Large Truck Crashes: A Closer Look

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2021 | Injuries, Truck Accidents

A fully-loaded semi truck weighs over 80,000 pounds. Additionally, regulators often issue overweight waivers without asking too many questions. When these massive vehicles crash, the amount of force is hard to imagine.

These forces often cause catastrophic injuries. Moreover, large trucks carry hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel. Since diesel burns at a different temperature from gasoline, these crash victims also often sustain serious burns. These injuries usually require extensive, and expensive, treatment at specialized burn centers.

As a result, a Lexington personal injury attorney can usually obtain substantial compensation in these cases. But these claims are quite complex, from both a legal and evidence standpoint. Furthermore, because so much money is at stake, insurance companies usually fight these claims tooth and nail. So, if you or a loved one was hurt or killed in a large truck crash, you are in for a struggle.

Establishing Negligence

Most noncommercial operators in Kentucky have a duty of reasonable care. They must obey the rules of the road, driver defensively, and avoid crashes if possible. Truck drivers are common carriers in Kentucky. As a result, they have a higher duty of care.

Since the duty of care is higher, it’s easier to establish a breach of care in these situations. This breach could be one of the following:

  • Behavioral: Many large truck crashes happen before drivers get behind the wheel. Operator fatigue is a good example. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. Furthermore, many truckers are on the road late at night and early in the morning. Most people are naturally drowsy at these times.
  • Operational: Speeding and failing to maintain a proper lookout are the most common truck driver operational errors. Since semi-trucks are so large and so hard to stop, these operators must slow down, especially in traffic. Furthermore, drivers sit so high that they have a hard time seeing small cars and pedestrians.
  • Environmental: Adverse environmental conditions make behavioral and operational negligence worse. Yet many truckers ignore things like rain and fog. They only care about delivering their loads on time.

These breaches of duty usually involve the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule. Ordinary negligence is a breach of care, and as mentioned, the duty of care is high in these cases. Negligence per se is the violation of a safety law.

Evidence in Truck Crash Claims

Theoretical liability is not enough. Victim/plaintiffs must establish actual negligence. And, they must establish it by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Basic evidence in truck crash claims usually includes the police accident report, medical bills, and witness statements.

Electronic evidence is often important in truck crash cases as well. The aforementioned fatigued driver claims are a good example. Large trucks usually have Electronic Logging Devices. ELDs contain concrete proof of HOS (Hours of Service) compliance.

Furthermore, most large trucks have Event Data Recorders. Much like the black box flight data recorders in commercial airplanes, EDRs measure and record things like brake application, steering angle, and vehicle speed. These items are often critical in truck crash claims.

Third Party Liability

Most truckers are owner-operators or independent contractors for tax purposes. But for negligence purposes, these individuals are employees. As a result, the respondeat superior doctrine usually applies to these wrecks. Like a ship captain is ultimately responsible for the crew’s conduct, employers are ultimately responsible for their employees’ negligence.

This responsibility applies if the driver was negligent during the scope of employment. In Kentucky, any act which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment.

Vicarious liability theories such as respondeat superior are very important in catastrophic injury claims. Frequently, individual drivers do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in these situations. Respondeat superior gives these victims an additional source of recovery.

Damages in a truck crash claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Large truck crash claims are quite complex. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.