT Legal will conduct a thorough review of your case to see if driver fatigue and/or other factors caused the truck accident.
Common contributing factors in truck accidents include:
- Overworked drivers: Truck drivers are often penalized for not making deliveries on time or are required by their company to adhere to strict schedules and work too many hours. The trucking company can be held responsible for the driver being overworked and not as alert as they should be.
- Driver fatigue: Overwork can lead to driver fatigue, but drivers can also push themselves beyond their ability to function well through other activities, such as overusing coffee or energy drinks. Fatigue can seriously impact a driver’s reflexes, causing them to misjudge distances, miss traffic signals, overreact or underreact to situations, or even fall asleep at the wheel.
- Excessive speed: As many as 23 percent of truck accidents where the truck drivers were at fault are caused by excessive speed. Because large trucks require a longer distance to come to a stop than passenger automobiles, speed is a significant factor in truck accidents. Stopping distance can be even longer when a truck is fully loaded.
- Distracted drivers: Using a handheld cell phone while driving any motor vehicle is illegal, as is texting or scrolling through social media. Drivers unfamiliar with their routes may also be distracted by paying attention to their GPS or other vehicle navigation unit.
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs: Drivers may use prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs for various medical conditions. Even prescribed medicines may cause drowsiness or reduced reaction times. Alcohol use while driving is not only illegal, it can seriously affect a driver’s ability to handle their big rig safely. While federal regulations require regular random drug testing by trucking companies, these tests can be defeated by a determined driver.
- Inexperienced drivers: If a new truck driver is on the road without enough training, they run the risk of causing an accident. In this case, the trucking company may be at fault for hiring inexperienced drivers or not providing adequate training for their drivers.
- Poor equipment maintenance: Commercial vehicle companies and drivers must adhere to essential regulations when maintaining their trucks and equipment. However, many shortcuts in the industry allow trucks to run longer without pre-trip inspections. If tires, brakes, or other equipment are not properly maintained, the trucking company or truck driver may be found at fault for the truck accident.
- Overloaded trucks or poorly secured loads: If a truck’s cargo is not properly secured and breaks free, the resulting debris on the road could cause an accident. The trucking company and/or driver could be found at fault, as well as the company or crew who loaded the truck. Overloaded cargo can also increase the truck’s stopping distance.
- Poor weather conditions: Truckers are required by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations to take special precautions when driving in rain, fog, snow, sleet, or icy conditions. If they do not, they can be found at fault for an accident.
Holding a Trucking Company Liable for Your Truck Crash
There are a variety of situations that make a trucking company responsible for a truck accident. When the hired or contracted driver contributes to a crash, the driver can be held liable, but the greater blame usually lies with their employer.
In Pennsylvania, trucking companies have a duty to thoroughly screen their drivers prior to hiring them. The screening process includes performing a criminal background check to determine if the driver has a past history of arrests or convictions. Companies will also review the driver’s traffic tickets and violations, as well as confirm that the individual has the correct and valid licenses needed to operate large trucks.
Unfortunately, screening is not the only phase in which trucking companies cut corners, putting the lives of their drivers and other parties on the road at risk of injury or death. Besides failing to adequately assess truck drivers, trucking companies can be held liable for truck accidents if they fail to:
- Properly train the truck driver
- Monitor the truck driver
- Take measures to prevent the truck driver from operating the truck under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Ensure that the truck driver is adhering to the hours-of-service regulations
- Correctly and safely load the truck
- Properly inspect and maintain the truck and its parts and components
Many other circumstances make trucking companies liable for truck accidents caused by their drivers. However, many trucking companies escape liability by raising the “independent contractor” defense. When this happens, only an experienced truck accident lawyer in Pittsburgh can guide you dependably. The trial attorneys of SMT Legal will be able to fight against this defense and find evidence proving that the accident occurred “within the course and scope of employment.”
Should You Accept a Settlement Offer Made by a Trucking Company?
When the bills begin to pile up after a truck accident, you may be worried about paying them before your claim is settled. Insurance companies know this and they will want you to close out the claim quickly. The at-fault trucker’s trucking company or insurance company will often make a low initial settlement offer, but these are intended to prevent you from recovering a much larger sum in a personal injury lawsuit.
Signing documents to accept a settlement offer prevents you from suing the at-fault parties for the truck accident. If your injury happens to be more serious than anticipated or initially diagnosed, you may be left with a financial crisis. Once a claim is closed, you will not be able to recover more money to cover the ever-mounting medical bills and expenses for the years or decades to come.
Commercial trucking companies typically carry a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage for their drivers, which means with the help of an experienced truck accident attorney by your side, you may be able to receive a higher level of compensation than you would in most other types of motor vehicle crashes.
Liability in Pittsburgh Truck Accidents
Demonstrating liability and who shares what percentage of the blame can be difficult. While it may seem like your recovery will only involve a simple case of telling your story to insurance adjusters who will then pay you what you need for your damages, insurance companies are not very interested in paying your claim. They prefer keeping their money and saying you are at fault.
At SMT Legal, our attorneys know truck accident cases can be very complicated. We know how to investigate and present evidence that demonstrates the four elements of negligence against any defendant:
1. The defendant owed you and others on the road a duty of care.
2. They failed to uphold that duty.
3. You experienced injuries and property damage as a direct result of their failure.
4. You have expenses related to your damages that must be repaid.
Proving negligence is key to successfully securing compensation for your losses from the responsible parties. We demonstrate the four elements using evidence such as training records, maintenance records, cell phone and GPS device information, video and photos from the scene, and other documentation.
In addition to holding the driver accountable, we examine every individual and company who could be held liable, including:
- Cargo loaders
- Drivers who left debris such as tires, ladders, or lost cargo on the road
- Drivers who may have swerved or braked in the path of the truck
- Fleet owners
- Government agencies involved in road maintenance
- Maintenance crews
- Parts manufacturers
- Repair shops
- Third-party road construction companies
- Trucking companies
Many large companies in the trucking industry have teams of attorneys on call and very deep pockets to pay them. They will fight hard against any claims of their liability to protect their reputations and to avoid paying you. Despite this, a Pittsburgh truck accident lawyer from SMT Legal will litigate aggressively to obtain the maximum financial recovery available for you.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims
Examining your legal options for compensation can take time. However, if you delay in engaging legal representation with a reputable truck accident lawyer, you can risk losing your chance to pursue compensation. When you are hurting from your injuries, it can be challenging to face filing an insurance claim or lawsuit.
Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations requires that you file your case within two years of the date of the accident. Instead of trying to meet this short deadline on your own, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer at SMT Legal and let us handle the legal burdens of your truck accident case for you. We will ensure you do not miss the window of opportunity, that your paperwork is filed on time, and that everything is correct.
Your Pittsburgh Truck Accident Claim Could Be Worth Millions
With catastrophic injuries and extensive property damage, your truck accident claim could be worth quite a lot. Each case is unique, and your SMT Legal truck accident attorney in Pittsburgh will need to properly evaluate your case to estimate your compensation.
Your vehicle may be completely destroyed, and you could end up spending weeks in the hospital or a rehabilitation facility after a crash with a commercial truck. Your injuries may continue to plague you for the rest of your life. If you are younger and lose your ability to earn a living or care for yourself, you will have a lifetime of expenses that must be covered.
Damages that have a fixed monetary value fall under the category of economic losses. Non-economic damages are those that account for how your life has been affected by your accident and the resulting injuries and other losses. For example, common damages that our attorneys help victims recover include:
Economic damages, such as:
- The cost of crutches, canes, or wheelchairs
- Emergency transport fees, such as for an ambulance or helicopter
- Lost wages while you recover
- Loss of earning potential if you are permanently disabled
- Medical bills and hospital costs
- Nursing care, such as private in-home services or a rehab facility
- Physical therapy expenses
- Prescription medications
- Repair or replacement for your vehicle
Non-economic damages, such as:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship with your family
- Loss of intimacy with your spouse or partner
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
Our lawyers will file claims against the appropriate insurance companies. These companies will try very hard to avoid paying you what you deserve. Our legal team will push back against their underhanded tactics until we negotiate a fair settlement. If they do not meet our demands, we are ready to take your case to trial. We will not back down when facing off against large trucking companies and their insurers.
Schedule a Free Consultation with the Pittsburgh Truck Accident Attorneys at SMT Today
Suffering astronomical expenses and injuries as a result of a driver’s negligence or the negligence of a trucking company should not be your responsibility. If you have been injured in an accident involving an 18-wheeler, semi-truck, or other commercial truck, contact SMT Legal for a free case evaluation with a skilled Pittsburgh truck accident attorney today.