Few things are as scary as an accident with a large semi-truck.
Their huge sizes makes these vehicles particularly dangerous when there is an accident, and injuries suffered by victims are often severe. Legal claims involving more extensive damages can quickly become complex and insurance companies will do their best to protect themselves financially. Before you get involved in a long battle with insurance companies after an accident with a semi-truck, consult our skilled and seasoned Wauwatosa truck accident attorneys.
Truck Accidents by the Numbers
If you were in a truck accident, you are not alone. According to Forbes, trucks were involved in 476,000 of the six-million crashes that took place in one recent year, and they continue to contribute to a disproportionate number (based on the number of trucks on the road) of crashes that involve serious injuries and fatalities. Semi-trucks carrying a heavy shipment can weigh around twenty times what an average car weighs. The sheer difference in size means anyone involved in a collision with a truck can sustain serious injuries and property damage.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, in 2016 there were 7,461 large truck crashes, with 79 fatalities and more than 2,000 injuries. As reported by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety:
- The braking capabilities of large trucks are often a factor in car accidents involving large trucks. Even on dry roads, fully loaded trucks take 20 to 40 percent more time and space to stop.
- Many crashes between cars and trucks occur when the much smaller car “under-rides” the truck, meaning that it comes to a rest beneath the truck.
Truck accidents pose incredible risks to small passenger vehicles and motorcyclists because the truck is so large and the victim vehicle is so small. The medical expenses, loss of income, and property damage can be a significant financial burden, and Wauwatosa families and individuals often need the help of a dedicated 18-wheeler truck accident lawyer to help them obtain the compensation that they deserve.
Causes of Truck Accidents
One of our top priorities is quickly and accurately determining the cause of the collision and appropriating fault. There are many things that can go wrong on a large semi truck, from faulty brakes to improperly loaded cargo.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, however, the most commonly cited cause of truck accidents is due to truck driver error. Other typical forms of truck driver error that cause accidents include:
- Speeding, including taking a turn too fast
- Driving while intoxicated or with drugs in the system
- Careless or distracted driving, including any type of cell phone use (such as texting or using a GPS device), watching TV or movies, eating, drinking, talking to another person, reaching for something, adjusting the radio, etc.
- Unfamiliarity with the road
Accidents can result from negligent handling of cargo, including:
- Overloaded semi-trucks, which can cause sluggish steering, increased chance of rollover, or loss of brakes
- Improper restraint of cargo (such as not properly tying or strapping down cargo), which can fall off the truck or fall inside and throw off the weight distribution
- Leaking of liquid transport goods, such as fuel
Equipment failures are also another commonly cited cause of truck accidents. These causes can include:
- Design flaws in the truck
- Defective parts, including steering and turn signals or other lights
- Trailer attachment or transmission failure
- Improperly repaired or damaged brakes
- Brake failures
- Defective or improperly maintained tires
- Cracked or dirty windshields, leading to poor operator visibility
Drowsy Driving is a Serious Problem in the Trucking Business
Sleep-deprived drivers are another leading cause of truck accidents. The problem is common among truck drivers who are completing cross country trips with little sleep to meet deadlines.
Drowsy driving accounts for a very large percentage of truck collisions that end up injuring others. Truck drivers spend long, mindless hours on the road, day after day, with little sleep. Despite more strict rules and regulations regarding the maximum hours a truck driver can spend on the road per day, drowsy truck driving is still killing thousands of Americans each year.
Federal rules mandate that a truck driver can only drive 11 hours in a 24-hour period, with a mandatory 30-minute break, and only 70 hours per week, with a mandatory 34-hour rest period in between this maximum work week, according to the New York Times. Yet truck drivers routinely break these regulations. If a fatigued drive injured you, consult an attorney who can hold the driver accountable.
Semi-truck drivers are bound by both state and federal regulations, and these regulations place constraints on how many consecutive hours truck drivers can log while driving between breaks. Truck drivers are required to break and sleep for a certain amount of time each day. When truck drivers operate their truck in violation of these rules, innocent victims can be injured.
Aggressive Driving? Truck Drivers Themselves Rarely Get Seriously Injured or Killed
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that in only 16 percent of cases of fatal truck collisions in 2015 was the occupant of the truck a casualty. Sixty-nine percent of those killed were occupants of passenger vehicles and 15 percent were bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists. The sheer size of a semi-truck invokes a sense of invincibility among some truck drivers, who use that power to intimidate other road users. Aggressive truck driving is a serious problem, and one that needs to be addressed by an experienced attorney when it leads to serious injuries or fatality.
What a Wauwatosa Truck Accident Attorney Can Do for You
Part of the services that a Wauwatosa truck accident attorney can provide for you is an independent investigation into your accident to learn what caused your accident and who was responsible.
Our truck accident attorneys work closely with investigators and expert witnesses to get to the bottom of the crash’s cause. And based on the cause of the crash, we will be able to accurately place blame and seek damages from the negligent party. If the crash was caused by fatigue, the driver will be held accountable, and therefore the trucking company. If the cause of the crash was due to improperly loaded cargo, we may pursue the party responsible for loading. And, if a catastrophic tire blow out was the cause, we may direct our attention to the company that produced the faulty tire. Because most truck drivers and trucking companies are well insured, there will most likely be a large policy maximum that we can pursue, regardless of the party at fault.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Truck Accidents?
When a car gets into an accident with a truck in Wauwatosa, there can be multiple liable parties, and it is important that your truck accident lawyer analyze the facts of your truck accident to determine who can be held liable for your injuries. The responsible parties can include:
- The driver of the truck that caused the accident
- The driver’s employer or trucking company
- The owner of the truck
- The manufacturer of the truck, truck tires, or other defective parts that caused the accident
- The shipper or loader of the cargo that is on the truck
- The company responsible for the maintenance of the truck
Wisconsin Truck Accidents in the News
A June 2018 article from the Journal Sentinel, a local woman whose husband was killed in an accident on I-94 involving a tractor trailer was pushed to do her own investigation into the matter after finding the official investigation done by police lacking. The woman’s husband died in May 2017, after being struck in the head by a piece of a brake drum that fell off a semi-truck and crashed through his windshield. She stated that the state patrol’s investigation was closed a month after the accident, without the driver of the semi-truck ever having been located. She also discovered that the police were looking for a semi-truck traveling in the wrong direction, and that they had not requested that department of transportation camera footage from the area be saved until it was too late. In September 2017, the woman filed a complaint with the state Department of Justice, alleging negligence on the part of the state patrol that likely prevented authorities from discovering the truck that caused the accident.
According to an October 2018 article from Fox6, one semi-truck driver was injured and another died in a two-vehicle crash on I-41/94 in Racine County. The early morning accident occurred when the driver of one truck pulled over, possibly to change a tire, and the second truck collided with the back of it. The driver of the second truck died at the scene. The accident caused the freeway to be closed for about six hours.
As reported by Channel 3000 in November 2018, a wreck involving a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle on Interstate 90 in Edgerton claimed the life of a 59-year-old Illinois man. The man, who was driving the passenger vehicle, had stopped on the side of the road and was outside of his vehicle when he was struck by the semi-truck. The semi driver was uninjured. The accident prompted authorities to warn drivers to give as much space as possible for disabled vehicles on the roadside, even moving over to another lane if possible.
A drunk semi driver struck a guardrail and wound up more than 530 feet off the highway in Potosi, according to a November 2018 report from Channel 3000. A witness traveling in front of the big rig stated that the semi driver, who was hauling a trailer full of dog food, was catching up to her quickly as she was driving 60 mph. The truck struck the guardrail on the right-hand side of the road, and continued to drive through it. Pieces of the guardrail blocked the roadway, and the truck and trailer sustained heavy damage. The semi driver initially told investigators that he lost traction and crashed into the guardrail. He later stated that someone else in the truck caused the crash, although he was driving. He was asked to perform roadside sobriety tests and was subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated.
A Wisconsin-based trucking company was the focus of an ABC 17 investigation, following a deadly chain-reaction crash on I-70 in Boone County, Missouri. The November 2018 crash killed four people, including the semi driver, and was reportedly caused when the semi driver rear-ended two passenger vehicles that were stopped due to a fire in another big rig. The investigation of federal reports revealed that truck drivers from the company, Active USA, had been involved in 20 crashes over two years, with one fatality and eight injuries, not counting the Boone County victims. About 10 percent of people killed on U.S. highways are killed in crashes that involve a large truck, the report noted.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Wisconsin
Like all states, Wisconsin has specific laws that allow for those injured due to the negligence or reckless actions of others to pursue justice. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident in Wauwatosa due to a negligent or reckless driver, the following rules apply:
- In personal injury lawsuits, negligence must be proven. For lawsuits involving semi-truck drivers, trucking companies, and their insurance companies, it must be shown that the driver had a duty of care to operate his or her motor vehicle in a manner that was safe for other drivers on the road; the driver’s negligent or reckless actions caused a breach in that duty of care; the driver’s actions directly or indirectly caused injuries to the claimant; and the injuries sustained by the claimant resulted in losses that can be economically compensated.
- The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for damages is for injuries caused by an accident involving a motor vehicle is three years. Family members wishing to file a wrongful death suit following the death of a loved one due to an accident involving a motor vehicle have two years from the date of the cause of action. If these deadlines are not adhered to, the case will likely not be heard in court.
- Wisconsin follows the comparative fault rule, meaning that an individual who was injured in an accident that they are partially responsible for can still file a claim against other parties who are at fault. However, any award they receive will be reduced by the percentage of fault they bear. For example, the plaintiff was found to be 20 percent responsible for the accident that caused her injuries. Her award will be reduced by 20 percent to account for her fault.
- There are three types of compensation that can be sought through a personal injury lawsuit: specific, general, and punitive. Specific losses refer to actual expenses, such as medical bills, the cost of repairing or replacing your car, and lost wages or loss of future earnings. General losses refer to pain and suffering claims, loss of enjoyment, and disability. Punitive claims are designed to punish the at-fault party, and are rarely awarded and usually only in cases where the liable party acted in a particularly egregious way.
The vast majority of personal injury claims are settled between the claimant and the at-fault party’s insurance company before the case ever makes it to court, and negotiation with the insurance company is generally the first step in the process. If no acceptable settlement offer is made, then the case may proceed in court within the above listed deadlines. A big rig accident lawyer in Wauwatosa can help.
Contact a Wauwatosa Truck Accident Attorney
When you are in an accident with a large truck, seek a skilled and dedicated truck accident attorney to assist you with the aftermath of your accident. At Groth Law Firm, our attorneys understand what to look for when investigating a truck accident and how to present a claim to an insurance company. We are capable of taking your case to the courtroom if necessary to help you obtain the compensation that you deserve for your accident. For your free consultation and case review, contact Groth Law Firm online today or by dialing (414) 240-0707. Call us today for assistance.