Tractor Trailer Crashes

Pennsylvania is one of the top five states for trucking accidents in the entire nation.

Trucking accidents can be caused by lack of driver training, sleep deprivation, or even common distractions like cellphones. Furthermore, Pennsylvania’s narrow and dangerous roadways cause many trucking accidents that result in over 200 deaths annually. As a team of trusted, professional trial lawyers, we hold truck drivers, trucking companies, and insurance companies accountable for negligence and wrongdoing. With 30 years of experience practicing under Pennsylvania’s complex laws, we have achieved numerous multi-million dollar recoveries for our clients.

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Learn More About Tractor Trailer Crashes

Common Causes of Tractor Trailer Crashes

  • Inadequate driver training
  • Improper maintenance and vehicle malfunction
  • Common distractions like smartphones
  • Unrealistic deadlines and overburdened drivers
  • Sleep deprived drivers

Frequently Asked Questions

How is a tractor trailer crash different from a car crash?

Tractor trailer, or trucking, crashes differ from car crashes in several ways. Not only are injuries typically much more catastrophic, but oftentimes, there are multiple defendants that have to be investigated – it’s not as simple as just holding the truck driver liable for his or her negligence. The parties can include the broker, distributor, the owner of the goods being shipped, the owner of the truck, and the driver. Corporate structures can be complex and have to be untangled. There are also legal requirements that a trucking company and truck driver have to comply with that don’t apply to other vehicles. Tractor trailer crashes often involve complex relationships and insurance policies and, therefore, require specific attorney experience. All trucking companies and truck drivers must comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

What is considered when determining who is at fault in a trucking case?

Experienced trucking attorneys will work with experts to investigate the scene of a crash including eyewitness testimony, police reports, and the vehicles themselves. They will also employ forensic experts to investigate the vehicle data. Often, the truck driver him or herself is not the one financially responsible; he or she may have caused the crash, but maybe the driver was forced to drive long hours because of pressure from an employer to make a delivery time, lacked proper training or the equipment was not safe to operate. There are a number of other issues to look at, such as trucking company driver training, driver qualifications, driver logbooks, supervision, etc. There are a very specialized set of regulations when it comes to dealing with trucking companies. All of these considerations come into play when determining liability.

How common are trucking crashes and why do they cause such catastrophic injuries?

Pennsylvania is currently in the top five states in the nation for the number of trucking crashes, causing over 200 fatalities each year. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) estimates that there are almost 7,000 heavy truck crashes per year. Also referred to as big-rigs, semis, and 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers are the most common of all commercial trucks. They are also the largest and pose the most risk to other motorists on the road. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates tractor-trailers weigh at least 20 times more than the average passenger vehicle. They can weight up to 80,000 pounds, about 30 times more than a small passenger vehicle, when fully loaded. Most semis have a cab and a trailer, but on rare occasions you might see a double trailer. They often travel at high speeds on highways, requiring over 350 feet to come to a full stop. Due to the weight and force, it is more common for injuries to be far more significant than those sustained during a passenger vehicle crash.

What are common causes of trucking crashes?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) is responsible for regulating the trucking industry, which includes any driver who holds a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or company that employs drivers. The FMSCA estimates over 400,000 traffic collisions each year involving heavy trucks. Common causes of tractor-trailer collisions include:
Driving while distracted – When commercial truck drivers, like any drivers, take their minds off driving, hands off the wheel, or eyes off the road, other motorists are put at risk for a serious, or even deadly, crash. The FMSCA has outlawed cell phone use for truckers for over a decade; truckers must use a headset, voice recognition, or some other hands free feature to talk on their phone.
Driving under fatigue – According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), more than a third of heavy truck crashes are the result of driver fatigue. Tractor trailer drivers often have demanding schedules, which means driving through the night to meet deadlines. Even though the FMSCA has strict regulations in place for truck drivers’ hours, drivers are commonly under pressure from employers to make delivery times. The FMCSA found that driver alertness was related to time-of-day more so than time-on-task. Most people are less alert at night, especially after midnight. This drowsiness is likely enhanced after having been on the road for an extended period of time. Falling asleep at the wheel of an 18-wheeler can have tragic consequences.
Other causes of trucking crashes include, inadequate driver training, improper maintenance and vehicle malfunction.
It is important to contact an attorney with trucking litigation experience if you or a loved one has been the victim of a tractor trailer crash.

Is the truck driver liable to pay for a claim out of their own pocket?

Often the truck driver him or herself is not the one financially responsible; he or she may have caused the crash, but maybe the driver was forced to drive long hours because of pressure from an employer to make a delivery time. There are a number of other issues to look at, such as trucking company driver training, driver qualifications, driver logbooks, supervision, vehicle maintenance and any defects. There are a very specialized set of regulations when it comes to dealing with trucking companies. All of these considerations come into play when determining liability. In addition, there are likely to be a number of insurance companies involved if there are multiple defendants. This complexity means it is important to contact an experienced attorney.

What should I do if a family member or I have been a victim of a tractor-trailer collision?

First and foremost, seek medical attention. Trucking crashes often result in being hospitalized, but even if you or your loved one was not hospitalized, you need to see a doctor. It is also important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as you are able after a collision. It is important to preserve as much evidence as possible, including physical evidence at the scene, the truck and vehicles involved, data from the crash data recorder and GPS systems in the truck, and the driver’s cell phone. Often times it is necessary to immediately go to court to make sure the trucking company preserves this critical evidence. Insurance companies will want to take a statement after a tractor-trailer crash. To protect your rights, refrain from giving a statement or signing documents until you have consulted an experienced trucking attorney.

How much is my trucking case worth?

Each tractor-trailer case has varying outcomes and therefore there is no average amount for a trucking crash case. Factors to be considered include economic damages, such as past and future medical bills and lost wages, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, loss of the ability to enjoy life, stress, anxiety, and the personal damages. Consulting with an attorney that has years of experience with trucking cases will help to determine the value of your case.

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Case Study

Tractor Trailer Crashes

Tractor-trailer crashes can be caused by a variety of factors, but finding the root cause is the difference between winning and losing a case.

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