18 Wheeler and Heavy Truck Accidents

18-Wheeler accidents in Louisiana affect thousands of lives each year. Louisiana’s thousands of miles of highways and byways are the perfect environment for an unsuspecting motorist to collide with an 18-wheeler or heavy weight truck. When these issues arise its important that you, the injured person, immediately contact the experienced attorney’s of the Law Office of David Kervin, Jr. Our firm will perform a thorough investigation and call experts, if necessary, in order to determine whether we can hold the driver an owner of the big rig accountable.

 

Due to the enormous size of these vehicles, the injuries sustained from such a collision may be serious and can even result in death. Injuries from such a collision may include brain and spinal cord damage, paralysis, amputations, broken bones, and back and neck injuries.

 

The Typical Issues Surrounding 18 Wheeler Accidents

 

18-Wheeler trucks are more likely to be involved in fatal multiple-vehicle crashes than smaller passenger vehicles.  Many accidents with trucks are rear-end collisions or other wrecks that involve a significant element of carelessness on behalf of the driver or other avoidable causes such as:

 

Driver fatigue: Although there are laws surrounding how long a driver should be behind the wheel, oftentimes drivers do not obey the rules, leading to fatal accidents.

 

Drug or alcohol use: mixing any type of stimulant or depressant can effect someone’s driving and when that person is also operating heavy machinery it can be a deadly combination.

 

Speeding: speeding is unsafe for a motorist driving any type of vehicle and can become especially hazardous when driving a vehicle that weighs up to 80,000.

 

Jackknifing: in this type of accident the tractor-trailer becomes detached from the truck bed and stops at a 90-degree angle. The trailer can hit other vehicles, people, and cause collisions with other vehicles.

 

Distractions: unfortunately even boredom can be the root of fault for an accident with an 18-wheeler. When a driver is driving for hours they can overly rely on cell phones, radios and even television, which pulls the attention from where it should be, on the road.

 

Inadequate Training: Just like any other job, 18-wheeler truck drivers need adequate training in order to perform well. When 18-wheeler drivers aren’t trained, there can be fatal consequences.

 

Unsafe equipment or negligent maintenance: The weight of the cargo in a truck this large can speed up the wear and tear of the vehicle’s parts. A driver must be proactive about maintaining the vehicle and constantly assessing it’s maintenance needs. A lack of vigilant maintenance may lead to a collision.

 

Wheel Blowout: Just like any other vehicle an18-wheeler can have a blowout. The consequences can be dire when one or more of 18 wheels blow out unexpectedly on the highway.

 

Blind Spots: Most cars have a warning sign on the mirror stating, “objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.” Well imagine if there was a sign saying “if I can’t see it in my mirror it doesn’t exist.” Due to the length and width of the tractor-trailer there are often several feet where the driver cannot see anything, opening up the opportunity for an accident.

 

Improper loading: Just like when you load up your car to go on a road trip with your family, making sure that everything is loaded correctly so nothing slides forward and hits your daughter in the head, drivers of 18-wheelers have to make sure their cargo is loaded correctly. When an 18-wheeler is improperly loaded cargo can move around shifting the weight of the vehicle or worse, falling out of the trailer completely.

 

When assessing an 18-wheeler case our team considers the above factors that make 18-wheeler accident cases unique, such as driving logs that may indicate fatigue, the truck driver’s record, and potential violations of state and federal regulations.

 

Weight and size of an 18-wheeler

 

The size and weight of the trailer of an 18-wheeler is what makes accidents with these machines so dangerous. On average an empty tractor-trailer weighs about 30,000 pounds and full loads can average up to 45,000 pounds with loads sometimes as heavy as 80,000 pounds. Tractor-trailer combinations are typically 60-70 feet long and 8-9 feet wide.

 

Besides the obvious risks associated with a vehicle that is possibly 10 times heavier than the average car, the heavy cargo inside of the truck may shift during the route causing serious additional risks. An unsecure load can cause an accident because the imbalance in the load causes the truck to either flip or the driver otherwise loses control of the vehicle, typically during a turn or with the help of a gust of wind.

 

Who may be held liable?

 

Trucking accounts for 70% of the total tonnage of goods shipped in this country. With the lion’s share of the transportation of goods, these trucks often travel hundreds of miles before reaching its destination. Ultimately,  there are thousands of 18-wheelers on the road in the United States, driving to deliver and transfer goods from one place to another. These trucks are not only numerous, but also have to travel great lengths to deliver cargo.

This may be the most cost effective way for a company to transport its goods, but the news of over 4,000 fatalities a year due to 18-wheeler accidents is unnerving for a motorist sharing the road.

 

In Louisiana the number of 18-wheelers accidents can surpass the hundreds each year. When involved in this kind of accident it is best that you reach out to an attorney with experience in this type of litigation as soon as possible. One of the most difficult issues in handling this type of case is the issue of liability. Because of the number of individuals and companies involved there can be any number of groups held responsible for your losses including:

 

The owner of the truck or freight company: The owner of the freight company can be held liable for the action (or inaction) of its subordinates.

 

The driver’s employer: If a company employs the driver other than the company that owns the goods that company may also be held liable.

 

An owner’s parent company: If the company that owns the trucks is a subsidiary of a larger company, that larger company may be held responsible.

 

The truck’s manufacturer: When there is a defect in the truck or some mechanism associated with the truck that contributed to the accident, a truck’s manufacturer may be held liable.

 

The manufacturer of any truck part: If there is a defect in a part used on the truck that significantly contributed to the accident the manufacturer of that part can be held liable.

 

A maintenance company that worked on the truck: If a mechanic worked on part of the truck and did not fix what they were supposed to or broke something else in the process of fixing another part, and their failure contributed to your injury, the mechanic may also be held liable for your loss.

 

The driver/owner of another vehicle: If the driver or owner of another vehicle contributes to the accident or causes the accident with an 18-wheeler that driver may be held responsible.

 

The manufacturer of another vehicle: If there was a defect in the manufacturing of a vehicle that was not only involved in the accident but also contributed to the accident, the manufacturer of that vehicle may be held liable.

 

This is clearly an extensive list. But when it comes to 18-wheeler accidents the losses can be horrific leading to missing work and the inability to take care of family and responsibilities.  These costs can number in the hundreds of thousands and even millions, including additional parties that could be held liable in your suit will increase your chances of recovery.

 

All of these possible defendants can be overwhelming to a victim considering a lawsuit. Only an experienced 18-wheeler accident lawyer in Louisiana can determine the liable party or parties. Not only that, but often large companies found to be liable in an 18-wheeler accident, will try to pay out as small a settlement as possible. This offer may not be enough to keep some clients going after a major setback, which is why employing the Law Office of David Kervin, Jr. is a step in the right direction.

 

Louisiana law on 18-wheeler accidents

 

In Louisiana the law controlling 18-wheeler accidents is called negligence. If the actor’s conduct (in this case the driver) falls below the “standard of care” that a driver of an 18-wheeler should have, and that substandard conduct results in injury to another, then the driver may be held responsible for your loss.

 

Louisiana uses the duty/risk formulation of negligence, which consists of 4 elements that our team of lawyers will be tasked with proving. The four elements are cause-in-fact, duty, breach of duty, and injury. Below is a short explanation of each element, actual cases are more complicated, but this will give you an idea:

 

Cause-in-fact the defendant’s substandard conduct actually caused your injury. Cause-in-fact applies to a causal chain between the negligent act and the injury to the plaintiff (you). To determine the Cause-in-fact the court will examine if the actions of the driver were the but-for cause of your injury.

 

The duty element is satisfied when the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff (the injured party), and did the duty extend to this injury, to this plaintiff, that occurred in this manner, from this risk, etc. This element is more or less complicated depending on the claim.

 

The plaintiff must also prove that there was a breach of the duty of care owed to the plaintiff.  Generally the court will ask if the defendant should be responsible for the injury that the plaintiff has suffered. If that answer is yes, then the court will look to determine if this injury was within the scope of the duty that the defendant owed the plaintiff and was that duty breached. Our attorneys will work hard to prove this element by examining the industry standards and other evidence.

 

The plaintiff must suffer some injury that can be compensated. The plaintiff must prove that actual damages exist using evidence. Our team will identify all negligent acts – looking for the untaken precaution (the defendant’s failure to _____) or the unsafe action (driving while drinking/texting).

 

When trying to identify if there are other parties responsible for your injury the court will examine if vicarious liability exists (Employer for employee liability). Employers are answerable for damage occurring while their employees are acting in the course and scope of their work. The employer will be liable for the negligent acts of his employee if:

 

Employment relationship – If there is an employment relationship between the employer and the employee, either payroll or borrowed employee (one who is not an employee is an independent contractor) then the employer could be responsible for the damages caused by the employee.

 

Control test – The court may ask could the employer have exercised control over how the work was done? Was there a very close economic connection between the employer’s actions and the work subject to very close control over physical conduct and the time it took to complete the work? If the answer to this question is yes, then an employment relationship exists and the employer may be held liable for your loss.

 

Borrowing employer liable for torts of borrowed employee – Sometimes an employee does not work full-time, he or she may be hired through a temp agency or some other type of service. In these situations the court will ask, did a “right of control” exist over the employee’s actions? The court will ask if there was an actual exercise of control by borrowing employer over the borrowed employee and other questions to define the relationship.

 

Independent contractor test – does the employer have right to control the actions of the contractor? First the court will examine if there was a contract between parties (in an 18-wheeler case that could be a contract between the driver and the owner of the goods). In order to determine this relationship the court will ask, does the contractor choose the means to accomplish the task (ex: transporting the goods)? The employer is not vicariously liable for the negligence of an independent contractor.

 

The Employer may be liable for the following even if committed by independent contractor: (1) inherently or intrinsically dangerous activities; (2) authorizing performance of work in a manner which is unsafe; (3) injuries resulting from ultra-hazardous activities by hiring out work to independent contractor.

 

Sample verdicts

 

The following are some possible verdicts in large truck or 18-wheeler cases. Keep in mind that no two cases are alike; these are verdicts from other cases. Our attorneys will work hard to try to get you the settlement you deserve.

 

$5,000,000 Settlement

A young medical professional was rear-ended by an 18 Wheeler in Baton Rouge. The investigating officer ignored signs that the defendant driver was impaired and the employer (also a defendant) failed to give the driver a Breathalyzer test after the accident, among other issues. The plaintiff’s injuries were serious enough to receive a diagnosis of “failed back syndrome.”   Allen v. Sikes, et al., No. 566,294, 19th JDC, 2010

 

$4,000 Settlement

The plaintiff was a passenger in a car struck by a truck while working, causing him to be injured. The driver of the truck failed a Breathalyzer test. Plaintiff was diagnosed with a lumbar sprain and strained ligaments of the hip girdle and was eventually diagnosed with a herniated disc. Aycock v. Jenkins Tile Co. 703 So.2d 117, 19th JDC, 1997
$85,000 Settlement

Man involved in a truck accident sustained injuries of a nose fracture, TMJ, minor eye irritation, post-concussion syndrome, chronic cervical pain, mild traumatic brain injury, reduced fine motor coordination and loss of spatial orientation.

Baltazar v. Wolinski 53 So.3d 591, 3rd Circuit, 2010
$194,000 Settlement

Truck driver sued for damages following a vehicle collision. The plaintiff was treated prior to the accident for a herniated disc, but testing following the accident revealed the presence an issue that required additional surgery.  The plaintiff suffered from Neck, shoulder and arm pain one year after surgery were reported to the doctor, but he could not have any further surgery to correct and he suffered a permanent impairment in his left arm and hand of 10-15%.

Basco v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company 909 So.2d 660, 9th JDC, 2005

 

$175,000 Settlement

Woman sustained a neck injury following a semi-truck rear-ending her vehicle. Injury resulted in a prolonged period of treatment that culminated in cervical fusion surgery and permanent physical restrictions on her activities.

Bertrand v. Henry 815 So.2d 868, 16th JDC, 2001

 

For more sample verdicts visit legalclimate.com