Practice Areas / Accidents
Semi Truck Accident Attorney Omaha
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What You Need To Know About Accidents Involving Semi-Trucks, Tractors and Trailers
Semi-trucks and trailers pose a significant risk to smaller vehicles. Commercial trucks are large, unwieldy, and driver visibility is limited. Large trucks make wide right turns that often make it seem like the truck isn’t really turning. Drivers unaware that a truck is turning right sometimes get cornered and hit for two reasons: the truck driver didn’t swing their tractor trailer out far enough, or they swung too far out and the car moved into the truck driver’s blind spot.
Large trucks and semi-trailers have significant blind spots that passenger vehicles naturally fall into while driving alongside. Trucks are a necessary component for commerce, but when involved in a crash, can cause severe injuries and fatalities.
Statistics show nearly 98% of all semi-trailer and semi-tractor accidents result in at least one fatality. There are 130,000 injuries involving large trucks each year. An overwhelming majority of these crashes are caused by human error. Due to a gaping discrepancy in size and weight, semi-truck accidents involving passenger vehicles are devastating.
If you’ve been injured in a crash, a semi-truck accident attorney in Omaha can help. Truck crash cases are complex, and even if you think the accident was your fault, you may be unaware of other factors that contributed to the crash. It’s crucial to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who has experience with commercial trucks and semi-trailers.
Truck drivers shoulder more responsibilities under strict laws
Drivers of trucks and small vehicles are both responsible for exercising caution, but truck drivers shoulder more responsibility under laws that apply specifically to them. For example, in most states, commercial trucks are required to drive more slowly on highways, usually 10-15mph under the passenger vehicle speed limit. They’re not allowed to drive in the far left lane, which in many states is reserved for passing or carpooling.
Commercial truck drivers are also required to maintain a log of their activities for every 24-hour period. Hours of Service regulations limit the number of hours drivers can work and drive on a weekly and daily basis. After a crash, a driver’s activity log becomes evidence. An incomplete, inaccurate, or missing activity log might indicate violations of the Hours of Service regulations. If those regulations are found to have been violated, that violation will be considered as evidence against the truck driver.
Semi-truck and tractor Regulations are enforced extensively
Regulations for truck drivers are enforced through regular compliance reviews, roadside inspections, audits conducted at trucking terminals, and complaint investigations. When people call the toll-free number on the back of a truck to report erratic driving or other concerns, those complaints are followed up on. And state and federal officials conducted 3.38 million roadside inspections in 2014 alone. Many violations result in fines, and some truck drivers are ordered off the road for serious or repeat violations.
Despite knowing the laws and potential for fines, some drivers and their companies violate the law. In 2014, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) collected $36.2 million in fines for violations. According to the roadside inspection report, in 2014, more than 36,800 violations were described as a “false report” of a driver’s record of duty status.
When a truck driver or the company they work for violates an established regulation, that violation counts as evidence of negligence after a collision. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, this evidence can support your personal injury case. A semi-truck accident attorney in Omaha can use this information to pursue fair compensation for your medical expenses and other losses.
Why do some truck drivers ignore laws?
It’s unfortunate that some semi-tractor drivers ignore laws designed to keep the roads safe. Many truck drivers are under pressure to meet difficult or impossible delivery deadlines set by the company they work for. Some choose to drive over the speed limit and drive nonstop attempting to meet those deadlines. Many become fatigued from lack of proper rest. Unfortunately, fatigued truck drivers are at high risk for causing an accident.
Federal law limits truck drivers to 70-hour workweeks
On July 1, 2013, Hours-of-Service regulations were introduced at the federal level to reduce truck driver fatigue. Under these regulations, a truck driver’s workweek is limited to 70 hours to ensure they receive adequate rest. If a driver reaches 70 hours, they may resume working if they rest for 34 consecutive hours. Those 34 hours must include a minimum of two nights that allow the driver to rest between 1-5am. Formerly, a truck driver’s workweek maxed out at 82 hours, which meant truck drivers working five days per week could legally drive up to sixteen hours per day.
The Hours-of-Service regulations also require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break sometime within the first eight hours of working, limit daily driving to 11 hours, and limit the workday to 14 hours. Some companies are aware of these regulations, but choose to allow, encourage, and even require their drivers to bend the rules, putting other drivers at risk.
Your injuries may have been caused by driver fatigue
If you’ve been injured in a crash involving a semi-tractor or commercial truck, it may have been caused by driver fatigue. That would be a tough case to prove on your own. A semi-truck accident attorney in Omaha can evaluate your case and help you determine what course of action you should take. If you have a case, an experienced attorney will know exactly how to find out if driver fatigue (or any other violation) played a role in the accident.
What causes commercial truck and semi-tractor crashes?
To find out what causes semi-truck crashes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS). The goal was to examine the causes for serious crashes involving large trucks. The study analyzed 963 crashes involving 1,123 large trucks and 959 motor vehicles that resulted in a total of 249 fatalities and 1,654 injuries. Seventy-seven percent of large trucks from the sample were tractors pulling a single semi-trailer, and 5% were carrying hazardous materials.
The LTCCS study categorized each crash to distinguish the critical reason for each incident. Here’s how the study broke down the most significant causes:
- 38% (30,000) of crashes were caused by “Decision,” a category that includes driving too fast for road conditions, misjudging the speed of other vehicles, and following other vehicles too closely.
- 28% (22,000) of crashes were caused by “Recognition,” a category that includes the driver becoming inattentive, distracted, or failing to observe the situation adequately.
- 12% (9,000) of crashes were caused by “Non-Performance,” a category that includes the driver falling asleep, being disabled by a heart attack or seizure, or becoming physically impaired for another reason.
- 9% (7,000) of crashes were caused by “Performance,” a category defining situations including overcompensation, panic, or the exercise of poor directional control.
Other eye-opening statistics that came from this study include:
- 25,000 drivers involved in a crash were using over-the-counter drugs.
- 16,000 drivers were under pressure from their carrier.
- 18,000 drivers were fatigued.
- 12,000 drivers weren’t paying attention.
- 3,000 drivers were under the influence of illegal drugs.
- 1,000 drivers were under the influence of alcohol.
Truck drivers have a responsibility to be more diligent when driving