Many people use the terms “accident” and “crash” interchangeably, but the terms have different meanings. It’s important to understand the difference if you want to bring a lawsuit against another driver and obtain full compensation.
The word “accident” implies no one is at fault, while “crash” suggests someone else is responsible, and is therefore “liable” for paying for the damages that you experienced as a result of the collision.
Crashes involving tractor-trailer trucks are especially dangerous because of their enormous size and weight. Getting hit by one of these commercial semis can result in serious and sometimes permanent injuries.
In a collision with a truck or other commercial vehicle? Enlist the help of an attorney who has experience dealing with multi-million-dollar trucking companies and insurance carriers. Our knowledgeable truck accident attorneys can help.
Call the Charlotte truck accident attorneys at Johnson & Groninger – (704) 200-2009 for a free consultation.
Truck Collisions Are On the Rise in Charlotte
Unfortunately, the number of truck accidents is increasing along with the rise in highway traffic. There were more than 3,000 truck crashes in 2020 alone in North Carolina.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collects collision data and releases a yearly report. In May 2022, the NHTSA released its early estimates of 2021 fatalities, and found that deaths from truck accidents have increased by 13% since 2020.
The oversight agency estimates that more than 5,600 people died in tractor-trailer truck crashes in 2021. Charlotte sees frequent accidents along its I-85 and I-77 corridors and has been called the most dangerous city to drive in.
How a Charlotte Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
A truck accident attorney can help you get the justice you deserve after your wreck. The sheer force of a 10,000 to 30,000-pound truck pummeling a smaller vehicle can cause a catastrophic accident, resulting in extreme injuries.
If you were in a semi-trailer accident, you should be focusing on resting and getting better, not building a case and preparing to represent yourself before a judge in court. A tractor-trailer accident attorney can help gather evidence, investigate the circumstances of the crash, and prepare your case for trial, so you can focus on healing.
Potential Damages You Could Claim
When you bring a claim or a lawsuit against a trucking company and its driver, you are fighting to prove that the accident and your injuries resulted from someone else’s negligence or recklessness, and that you deserve compensation for your damages.
There are several types of “compensatory” damages you can recover in your semi truck accident case, and they fall under two main categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages compensate you for financial hardship or expenses that you incur as a direct result of your injuries. Medical expenses are the most common form of economic damages that injured victims recover.
Being injured can be very expensive. Ambulance bills, emergency room visits, doctors’ office visits, specialists, surgeries, prescriptions, medical devices, and physical therapy are all medical expenses you can be burdened with after an injury.
If your doctors expect significant future medical expenses, we may work with a Life Care Planner to place a value on those future expenses. These medical bills – both past and future – can be financially crushing and it is critical that the person or company who caused the injury in the first place be held responsible.
You can seek to recover lost wages to compensate for the income you missed while recuperating from your crash. You may also be able to recover damages for the loss of potential future income if your injuries leave you permanently disabled or unable to do the same type or amount of work that you previously did.
It’s important that you document your lost income. If you own your own business or work as an independent contractor, we can work with your accountant and/or financial advisor about the way to track your losses.
Non-economic damages compensate victims for hardships they have endured as a result of the accident or their injuries. The most common form of non-economic damages is pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering refers to physical pain and mental suffering. The psychological trauma of being involved in a tractor trailer crash is in itself a big part of pain and suffering. Our law also provides compensation for loss of, or reduction in, activities and ongoing or permanent disability
What is the truck’s “black box,” and what does it track?
Commercial trucks have event data recorders (EDRs) to track information about the truck in the moments before, during, and after an accident. These EDRs are colloquially referred to as “black boxes.” The EDR recognizes an event by certain established triggers, like sudden braking and rapid deceleration, which prompt it to begin recording data.
The detailed information usually includes vehicle speed, engine speed, engine load percentage, throttle position percentage, and the status of the brake, clutch, cruise control, and malfunction indicator lights. All this data is recorded in the EDR to show exactly what was happening to the truck in the moments surrounding the crash.
Why “Black Boxes” are Crucial in Truck Accident Cases
“Black box” data is critical evidence in a semi-trailer truck case because it can show if there were mechanical problems with the truck before the accident. The “black box” also tracks when truck drivers take breaks, when they sleep, and when they take their truck to have maintenance work performed so it can help determine other factors involved in the accident.
If there is evidence that the tractor-trailer was not maintained to meet standards, or if the truck driver was not following all required safety precautions, then a Charlotte truck accident attorney can use this information to prove that the trucking company violated its duty of care and should be held responsible for your injuries.
Call (704) 200-2009 for more information and to schedule your free case consultation.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Below are some of the most common causes of truck and commercial vehicle crashes
Vehicle Problems and Poor Maintenance
Some truck accidents are caused by issues with the truck itself, whether they are unexpected component failures or breakage that occurs due to a lack of maintenance. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration [FMCSA] and the NHTSA conducted an analysis of 2001-2003 truck crash data, and found that vehicle problems accounted for roughly 10% of the crashes.
- Brake problems: If a vehicle’s brakes are not properly maintained, they can fail when a truck driver needs them most. Then, when a driver in front of the truck suddenly slows down, the tractor-trailer’s poorly working brakes may not stop quickly enough for the heavy vehicle to avoid crashing into the person in front of it.
- Tire problems: Truck tires are another component that must be periodically replaced. If the tire tread is worn down, this can seriously affect the truck’s traction and therefore its braking distance. Without a solid surface connection, drivers can lose control of their semis when traveling on wet roads.
- Cargo shifts: Commercial trucks typically haul large, heavy cargo in the back. If the material is incorrectly packed or not properly secured, it could shift while the truck is in motion, causing the truck to overturn.
Truck Driver Behavior
The FMCSA/NHTSA analysis of truck accident data found that driver behavior accounts for the vast majority of tractor-trailer truck crashes, with a causation rate of about 87%.
For the safety of the general public, it’s crucial for truck and commercial vehicle drivers to receive proper training and monitoring by their employers. But it’s not just up to the driver – companies need to carefully screen their employees to make sure they’re safe, qualified drivers.
Some of the most common negligent or reckless behaviors leading to truck and commercial vehicle accidents include:
- Speeding: Speeding is always dangerous, and is even more so when you are driving a 10,000-pound vehicle. Trucks take longer to brake and come to a full stop than regular cars do, so if the truck driver is speeding, they are less likely to have enough time to hit the brakes in an emergency to avoid a collision.
- Drunk or drugged driving: Unfortunately, some truck drivers make the extremely reckless decision to get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This accounts for about 3% of total truck crashes.
- Inadequate surveillance: If truck drivers are not routinely checking their mirrors and surrounding view of the road, they can easily cause a accident by colliding with an unsuspecting vehicle. Everyone knows that big trucks have huge blind spots, but some truckers may not check their blind spots often enough, or fail to check them when they believe they already know that there is no one in their blind spot.
- Fatigue: Truck driver fatigue may be the most frequent cause of truck crashes. Most commercial truck drivers travel long distances at a time. Without taking the required breaks to get proper rest, a driver can become fatigued, which affects their response time, decision making, and coordination.
- Illegal maneuvers: If a tractor-trailer driver makes an illegal maneuver like cutting someone off, or changing multiple lanes at once without a turn signal, the resulting catastrophe is magnified by the sheer size of the vehicle.
- External or internal distractions: Like any driver, a truck driver can become distracted by things outside on the road, like another accident or a storm, or by things inside the truck, like their phone or the radio. Companies have the means to prevent or at least minimize distractions and should do everything within their power to do so.
- Following too closely: Trucks following other vehicles too closely are simply crashes waiting to happen. Trucks don’t come to a complete stop quickly when braking. Even worse, the relative height of a semi truck undercarriage may cause an override collision, which is often fatal to the occupants of the passenger vehicle. If truck drivers fail to allow enough room between their truck and the rear of another vehicle, they can cause a rear-end collision with deadly repercussions.
Common Types of Truck Accident Injuries
As mentioned, truck accidents come with a number of serious injuries. The difference in size between trucks and the average passenger vehicle is so significant that the driver and passengers in the car hit by the semi-trailer truck are nearly always severely injured.
In our area, these are some of the most common types of injuries that Charlotte truck accident attorneys see in tractor-trailer crash victims:
Back and Neck Injuries
The wreck can cause damage like tearing or bruising to muscles, tendons, and other soft tissue in the back and neck. Whiplash is also a common injury that causes damage to the neck after the head is thrust suddenly forward, then backward.
When truck accidents result in a fire, victims can suffer severe burns from the heat and flames. Burns are classified according to the layers of skin affected, with first-degree burns being fairly superficial.
Third-degree burns, however, can cause permanent disfigurement and disability. Pain from serious burns can persist well beyond the initial injury and develop into chronic pain.
Any breakage in a piece of bone is known as a fracture, and these types of breaks are possible in many different areas of the body during a collision. Broken ribs, arms, and shoulders are common in car crashes.
While some fractures may heal, others become a permanent issue and you could need surgery or metal splints or rods to stabilize the bones.
Traumatic brain injuries are common in truck accidents because the force behind the impact of the crash is so great that it can cause the brain to be damaged from being jolted around inside the skull.
And that’s if the victim’s head didn’t make contact with any surfaces. When that does happen, the impact of the accident often causes a victim to hit their head on the windshield, dashboard, steering wheel, or side window, causing much more damage to the brain, and even to the skull around the brain.
Brain injuries are very serious and can lead to permanent disability. If you have suffered a brain injury in Charlotte, we have excellent brain injury lawyers who can help you.
Internal bleeding and damage to internal organs are also common in truck crashes. Seatbelts, airbags, and other parts of the car that restrict the driver and passenger to keep them safe can also end up hurting them in an accident.. These safety measures frequently cause injuries like punctured lungs and damage or bleeding to organs like the stomach, intestines, and bladder.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are grave, as an injury to the spinal cord can cause partial or total paralysis. Some victims of spinal cord injuries end up with paraplegia (paralysis from the waist down) or quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs, often from the chest or neck down). Necessary medical treatments and the pain and loss from such life-altering injuries are substantial and ongoing.
Amputation and Disfigurement
Some truck crashes end in catastrophic injuries that are permanent and irreversible. Unfortunately, victims can be left with injuries that are so significant that they are physically disfigured. Other victims may need parts of their body amputated due to the severity of an injury.
Our catastrophic injury lawyers have experience fighting cases for victims with these kinds of injuries.
Hurt in a truck accident? Johnson & Groninger is here for you.
If you’ve been hurt in a tractor-trailer collision, Johnson & Groninger PLLC is here to help you. Our experienced Charlotte personal injury lawyers are prepared to uncover all the evidence available and fight to win you the justice and compensation you deserve.
Don’t wait to reach out; we can help you get started now. It’s important to begin work on a truck accident case as soon as possible. For one thing, you may still be able to gather evidence, but also because you’ll want to get started before the medical bills quickly pile up to a financially crushing level.
The sooner we get started, the sooner we can win your case, and get you the maximum compensation available. Call us at (704) 200-2009 to schedule a consultation with one of our Charlotte attorneys.