Hurt in a Trucking Accident?
Getting the compensation you deserve through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit after a truck crash can be difficult. Trucking companies and their insurers often have powerful legal teams protecting their interests, not yours. Hiring an experienced Philadelphia truck accident lawyer means you will have a powerful advocate to fight for you.
If you have been injured in a truck accident caused by the careless or negligent actions of another, the attorneys at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C., are here to defend your rights. We have extensive experience handling truck accident lawsuits for clients throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and nationwide.
In the past, our team represented a victim who suffered brain injuries and permanent paralysis in a crash with a UPS semi-truck. In this case, our lawyers obtained a settlement of $4.1 million from several defendants.
Contact us now for a free claim review and advice about your best legal options.
Why Truck Accident Claims Are Different
Some people might assume that truck accidents are not all that different from other kinds of motor vehicle accidents. In reality, truck accident claims are often far more complex and difficult than claims arising from car accidents.
This is due to a few factors, such as:
- Multiple potentially liable parties – As opposed to a privately owned car, a tractor-trailer or other heavy truck often involves numerous parties, such as the truck driver, the trucking company, the truck owner (if separate from the trucking company), the freight company, the truck manufacturer, and the truck’s mechanics. These and other parties could be responsible for the crash.
- Complicated corporate and insurance structures – Many trucking companies use a complicated web of corporate structures, which can make it difficult to identify which corporate entities have legal responsibility. In addition, trucking companies also often have multiple layers of insurance coverage that can make millions of dollars of coverage available for a recovery.
- Complex federal and state regulations – Trucking companies and truckers are required to comply with complicated federal and state regulations. Oftentimes, failure to comply with these regulations is the cause of or a factor in a truck accident. Unfortunately, evidence of violations of these regulations can be complex and difficult to obtain and examine for the inexperienced.
- Greater likelihood of catastrophic injuries – Trucks are large pieces of equipment. When they collide with smaller passenger vehicles, the occupants of the smaller vehicles tend to suffer far more catastrophic injuries than the occupants of vehicles in ordinary car crashes. With higher losses and potentially more insurance money on the line, you can count on a vigorous defense from those at fault.
Negligent Parties in Truck Accidents
Most semi-trucks and trailers are owned by businesses, not individuals. As a result, a personal injury claim after a truck crash is different from a typical car accident case.
The possible parties who may be liable for commercial trucking accidents may include:
- The trucking company – Two of the most common causes of truck accidents are trucking company negligence and driver error. Laws overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) govern the commercial trucking industry. These laws regulate the number of hours truck drivers can work, truck maintenance requirements, hiring practices and many other factors. Some trucking companies disregard these regulations when trying to maximize profits. These companies may push their drivers to work long hours and meet unrealistic deadlines. This may result in drowsy and distracted driving, as well as speeding and other unsafe practices.
- The truck manufacturer – Another potential factor in truck accidents is truck defects. A defect in a vehicle’s design or manufacturing can lead to brake, tire, or engine failure, for example. In these cases, the manufacturer may be liable for the damages resulting from a truck crash.
- Maintenance or repair companies – FMCSA regulations require companies to perform frequent maintenance checks to ensure that their trucks are safe. However, if the company that performs these checks and repairs neglects certain precautions or procedures, a trucking accident may result.
- Other drivers – If drivers of other vehicles behave negligently or recklessly around a semi-truck, they can cause serious accidents and injuries to themselves, the truck driver and other people on the road.
Evidence We May Use in a Truck Accident Lawsuit
Unlike motor vehicle accidents involving only passenger cars, commercial truck accident claims often require examination of many more kinds of evidence than the average car accident case.
This is because the trucking industry is so highly regulated. In many cases, a truck driver’s or trucking company’s failure to comply with these regulations is the cause of a truck accident.
Some examples of evidence we use in truck accident lawsuits include:
- The driver’s qualification file
- The driver’s training files
- The driver’s logs, which show how many hours the driver has been behind the wheel
- Driver inspection records
- Post-accident alcohol and drug tests from the driver
- Data from the truck’s onboard systems, such as the engine control module or brake module
- Data from the truck’s communication systems, including the radio, GPS receiver, and location tracking systems
- Truck inspection and maintenance logs
- Bills of lading, weight tickets, trip envelopes, dispatch instructions, delivery documents, and other cargo manifest documentation
All this evidence may be critical to prove the cause of a truck accident. For example, the truck driver may have exceeded hourly limits and may have been fatigued at the time of the accident, or the truck may have not been adequately maintained and suffered a mechanical failure, or truck location data and data from the onboard systems may show that the truck was speeding at the time of the accident.
Of course, the law only requires some of the above evidence to be kept for a certain period before a trucking company may dispose of it in the ordinary course of business. This is why it is important to retain an experienced truck accident attorney who can ensure that this critical evidence is preserved.
Compensation for a Catastrophic Truck Accident
When you are involved in a catastrophic truck accident, you may be entitled to various kinds of compensation for your losses caused by the accident. The primary form of compensation in many truck accident claims is personal injury compensation.
Personal injury compensation can include both economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages include specific financial losses that can be easily calculated by reference to bills, invoices, and paychecks, such as medical expenses or lost wages and income. Non-economic damages are intended to compensate an injured party for more subjective losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and loss of consortium.
In addition to personal injury compensation, you may be entitled to claim compensation for property damage caused by the accident, including damage to your vehicle or damage to other property in your vehicle, like a broken cell phone or laptop.
If you and your family have a loved one who was killed in a truck accident, your family may be entitled to seek wrongful death damages. These damages include compensation to the deceased individual’s estate for things like hospital and medical expenses for the injuries suffered in the accident, funeral and burial expenses, estate administration expenses, and compensation for conscious pain and suffering the deceased individual endured prior to their death. Your family may also be entitled to seek compensation for the lost income and benefits your loved one would have been reasonably expected to contribute to your family’s support, in addition to the loss of your loved one’s society, companionship, comfort, guidance, and household services.
In rare cases of egregious conduct that leads to a truck accident, plaintiffs in a truck accident case may be able to seek punitive damages. Punitive damages do not compensate a plaintiff for any loss but are instead intended to punish the at-fault party for conduct that “shocks the conscience” of a reasonable person.
Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania Truck Accident Cases
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, you have a limited period of time in which to file a lawsuit for compensation for your injuries and damage that you have suffered in the accident. This period is known as the statute of limitations.
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for personal injury and property damage claims is two years from the date of the truck accident. If you do not file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, the court will almost certainly permanently dismiss your case.
There are certain exceptions that can delay or “toll” the statute of limitations. For example, if an unemancipated minor is injured in a truck accident, the statute of limitations does not begin to start running until he or she turns 18. As a result, a minor has until they turn 20 years old to file a lawsuit from a truck accident.
One of the common reasons for tolling the statute of limitations is known as the “discovery rule,” which says that the limitations period does not begin to run until a plaintiff knows (or should know through diligent investigation) of the facts and circumstances giving rise to his or her claim. For example, if a person is injured by a hit-and-run truck, the limitations period may not begin to run until the injured person is able to identify the truck driver or owner of the truck involved in the accident.
Causes of Truck Accidents in Philadelphia
According to a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the most common causes of truck accidents include:
- Inattentiveness behind the wheel
- Failure to observe other vehicles, traffic signals, or conditions
- Distraction outside the truck
- Distraction inside the truck
- Driver fatigue
- Driving under the influence
- Scheduling pressures
- Illegal maneuver on the road
- Unfamiliarity with the road or route
- Brake problems with the truck
- Tire problems with the truck
- Shifting cargo
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Given the force that a truck can impart in an accident, truck accidents tend to be far more violent than other kinds of motor vehicle accidents and can impart much more serious injuries upon the occupants of smaller vehicles involved in the accident. Some of the common catastrophic truck accident injuries we see include:
- Fractures – The power of an impact with a tractor-trailer or other large truck means that it is more likely that occupants of cars in the accident will suffer broken bones.
- Head injuries – Vehicle passengers may also suffer blows to the head, which can lead to injuries like eye damage or skull fractures.
- Traumatic brain injuries – The force of a collision with a truck can easily impart traumatic force to the brain, leading to traumatic brain injuries ranging from a concussion to more serious conditions like a brain bleed or a coma.
- Internal organ injuries – The internal organs can be damaged in a truck accident either due to blunt force trauma from the collision or if a person torso is penetrated by a sharp object during the collision.
- Internal bleeding – Blunt force trauma from truck accidents can also lead to internal bleeding, which may go unnoticed until it begins to cause serious complications for an injured person.
- Spinal cord injuries – The spinal cord and nerves extending from the spinal cord can be temporarily injured due to a strain or pressure being put on the nerve by surrounding swollen tissue, or may be permanently injured when they are severed. This can lead to conditions such as muscle weakness, bladder and bowel issues, or even paralysis.
- Amputation – A person’s extremities may be severely damaged in a truck accident, requiring amputation, or may be even severed by a sufficiently violent force.
Talk to a Philadelphia Tractor-Trailer Accident Lawyer Now
Our lawyers are knowledgeable in the FMCSA regulations, which often play a large role in a truck accident lawsuit. This knowledge helps us to determine the causes of truck accidents and to establish liability. We also have the resources necessary for a full-scale investigation into cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death.
If a trucking crash caused your personal injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death, contact a truck accident lawyer from our law firm today. We accept cases nationwide and have law offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as well as Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
We offer free initial consultations and handle cases on a contingency fee basis, so you pay us nothing unless and until we get results for you.