The thought of being in an accident with an 18-wheeler is terrifying, considering the possibilities of what could happen, especially for the driver and passengers in a smaller vehicle. But it’s frustrating to consider that many 18-wheeler accidents could have been avoided–by the trucking company itself. There are many ways a trucking company’s practices can lead to accidents. Once an accident occurs, the trucking company will likely try and avoid responsibility. Having an experienced injury law attorney working on your case can help prove where the actual fault exists. Here are some of the techniques and methods we have at our disposal to prove who’s responsible for the accident.
File a Police Report
Regardless of who might be at fault, if there’s been an accident, you should call the police and have them file a report. While a police report won’t necessarily give an opinion as to which driver and vehicle were at fault, it will document numerous facts about the accident that can be valuable to later establishing who was responsible.
The police officer should gather statements from all drivers involved as well as any witnesses. Witnesses may testify that one driver may not have been following driving laws, or they may note if the 18-wheeler appeared to be out of control, which could indicate a problem with the semi itself.
Gather Expert Reports
Some experts can re-create accidents, including road conditions or vehicle malfunctions, to provide a hypothesis of what caused specific accidents. This involves the expert examining the vehicles involved in the accident and interviewing the driver and witnesses. Experts like these are especially helpful when a trucking company aggressively denies responsibility.
Gain Access to the Trucking Company’s Policies, Records, and Maintenance Practices and Details
Trucking companies are required to exercise rigorous caution in terms of having their trucks on the roads with other drivers in order to avoid accidents. There are federal laws that dictate multiple safety requirements, including maintaining the driving records of the drivers and having strict limits on how many hours a driver is allowed to drive before they’re required to rest. Violations or neglecting to enforce any of these can lead to accidents that are the trucking company’s fault.
Another practice some trucking companies engage in involves looking the other way if drivers have bad driving records. The companies should check every driver’s records on a regular basis. If they don’t, or if they know a driver has a bad history but continues to assign routes to them, the company is likely negligent and could be held liable if the driver is responsible for the accident.
Learn About the Trucking Company’s Maintenance Practices
Improper maintenance leads to unsafe driving conditions. Semis should be rigorously examined and maintained to avoid catastrophic situations such as brake failures. Truck maintenance records and repair requests should be among the records the trucking company keeps at all times.
Those records can indicate problems that were known and ignored, or the lack of records could demonstrate that the trucking company can’t prove its maintenance and repairs were done correctly and in a timely manner.
Determine if the Trucking Company’s Third Party Was at Fault
Sometimes it’s not the trucking company that’s at fault but a company they do business with or subcontract to. Many trucking companies hire loading companies to fill the trucks. The loading company is responsible for ensuring that the truck is not overloaded and its cargo is stored appropriately and safely. When loading companies are careless and negligent, unstable cargo or a truck carrying more weight than is safe can be responsible for an accident. This isn’t necessarily the trucking company’s fault, but if they knew the loading company was not loading trucks in a safe manner, both companies could be liable.
Look for Manufacturing Defects
There are situations when the trucking company itself isn’t at fault because the manufacturer had a design flaw or manufacturing failure that led to a part not working correctly. This is something the trucking company wouldn’t necessarily be aware of. However, if they knew about the defect and didn’t take steps to fix it before letting the truck out on the road again, they and the manufacturer could both be held responsible.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been in an Accident With an 18-Wheeler?
Once you’ve got the police report, it’s vital to see a doctor to determine if you’ve been injured in any way, even if you feel fine. There are many injuries, some serious and dangerous, that don’t necessarily exhibit symptoms right away. In addition, if you wait to seek medical attention, the trucking company could try to blame your injury on something that happened after the accident. Finally, call me as soon as possible at 303-500-1376 for a free case evaluation.
While these are essential things you should do after an accident, there are also some important things not to do afterward. One of the most important things not to do is communicate with the trucking company’s insurance representatives or attorneys. They may contact you to try and negotiate a settlement directly, but their primary goal is to pay out as little as possible. They may also ask leading questions that could cause you to respond with something that could be interpreted as accepting fault for the accident. If they try to contact you by phone, letter, or email, don’t answer any questions but simply refer them to your lawyer.