The roar of an 18-wheeler barreling down the highway is a familiar soundtrack to America’s sprawling transport network. These commercial vehicles, integral to our modern way of life, move essential goods across the country, bridging the gap between bustling metropolises and remote rural towns.
However, their towering presence on the road also raises a sobering reality—commercial trucking accidents. They are often catastrophic, leading to serious injuries, fatalities, and extensive property damage due to the sheer size and weight of these vehicles.
If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident in North Carolina, the personal injury lawyers at Paynter Law are here to help you seek justice.
What Causes Most Commercial Trucking Accidents?
Commercial trucking accidents can be caused by a variety of factors. Here are some of the most common causes:
- Driver Fatigue: This is one of the most prevalent causes of trucking accidents. Truck drivers often have to drive long distances with tight deadlines, leading to excessive tiredness and lack of adequate rest.
- Distracted Driving: With long hours on the road, truck drivers may be tempted to use their phones, eat, or engage in other distracting activities while driving.
- Speeding and Reckless Driving: To meet delivery deadlines, some truck drivers may exceed speed limits or engage in risky maneuvers.
- Impaired Driving: The use of alcohol or drugs can significantly impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial truck.
- Inadequate Training: Operating a large commercial vehicle requires specialized knowledge and skills. Inadequate training can lead to accidents.
- Improper Vehicle Maintenance: Commercial trucks require regular maintenance to ensure they are safe to operate. Lack of proper maintenance can lead to mechanical failures causing accidents.
- Improperly Loaded Cargo: Overloaded or improperly secured cargo can cause the truck to be unbalanced, leading to rollovers or the cargo falling onto the roadway.
- Inclement Weather: Harsh weather conditions like rain, snow, fog, or icy roads can increase the risk of accidents if the truck driver fails to adjust their driving behavior accordingly.
- Defective Parts: Sometimes, a defect in the truck itself, such as faulty brakes or tires, can be the cause of an accident.
- Violation of Regulations: There are various state and federal regulations governing commercial trucking, including hours of service regulations to prevent driver fatigue. Violations of these rules can lead to accidents.
Often, it’s a combination of these factors that contribute to a commercial trucking accident.
Understanding these common causes can help in prevention and can also assist in determining liability in the event of an accident.
Who Can Be Held Liable In A Commercial Trucking Accident?
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, determining liability can be a complex process because multiple parties might be involved. One of the first parties typically considered is the truck driver. If they were negligent, distracted, impaired, or violated traffic laws leading to the accident, they could be held responsible.
Beyond the driver, the trucking company employing the driver can also be held liable, especially if they failed to properly maintain the truck, forced the driver to violate hours of service regulations, or didn’t adequately train the driver. In some instances, if the trucking company contracted the driver independently, the contract’s terms might affect the company’s liability.
The manufacturer of the truck or its parts can be held accountable if a defective part or system led to the accident. Similarly, a maintenance company could be held responsible if the accident was caused due to their failure to properly maintain the truck.
Another party that can be held liable is the cargo loader or the company responsible for the cargo. If the accident was caused because the cargo was improperly loaded or secured, they might be found at fault.
Lastly, other drivers or entities might also share some responsibility. If another driver’s negligence or a public entity’s failure to maintain safe road conditions contributed to the accident, they could also be held liable. North Carolina is a contributory negligence state, so if the driver is even 1% at fault, they may not be able to recover damages from other parties who were primarily responsible.
Given the multiple potentially liable parties, establishing liability in commercial trucking accidents can be a complex process that often requires an experienced legal professional.
What Can I Expect From The Insurance Company After A Commercial Trucking Accident?
After a commercial trucking accident, dealing with the insurance company can be a complex and sometimes frustrating process. Here’s what you can generally expect:
- Initial Contact: The insurance company will likely contact you shortly after the accident. They may ask you to provide a statement or details about the accident. Remember, it’s usually wise to consult with a lawyer before speaking with an insurance adjuster, especially if you’re considering legal action.
- Investigation: The insurance company will conduct an investigation into the accident. They’ll review police reports, statements from all parties involved, any available footage of the accident, witness testimonies, and other relevant data.
- Evaluation of Claims: Once their investigation is complete, the insurance company will determine who they believe is at fault, to what extent, and how much they are willing to pay for damages, medical expenses, etc.
- Settlement Offer: The insurance company may then make a settlement offer. It’s important to note that initial offers may be lower than what you may be entitled to receive. It’s advisable to discuss any offer with a lawyer before considering it.
- Negotiation and Legal Action: If the settlement offer doesn’t adequately cover your damages, a negotiation process will begin. If a fair agreement can’t be reached, you may need to take legal action against the insurer or the at-fault parties.
Throughout this process, keep in mind that insurance companies are in the business of making money. Their interests will not align with yours, especially when it comes to paying out large claims. Therefore, it’s essential to work with a lawyer who is experienced in handling commercial trucking accidents to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
How Can A Lawyer Help In A Commercial Trucking Accident Case?
Our North Carolina truck injury lawyers can provide invaluable assistance in a commercial trucking accident case in numerous ways.
Firstly, we can help protect your rights from the outset. Often, an insurance adjuster may reach out to you immediately after the accident to try to get you to agree to a quick, low-value settlement. We can help you navigate these discussions and avoid saying anything that might harm your case.
In addition, we can help guide the investigation of the accident by gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and hiring experts such as accident reconstruction specialists, if necessary, to build a strong case on your behalf.
Understanding the complex web of regulations governing commercial trucking is another area where our expertise is essential. We can help identify if any laws or regulations were violated, such as hours of service rules, which could have contributed to the accident.
Lastly, we can help you understand and calculate the full extent of your damages. This isn’t just the immediate medical bills and vehicle repairs, but could also include future medical costs, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and other losses.
How Long After A Trucking Accident Do I Have To File A Lawsuit?
In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases, including commercial trucking accidents, is typically three years from the date of the accident.
This means you have three years from the date of the trucking accident to file a lawsuit. However, this can vary in certain circumstances, so make sure to contact our team as soon as possible after your accident.
Contact The Truck Accident Lawyers At Paynter Law
Don’t let the aftermath of a commercial trucking accident leave you feeling overwhelmed and alone. If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident in North Carolina, it’s essential to act quickly and secure legal representation.
With a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases in our state, the clock is ticking. Our experienced team is ready to help you navigate the complex legal landscape, defend your rights, and seek the compensation you deserve. Don’t delay—contact us today for a free consultation, and let Paynter Law start fighting for you.