Virginia Truck Accident Attorney
Semi-truck tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers and other large trucks were involved in 2,484 accidents in Virginia in 2019, according to the DMV’s Virginia Traffic Crash Facts report. When all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are considered, the numbers rise to 4,922 crashes, 97 involving fatality and 2,035 causing injury. These accidents occurred on interstates and non-interstate roads, involving single vehicle and multi-vehicle crashes. Leading accident causes included drunk driving, distracted driving, cell phone use, texting while driving, following too closely, failure to yield, improper lane change, and improper turn. In other words, negligent driving lies behind just about every truck accident.
These statistics also show that injury and death in a truck accident are far more likely to occur than in crashes between passenger vehicles. The reason for this is that collisions with large trucks are much more forceful. Tractor-trailers can weigh 20 times more than passenger cars, and the most well-built SUV is no match for an 18-wheeler barreling down the highway. The result is that victims of truck accidents are often left with catastrophic injuries and their consequences: huge medical bills, loss of the ability to work, significant pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and often permanent disability or loss in quality of life.
The personal injury attorneys at MichieHamlett are experienced in recovering significant victories for accident victims in the form of high-dollar settlements and jury verdicts. Truck accident claims are expensive, and they are therefore heavily resisted by the trucking companies and their insurance carriers. Our dedicated Virginia truck accident attorneys don’t hesitate to take on the large trucking companies and insurance companies and take them to court when a settlement can’t be reached. If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident in Virginia, you can count on MichieHamlett to represent you vigorously and strategically. We have helped countless injury victims through over 75 years of legal practice in Virginia, and we are ready to help you too in your hour of need.
Types of Truck Accidents in Virginia
While they may make up a low proportion of all traffic-related collisions, truck accidents are the most likely to cause death, injuries, and other devastation for victims. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Traffic Crash Facts, there are almost 5,000 collisions involving semis, 18-wheelers, large trucks, and other commercial vehicles every year. Almost half of them cause a fatality or bodily harm to at least one person. From the size and weight of a truck, you can guess that the most seriously injured victims are occupants of the passenger car.
Virginia law does provide you with legal options as the victim of a truck collision, but the legal process is more complicated than other motor vehicle crashes. Instead of putting your rights at risk, trust our Virginia truck accidents attorneys at the MichieHamlett Law Firm to protect your interest. Please contact our office to set up a free consultation, and check out an overview about how these incidents happen.
Common Types of Truck Accidents
The underlying cause of truck crashes in Virginia is operator error and carelessness, which translates to negligence in the practice of law. You need to prove that the truck driver breached the legal duty to operate the vehicle safely, and this was the cause of the collision. Specific types of truck accidents include:
- Jackknifes, where the trailer of the truck slides ahead of the semi tractor;
- Rollover collisions, often caused by the operator taking curves too quickly;
- Underride crashes, in which a passenger vehicle slides underneath the trailer or truck tractor;
- Accidents caused by falling or unbalanced cargo, typically the result of improper loading or securing; and,
- Collisions that result from a defective part, component, or system installed on the truck.
Legal Challenges with Truck Accident Claims
Like most traffic crash cases, your first step toward obtaining compensation is filing a claim with the driver’s insurance company. If you cannot resolve your claim through settlement, you must go to court to recover monetary damages for your losses.
However, there are three key challenges that complicate truck accident cases. Our lawyers at the MichieHamlett Law Firm work to overcome legal obstacles, but you should be aware of them.
- Because of the devastating, violent force of a truck collision, you could suffer severe or catastrophic injuries. Medical losses alone could range in the hundreds of thousands.
- With such high stakes, you can be sure the insurance company will take every opportunity to deny or fight your claim.
- There are multiple potential parties in a truck crash claim, beyond the driver and insurer. You may need to pursue a trucking company, employer, loading and logistics company, manufacturer of parts, or other entities.
What Causes Truck Accidents?
The very nature of tractor-trailers makes accidents more likely. Because of their immense size and weight, the big rigs require greater stopping distance, and truckers need more reaction time to respond to a traffic slowdown or other sudden change in traffic conditions. Unfortunately, drivers get distracted or careless and don’t always give themselves the room they need. A trucker who chooses the wrong method to stop a tractor-trailer in an emergency can jackknife the truck, causing a catastrophic accident often involving multiple vehicles on the road. Semi-trucks also have significantly larger blind spots than passenger vehicles, meaning turns and lane changes are inherently riskier and require a greater deal of time and attention to execute safely.
Driver fatigue is a leading cause of truck accidents. Federal regulations allow truckers to stay behind the wheel for as long as 11 hours and be on duty for 14 hours a day, and in some cases hours longer. Truck drivers can lawfully drive for eight hours straight before taking as little as 30 minutes to rest and then starting up again. Truckers can also legally put in 60 hours over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over eight consecutive days, and they only have to take 34 hours off before restarting a new seven or eight-day period.
Working under the allowable hours of service regulations can be punishing enough, but many drivers push themselves even farther – whether on their own initiative or under pressure from the trucking company – and drive longer than is legal. Truckers have been known to falsify their driving logs to hide their noncompliance from roadside inspectors and weigh stations. Sometimes, the facts only come out after a crash based on the diligent work of the accident victim’s attorney.
Just as dangerous as the condition of the driver is the condition of the truck itself. When safety agencies conduct roadside inspections, they find it necessary to pull one out of every five trucks they stop out of service because of dangerously unsafe conditions with their tires, brakes or other critical components. These are not surprise inspections; trucking companies know about them months in advance. They simply don’t bother to maintain their fleets in safe working order, and it’s the occupants of the passenger vehicles the trucks share the road with who suffer.
Occupants of passenger vehicles are at serious risk of catastrophic injury or death in a collision with a tractor-trailer due to underride accidents. Because of the height disparity between the two vehicles, a car colliding with a truck can drive under the trailer and impact the car at head or chest level with horrific consequences. Semi-trucks are required by law to be equipped with rear guards to prevent underride accidents, but many older guards don’t take into account the heavier weight of modern vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs. Also, the federal government does not yet mandate side guards, and few big rigs have them.
Another danger comes from trucks that are not properly loaded. Loads must be tightly secured and balanced. If they become loose or unbalanced during travel, the trucker can lose control of the rig, or the load could fall off of or out of the truck, causing a massive disaster on the road.
MichieHamlett Can Help With Catastrophic Virginia Truck Accident Injuries
When truck accidents happen, our experienced traffic accident team gets to work investigating the cause of these complex incidents. We work with accident experts and engineers as necessary, as well as forensic document experts to uncover whether truckers and trucking companies were in compliance with federal laws or went out of their way to hide their noncompliance with safety regulations. With the facts in hand, we negotiate settlements from a position of strength and are always ready to take a case to trial if it takes a jury verdict to secure significant compensation for our clients.
If you or a loved one has been injured or worse in a Virginia truck accident, call MichieHamlett at 434-951-7200 for a no-cost, confidential consultation regarding any potential claims you may have.