Chester County Tractor Trailer Accident Attorney
Pennsylvania Tractor Trailer Accidents
In 2014 the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the rule which allows truck drivers to drive eleven hours at a stretch as opposed to the ten hours that some safety groups advocated for. If you have ever taken a long trip, you know how difficult it can be to remain alert after driving for a full eleven hours, yet truck drivers do so on a daily basis. As a result, nearly half of all truck drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel at least once within the prior twelve months, while even more admit to driving while chronically fatigued. As the laws currently stand, truck drivers carrying property can drive for a maximum of eleven hours after ten consecutive hours off duty.
For truck drivers carrying passengers, those numbers are ten hours of consecutive driving after eight consecutive hours off-duty. During a period of seven consecutive days, the property-carrying truck driver may not drive more than 60 hours, however may restart a seven-day consecutive period after taking 34 consecutive hours off-duty. In light of the fact that there are more than 500,000 trucking accidents annually, which result in 4,000 annual fatalities and another 100,000-plus injuries, the Court’s decision to allow truckers to continue to drive these long, uninterrupted hours seems questionable.
Even with the current allowable eleven hour driving limits, tight deadlines and slim paychecks lead many drivers to exceed those limits. Since as many as 35-40 percent of all trucking accidents have been tied to an overly-fatigued truck driver, the assumption is that the economic profits of the trucking industry are given more importance than the safety of the American public. It is a foregone conclusion that when a passenger vehicle collides with an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer, those in the smaller vehicle are unlikely to walk away with no injuries. In fact, the majority of large truck accidents leave devastation in their wake; those who survive a large truck collision are often left with severe injuries which can take months, or years to resolve, and, in some cases, lead to lifelong disabilities.
How a Trucking Collision Differs from a Two-Car Collision
Trucking collisions differ from two-car collisions in a number of ways, primarily in the severity of the injuries and the fact there may be more than one defendant. The truck driver may be at fault, whether through negligence, exhaustion, distraction or reckless driving. The trucking company may be liable for allowing the driver to exceed the legal hours limit or for hiring an inexperienced driver. If the truck is independently owned, the owner could be at fault, as well as the leasing company. In some instances the truck, or a specific truck part could have a design defect, or the truck could have been improperly maintained. The company who loaded the trailer could also be at fault if the cargo was improperly loaded. Only a highly knowledgeable Pennsylvania trucking company will be able to properly sort out who is responsible for your injuries.
The Causes of Trucking Accidents
- Driver fatigue is by far the number one reason for trucking accidents, while distracted driving is quickly moving into the number two slot. Visual distractions occur whenever a driver takes his or her eyes away from the road. This could happen when the driver looks at a cell phone, at the radio while changing stations, searches for an item in the truck, or looks at something happening on the side of the road. Manual distraction occurs when the hands are removed from the wheel. Truck drivers often eat while driving, in an attempt to get more driving time. Finally, cognitive distractions occur when the truck driver has his or her mind on something other than the road. Daydreaming, listening to music, talking on a cell phone or listening to a passenger are all forms of cognitive distraction.
- Swinging turns are responsible for many trucking accidents. A large tractor-trailer requires a much wider area to make a turn. Add the blind spots directly to the side and behind the truck, and a swinging turn can result in a passenger vehicle being sideswiped or crushed.
- Bad brakes on a large truck is another cause of accidents. Large commercial trucks are so much heavier than passenger vehicles, they require much more force to slow or come to a complete stop. Because of the considerable time spent on the road, truck brakes tend to wear more quickly, therefore are more prone to failure. While regular brake maintenance is federally mandated, trucking accidents due to bad brakes continue to occur.
- Poorly secured cargo is a cause of truck accidents. Large commercial trucks may have top-heavy loads which have the potential to flip the truck when the driver takes a moderate to sharp road curve, resulting in cargo spilled across the roadway. Straps may be worn out, or can loosen, resulting in cargo-shifting. The driver and the loading company are responsible for ensuring the load is secure.
- Commercial truck under-ride accidents are responsible for the death of as many as 350 people annually. When a passenger vehicle collides with the rear of a large truck, it can slide under the truck, shearing away the top of the vehicle. While under-ride bars are now required on most U.S. commercial trucks, there are weaknesses in the standards which govern how those bars perform.
- Finally, inexperienced drivers are responsible for many trucking accidents. While drivers must undergo training, some trucking companies cut corners in training and background checks.
Injuries Resulting from Large Trucking Collisions
Those who survive a collision with a tractor trailer in Pennsylvania could be left with extreme injuries. Traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, fractures, internal injuries, burns, and disfigurement are all injuries which could result from a collision with a truck. The victim of a trucking accident may be unable to work, therefore unable to provide for his or her family and pay even the most basic living expenses. The trauma of colliding with a huge commercial truck can also result in serious emotional issues, including severe depression, chronic insomnia and PTSD. Many victims of a trucking accident find it difficult—if not impossible—to ever get behind the wheel of their vehicle again. If you have been severely injured in a trucking accident, you may wonder whether your life will ever return to anything which even remotely resembles “normal.”
Contact Our Pennsylvania Trucking Accident Lawyers
As the victim of a Pennsylvania tractor-trailer accident, it is crucial you speak to an experienced Pennsylvania trucking accident attorney in order to ensure your rights are protected and your future holds some hope. Your attorney will be able to establish who is at fault for your accident, and what compensation you are entitled to as well as to ensure all relevant evidence is collected quickly following your accident before it disappears.
The personal injury attorneys of Ciccarelli Law Offices have successfully represented individuals throughout the state of Pennsylvania that have been injured in trucking accidents. Our Chester County based law firm is based at 304 North High Street, West Chester PA 19380 and serves clients in Kennett Square, Downingtown, West Chester, Coatesville, Exton, Chester Springs, Chadds Ford, Landenberg, Honey Brook, Oxford, Malvern, Parkesburg, Phoenixville and Paoli. Contact us now at (610) 692-8700 or call toll free (877) 529-2422. Don’t wait—contact an attorney immediately.