Truck Accidents and Wrongful Death Suits
Truck accidents are often synonymous with wrongful death claims because of the severity of the injuries and damage these vehicles can cause in a collision. Tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles can weigh 80,000 pounds or more with loads compared to the 5,000 pounds of the average passenger vehicles. In a collision with one of these massive vehicles, drivers and passengers in ordinary cars are at a serious disadvantage. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that 73% of those killed in truck accidents are the drivers and passengers of the smaller vehicle.
Factors in Trucking Accidents
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are upwards of 500,000 truck accidents each year with 5,000 of them being fatal. In 2017, truck accident fatalities reached a 29-year high with 4,761 deaths. Of these, 1,300 were the truck drivers. Sadly, about 40% of the truckers who died were not wearing seat belts.
About half of truck accidents are the fault of the truck driver. Factors that lead to truck accidents include:
- Speed (23%)
- Fatigue (13%)
- Alcohol (8%)
- Legally prescribed medications (26%)
- Illegal drug use (3%)
- Inexperience or lack of proper training
- Negligent maintenance—tires in poor condition, failure to check brake and steering systems, failing to secure the load
- Engine malfunction
- Truck improperly equipped with side-view mirrors
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway
- Illegal driving maneuvers—unsafe lane changes, running traffic lights or stop signs, unsafe passing, unsafe turns
- Distracted driving—cell phone use, eating, reading
- Improper or inadequate evasive maneuvers
- Overly aggressive driving
Companies that are strapped for drivers do take short-cuts and fail to conduct proper background checks on drivers or overlook a driver’s poor driving record. If that driver causes an accident, you may have a cause of action against the company for negligent hiring practices. Contact a Boston wrongful death lawyer to handle these claims.
Trucking companies are commercial carriers and their drivers are required to have commercial driver’s licenses. State and federal regulations govern how companies operate, such as requiring drivers to undergo annual medical exams, drug tests, to conduct pre-trip inspections, and to work a limited number of hours per day and week. Trucks cannot exceed 65 mph on any Massachusetts roadway but like any other vehicle may be required to travel slower given the traffic conditions. And drivers may not drive with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or they are presumed to be under the influence.
Fatigue is a major factor in trucking accidents. State and federal regulations require that companies and its drivers adhere to the following rules:
- Drivers can only operate the truck for 11-hours within a 14-hour window. After driving for 11-hours, the driver must take 10-hours off.
- After 8-hours of driving, operators must take a 30-minute rest break. This is required before completing the 11-hours allowed.
- Drivers are limited to 60-hours on-duty during any consecutive 7-day period, and no more than 70-hours if over 8 consecutive days.
- If 60 or 70-hours is the weekly limit, then driver must take 34-hours off before initiating a new weekly driving schedule of 60 or 70-hours.
Being on-duty includes other related activities to driving, such as loading and unloading, awaiting dispatch while on the facility or any public property, conducting repairs, undergoing a drug test, or working another job for the company, whether the driver is paid or not. Further, all trucks must now be equipped with an electronic logging device. Many have on-board monitors that provide data on the truck’s speed and steering in the moments before an accident.
In any truck-related fatal accident, the data from these devices along with personnel records of the driver must be produced when requested by the claimant’s wrongful death lawyer in Boston. Drivers in fatal or very serious accidents are also required to undergo drug testing.
In some cases, our lawyers will find fault with parties other than the trucking company. This includes truck manufacturers, repair service companies, and shipping companies responsible for the load that may have fallen off. In any event, commercial drivers and companies are held to a higher standard of care than that of ordinary motorists.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim in Massachusetts
For those whose loved ones suffered fatal injuries in a truck accident, they will need the services of a highly experienced, resourceful, and knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer in Boston to ensure that all avenues of liability and compensation are explored. Fortunately, truck companies are required to possess fairly substantial insurance coverage. Although the FMCSA only requires a minimum of $750,000 in liability coverage, shippers and brokers often require at least $1 million in coverage. If there are other parties at fault such as a repair shop or manufacturer who supplied a defective part, then more compensation may be available.
In a fatal accident, the administrator for the decedent’s estate may bring a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver on behalf of the decedent’s immediate family members. Damages in wrongful death claims can include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses incurred before death
- Lost earnings the decedent would have earned over his/her lifetime
- Pain and suffering if the decedent was observed to have consciously suffered before succumbing
- Loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, counsel and guidance
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or willful and wanton
Retain a Car Accident Lawyer from Burns and Jain
Trucking accidents can be difficult claims to handle since the insurers for the trucking companies will retain experienced and aggressive attorneys to defend their insurers since their exposure is considerable. Retain a Boston wrongful death lawyer from the Law Office of Burns and Jains. Call us at (617) 227-7423 to schedule a free consultation about your injury or wrongful death claim.