Nationwide, truck accident statistics are similarly disturbing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recorded 4,761 truck accident deaths and 148,000 injuries during 2017. Both figures represent a steady increase from previous years.
Given these staggering statistics, it’s vital for all drivers to be cautious when sharing the road with commercial trucks — and to seek legal help immediately if they are involved in a crash.
Common Causes of North Carolina Truck Accidents
A trucker’s job and livelihood depend on his or her driving record, so most do everything they can to stay safe on the road. But some truck drivers face pressures that the average commuter does not.
Employers may offer incentives for them to make early deliveries. Alternatively, they may penalize drivers for delivering late freight.
These unfair demands should not change the way they drive, but the sad reality is that truck drivers sometimes give in. When their poor choices cause an accident, they can — and should — be held accountable for their negligence. So should their employers.
Common causes of truck accidents include:
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Mechanical failures
- Aggressive driving
- Poor maintenance
- Improperly loaded or loose cargo
- Undertrained or unlicensed drivers
- Following too closely
- Failure to merge properly
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failure to yield
Injuries Caused by Trucking Accidents in North Carolina
Crashes involving commercial trucks are more likely to be deadly than regular crashes. They can also cause particularly devastating injuries, such as:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries/paralysis
- Broken bones
- Internal organ damage
- Neck injuries
- Facial injuries
These catastrophic injuries typically mean that victims may face years of ongoing medical treatment, rehabilitation, and permanent disability. Victims may need to pay for modifications to their homes to accommodate medical equipment like wheelchairs. The lifetime costs of truck accident injuries can easily reach into the millions. Because the stakes are so high, working with a knowledgeable accident injury lawyer at Stewart Law Offices can help protect your rights to compensation.
Truck Accident Liability in North Carolina
Truck accidents are complicated because numerous different parties might be held liable at the same time. These include:
- Truck drivers
- Truck companies
- The truck or trailer’s owner(s)
- The cargo owner
- The truck manufacturer
- Parts manufacturers
- Government entities
- Other drivers (e.g., a multi-vehicle wreck)
Commercial truck operations are governed by both state and federal laws. These regulations are stricter than the rules for other drivers because trucks are simply more dangerous if operated negligently.
For example, trucking companies must comply with weight and load restrictions, submit to vehicle inspections, and carry mandatory minimum insurance to cover injuries and damages.
North Carolina truck driver requirements:
- Be at least 18 if only driving in-state or 21 if driving out-of-state
- Work no more than a certain number of hours in a row
- Adhere to minimum rest requirements
- Get biannual medical exams
- Have a commercial driver’s license with specific endorsements according to the class of vehicle
- Be charged with a DWI if their blood alcohol concentration is 0.04 or greater
- Submit to drug and alcohol testing
Failure to follow these rules or others set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) could result in a lawsuit against the trucker if an accident occurs.
The truck driver’s employer could also be held liable in certain circumstances, including:
- If the employee was unfit to drive and the employer knew about it (e.g., if they were inadequately trained, lacked the appropriate license, or were on medication that could impair their driving)
- If the truck driver was partially at fault for the crash and was doing his/her job or “on the clock” at the time of the accident
- If the company was negligent in their hiring or retention practices
- If the employer failed to perform required background checks
Determining fault will be critical in order to recover compensation in your truck accident claim. These complex cases can be challenging and require a focused investigation. Our seasoned attorneys will work to identify who should be held liable and will demand compensation from all negligent parties.
How to Prove Fault in N.C. Truck Accident Cases
In order to receive compensation after a truck accident, you must be able to prove that someone else’s negligence resulted in your injuries.
If you’re not too injured, you can readily collect some important information while you’re at the accident scene. Examples include:
- Photos of the accident (including vehicle damage, skid marks, road signs or other pertinent evidence)
- The truck driver’s name, employer and insurance information
- Eyewitness contact information
Other important pieces of evidence will likely not be accessible to you. However, our experienced truck accident attorneys will also be able to obtain and preserve data from sources such as the truck’s computer, maintenance logs or driving logs. These may strengthen your liability argument by providing details about the crash, such as:
- The truck’s speed at the time of the crash
- The truck’s route
- How long the driver had been on the road and whether they exceeded federal hours-of-service regulations
- Correspondence between the trucker and their employer
- Maintenance issues
North Carolina Truck Accident Settlements
Considering how severe truck accidents can be, settlements and trial verdicts have the potential to be substantial. These awards provide compensation that can be critical to helping you recover from the crash.
In North Carolina, you may be compensated for:
- Past, current and future medical expenses
- Emotional trauma, such as the loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Lost companionship
- Punitive damages
- Wrongful death compensation
The best way to know what types of damages you may be entitled to is by contacting a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
What to Do After a N.C. Truck Accident
Truck accidents can be terrifying. You might feel helpless and overwhelmed in the aftermath of the wreck, but there are some important steps that you can take to protect your legal rights.
- Call 911: Since the accident might be severe, first responders will be needed to handle injuries and assess property damages. Police will make an official report of the accident that will be vital evidence if you file a claim or lawsuit.
- Get to a safe area: If possible, move your car to a safe area and turn on your hazard lights. This will help other cars see you and reduce the chance that you will be hit while dealing with the original crash.
- Document the scene: Take pictures of any damage to your car, the truck or other vehicles. Also take pictures of road markings, weather conditions, road hazards and traffic signs or signals. Write down witness accounts of the crash and get their names and contact information. Get as many details from the truck driver as possible, including his/her name, contact information, insurance information, and license number, as well as the name of the driver’s employer, the name of the truck owner, and if different, the name of the owner of the trailer. Ask the police for a copy of the official accident report.
- Watch your words: Don’t admit fault or tell other people on the scene your version of what happened, and don’t sign anything at the scene unless you’re required by the police. Trucking companies might quickly dispatch their insurance agents and lawyers to the scene to try to avoid paying damages and protect their reputations. They might try to get you to say something they can use against you or trick you into accepting a low settlement offer.
- Get medical attention: If you didn’t get medical attention at the scene of the crash, visit a doctor as soon as possible to have them evaluate and treat your injuries. Not all injuries are obvious, and a medical professional can detect these injuries before they get worse. Medical records are also a critical piece of evidence if you file an insurance claim or lawsuit. Without these official records, you might not be able to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
- Report the accident: Most insurance policies require that you tell them about any accident within a reasonable amount of time to claim benefits.7
- Contact Stewart Law Offices: Truck accidents are complicated because of their severity and the number of different parties that might be liable. It’s difficult and frustrating to sort through all these details on your own, especially while you’re trying to recover from the trauma of the crash. An experienced truck accident attorney can help ease this burden by sorting through the mess on your behalf and fighting for your rights.