One of the first questions accident victims often ask an attorney is “How much is my case worth?” There’s no magic truck accident settlement calculator to get an instant answer. Each case is different. There are different types of damages involved. A number of factors go into the calculation of each to determine the overall value of your case. The best way to get answers is by talking to a personal injury attorney about your case. However, there are some common factors that you might want to consider as you go into this process. Why Truck Accidents Matter We rely on big trucks to transport all kinds of goods to every corner of the country. Without them, you wouldn’t have access to groceries, clothing, or even the US Mail. Trucks transport raw materials to manufacturers to keep them in business. Laws pertaining to truck safety help us balance the necessity of the services they provide while protecting the truck driver and other drivers on the roads. When the truck driver or trucking company doesn’t obey the laws, accidents are more likely to happen. When they do, the damage is going to be a lot more severe. There are more than 15.5 million trucks on the U.S. roads. Of that number, two million are tractor trailers. These trucks carry all kinds of cargo with a legal weight of 80,000 pounds. That’s about sixteen times the weight of the average passenger vehicle. When you consider the high speeds that these trucks travel, it’s easy to see the potential danger. The faster they are traveling, the greater the impact is when they hit another vehicle. An impact between a truck and a passenger vehicle often has severe consequences. It’s difficult to imagine the kind of terror a person experiences when an eighteen-wheeler is coming at them. Even more difficult to understand is the type of pain and loss that they feel after a serious accident. The severity of a truck accident typically causes more time off from work, more expensive medical treatment, and diminished quality of life.
Common Causes of Truck AccidentsThere’s an old saying that “There’s no such thing as an accident.” While this may not be 100% true in all cases, it’s reasonably close. Most accidents could have been prevented if someone had taken a different action than they did. When trucking accidents happen, it’s usually the fault of the driver. These are some of the most common reasons that truck accidents occur:
- Driving While Tired – Truckers have deadlines, sometimes because of carrying perishable items. Sometimes they risk not getting paid if they don’t arrive with their load on-schedule. In the past, truck drivers were known for taking products like No-Doz and other stimulants to help keep them awake. Today, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) places Hours-of-Service rules to prevent the problem of driving while tired. This includes the maximum number of hours the driver can drive. It also enforces time off and rest breaks. Still, some drivers keep inaccurate logbooks and fail to abide by these rules.
- Cell Phone Use While Driving – The entire country seems to be obsessed with their cell phones. Truck drivers are no exception. While the FMCSA strictly forbids texting while driving, many drivers use their phones to stay in contact with friends and family. Using their cell phone to talk is permitted if they use a hands-free device. There are limitations here as well. The driver is required to stay in a seat-belted position and can’t push more than one button to answer, call, or hang up the phone. Too often, the driver’s confidence in his/her skills overrides common sense and the law. Distracted driving remains one of the leading causes of big-rig accidents.
- Reckless Driving– The risk of accidents gives truck drivers an even greater responsibility to watch out for the other guy. Reckless driving includes taking unnecessary risks, turning too quickly, or failing to check for traffic before switching lanes. These are just some of the careless mistakes that lead to accidents.
- Driving Under the Influence– The idea of a truck driver being intoxicated while on the road is frightening enough. Today, a large number of truck drivers are using mind-altering drugs. Many cite poor working conditions as the reason. Some skip the No-Doz to help them stay awake and use amphetamines or cocaine instead. These drugs can change the driver’s perceptions and their reactions times. They also cause vertigo, mood swings, and even hallucinations. Perhaps most frightening of all is the use of opioids while driving. Opioid use, in general, has grown to serious proportions. It’s also hitting the trucking industry. The Department of Transportation (DOT) tests for these other drugs, but opioids have long been overlooked. As of January of this year, that is no longer the case. Testing is expected to deter opioid use. Even so, the issue of drivers who have valid prescriptions will still be a debate for the courts. Don’t take any chances if you suspect the driver who hit you was under the influence. It’s important to have a good personal injury attorney to prove it.
- Speeding – Speeding is one of the factors that an attorney may put into the truck accident settlement calculator. Speeding reduces the amount of control the driver has over the rig. When driving on wet or icy roads, speeding is an even greater safety risk. It also requires more time for him to stop.
- Overloaded Trucks– This is another factor that reduces the control the driver has over the truck. There are weight limitations on every truck. The specific limit depends on its braking system, frame, quality of suspension, and more. Failing to follow these limitations increases the chance of getting into an accident.