Truck Accidents – An Overview
Michelle Funkenbusch is a former trucking defense lawyer and former member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association. She learned the ins and outs of tractor-trailers, their braking systems, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and how trucking companies defend cases. She now uses those skills as a trial lawyer for victims of tractor-trailer accidents. In December 2010, Michelle was part of a trial team that obtained a million dollar plus verdict against Fed Ex Ground and a highway line painting company. On appeal of a summary judgment prior to trial, Michelle and her team won against Fed Ex. The Missouri Court of Appeals agreed with Funkenbusch in that Fed Ex Ground could and should be responsible for the acts of their independant contracter drivers, as they retain the right to control many of the ”means and methods” used by the independent contractors to do their jobs.
A traffic accident involving a large commercial truck, such as an 18-wheeler or semi truck, can have disastrous consequences. A typical fully loaded large commercial truck can weigh over 80,000 pounds, while an average passenger automobile weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. Because of the sheer size of trucks, any collision between a commercial truck and another vehicle is likely to result in serious, even fatal, injuries. If a truck carrying hazardous chemicals or flammable materials is involved in an accident, the resulting injuries may be even more severe. Secondary injuries, such as burns and respiratory injuries, attributable to the dangerous or toxic cargo can result.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries by bringing a legal claim against the responsible parties. An experienced attorney can help determine whether you have a claim.
Proving Your Case
In general, the main legal theory of liability in a truck accident case, or any other motor vehicle accident case, is negligence. To establish a case, the injured party (the plaintiff) must show that the truck driver or other defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances; the defendant breached or failed in that duty; that this breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury; and that the plaintiff was harmed.
It is critical to begin investigating the accident as soon as possible so that evidence is preserved. There are a variety of types of information that are relevant to your claims, including information about previous violations of regulations by the trucking company or driver involved, the truck’s maintenance records, the speed the truck and your vehicle were traveling, the location of the impact on the vehicles’ exteriors, the truck driver’s log book and statements from eye witnesses and first responders to the accident scene, such as emergency personnel and police officers. Another critical piece of evidence is the truck’s “black box,” which records data before, during and after a collision. It will probably also be useful to investigate the trucking company’s policies and procedures.
An expert can be a tremendous resource to use in proving your truck accident case. An expert can testify about the possible negligence of a trucking company based on his or her familiarity with trucking regulations. An expert can be any person who has significant experience in the trucking field, such as a trucking company’s safety director, the former owner of a trucking company, a former investigator for the department of transportation in your state or a computer expert who has experience obtaining information from the “black box.”